The Evolution of a Book Cover: When We Fell Apart by Soon Wiley
Designers share their process for creating a memorable cover
Ever wonder how book cover art is created? We went right to the source to learn about the design process for a new book called When We Fell Apart by Soon Wiley. Christopher Lin (VP and Art Director) and Dominique Jones (Designer) answered our questions about creating cover art that furthers the mission of the book.
What is the first step in designing a book cover? How do you begin a project?
Christopher: We begin each book cover design with a cover conferencing meeting, in which the editor shares with us their vision for the final cover. In this case, the editor wanted us to convey the central mystery of the novel—a disappearance—and lean towards an upmarket book club fiction look rather than suspense. She also felt that the novel’s South Korea setting was very evocative and wanted us to explore that angle on the cover. After listening to these notes carefully, the next step is to dive in and read the manuscript.
Dominique: When I start a project, I create a list of words or sentences from the manuscript that help bring the story to life and that I want to explore visually. At times I will sketch ideas out for when I start to research, to get feel of what I’m looking for along with anything that catches my eye. During the research process I’ll gather a list of typefaces to try out when I’m ready to start designing.
What struck you about this book the most? What did you want to communicate with the cover art?
Dominique: What stuck out to me from the story is how it was written in two perspectives, allowing you to understand each character and their own personal worlds to uncover the truth. The goal for the cover was to showcase a story that focused on identity, emotion, and culture.
Christopher: Yu-Jin, the key character to the novel’s mystery, and her passion for art immediately reminded me of Dominique’s spirited design sensibility. I wanted her to convey a sense of melancholy while capturing the lushness of the setting and Soon Wiley’s writing. Her final cover strikes this balance brilliantly and more, touching upon the novel’s focal themes of duality, transience, and belonging
How did this book cover come about? Were there any other directions you considered?
Christopher: Along the way, we explored many different options incorporating a mix of photography, illustration, and hand lettering. Here are some of the outtakes.
Dominique: In the beginning the covers felt mysterious and played with scenery and type. Another direction was to highlight Min and Yu-Jin’s relationship but overall it needed more. The team agreed and wanted something with bold colors and elegance still highlighting the characters and setting.
Walk me through the elements of the final cover art. Why did you make these choices?
Dominique: After countless rounds, I decided to take a step back and start over. I reread the manuscript and took notes as if it was my first time.
In the story, Yu-jin took a film class choosing a particular film to reference called La Dolce Vita, in which the protagonist is torn between two worlds, something Yu-jin related to. In that moment, I directed my new focus to combine two worlds: past and modern-day Seoul. Hinting what she felt having to hide her true self from those around her.
Check out the final design and get your copy of When We Fell Apart by Soon Wiley: