UnderCover: Choosing an illustrator

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Choosing an illustrator

I was assigned a delightful project—a dating book about how girls can hook up with European guys. How fun! I immediately imagined something young, girly, flirty, and ooh, la la!

I went font shopping immediately. Buffet Script, Buttermilk, Mr Canfields, Narziss! I was in script heaven.

My excitement was soon tempered by my workload. We're busy with a lot of projects in all stages of production, so I was a little relieved to hear a week later that the author had decided to hire an illustrator for the cover. We have not had this happen before. It seemed like a good idea...

The author chose the illustrator, and this—in retrospect—is where the trouble began. Where I was visualizing feminine and flirty art with impressionistic brush strokes and bright colors...

... instead the author chose an (super talented) illustrator whose style is monochromatic, masculine, and highly photorealistic. It was at this point that I should have told her that this particular artist just would not work for her book's genre. Instead I tried to be diplomatic and critiqued the content of the artwork instead of the choice of illustrator. Big mistake.

Over the next few days the author and I went back and forth about whether to feature a woman (no), whether to have a 'European' element (yes), and whether to use a feminine type treatment (no). But the look-and-feel had been set, and no amount of 'corrective' suggestions on my part could alter that.

Long story short, I rang the alarm bell on the project too late—the artwork is almost complete and our catalog deadline is less than two weeks away. The whole situation blew up in my face—the author feels misled and trusts us even less than she did at the outset, and the book will probably have cover art that is too masculine and stiff for its genre. Sigh.

For future projects, as a company we've decided to add a clause in our contract to stipulate that we need to approve illustrators used for cover work. And personally, I now get that the choice of illustrator is a crucial decision that has unalterable consequences for the design. Live and learn.

The following comps were created just in case the author heeded our concerns and decided to give us a chance to develop something we felt was more genre appropriate in a rush. No such luck.

1 comment:

  1. I love the first one! Its lively and modern looking with a beautiful, fresh color palette.