This post is part of SpecFicNZ's Blogging Week... find out more at www.specficnz.org!
Kura Carpenter is a New Zealand based graphic designer who specialises in photo manipulation and Book Cover creation.
Q) I really enjoy finding the perfect theme that goes with a book's subject matter. What is your favourite part about designing covers?
A) In general what I like about graphic design is the create problem solving aspect. Just like a standard print advert, a cover has to do several things at once, and I like figuring out to make the graphic and font elements work together to represent the genre, theme, and also appeal to the right audience. But my ultimate favourite part in making covers is working with the authors and knowing what I’ve done has helped them and made their day.
Q) As a publisher I read all the books I help design, but of course that can't be expected of a pure designer. What kinds of things do you ask the author to make sure you are getting the right feel?
A) Getting the feel right very important and I have series of questions and things I ask for. I start with the basics including: genre, age group. I also ask the author to give me a list of covers they love and a list they hate, that have been published recently and are of the same genre and age group as their novel.
Once I have that info I get more details to understand what sort of attitude any character needs to convey, and what’s the overall tone of the novel. Good Design is all about communication and I feel it’s very important to think beyond the physical props and capture the emotional tone of the book. Only once I understand the emotional aspect required do I actually start thinking about what images to use.
When I work with authors I advise them to be open when choosing cover models, and don’t think about looks, but rather seek the essence of their character’s attitude.
Whether the woman has curly hair or dimples isn’t as important as capturing the spirit of who she is. Is she sad? Defiant? Because that’s what cues the Reader in to the true tone of the story.
Q) At Splashdown, we benefit from having the whole team (or whoever wants to) give input on design and the final product is often a combination of many people's ideas and inspiration. Where do you get your ideas?
A) I think about the key elements the final product will need to convey, for example, an romantic comedy needs images with a positive feeling, whereas a gothic romance needs something you can look at think ‘creepy’ or ‘ghostly’ or whatever.
So with the genre and age group in mind I start looking through lots of image libraries for my base photos that I will manipulate.
The main thing I have learned is staying open to ideas and letting the material inspire me rather than looking for a fixed image. How I know something that looks like an ordinary photo to start with will work as cover graphic is where my own experience as a Photoshop ninja comes into play. As well as my ninja training I have a Fine Arts degree and an obsession with adverts so that probably helps.;)