The Making of a Book Cover: Blameless, click to play.
Original model, Donna Ricci.
Type inspiration.Previous / Next image (1 of 3)
Final covers, click to advance through.
Soulless, Changeless, and Blameless
Art Director & Designer: Lauren Panepinto
Photographer: Derek Caballero (Soulless & Changeless), Tiny Dragon Productions (Blameless)
Model: Donna Ricci
Font: Knockout & Baskerville
Publisher: Orbit Books
Career Path: School of Visual Arts ‘02 > St. Martin’s Press/Picador > Doubleday/Broadway (first in ad-promo then in covers) > Orbit Books
I'm sure we've all wanted to show our family what it is we do… and I'm equally sure that we're all tired of being asked if we make clip-art. Well, here is a great visual example of what it is we do. Thanks for your insight Lauren!
You know when they say bad things happen for a reason? You can’t get a better example than the way I dropped into the team at Orbit Books. I say dropped because that’s very much how it felt...I felt a little like Alice, or Dorothy. One day I was the trade paperback Art Director at Doubleday/Broadway Books, and then the giant shakeup at Random House happened, and I was literally the first one out the door. It was decided they were giving up their paperbacks to another division in the company, and well, that was the end of my position. While still in shock, I sent out an email to book industry and designer friends to kind of head off the rumor mill. A friend from School of Visual Arts, who was an Art Director at Little, Brown, emailed and said to call him first thing in the morning. He had been helping out with designing covers for the new science fiction/fantasy imprint there, and they had grown to the point that they really needed their own dedicated art department, and he had said he’d try to help find someone permanent. So the next day I met with the publisher of Orbit Books, and the “quick meeting” lasted hours. (Honestly I think I had the job the minute I walked in the door with a tattoo on my arm in Elvish, but that’s just a hunch.) I was pretty much hired at Orbit in just over a week. Whatever good karma I had built up, let me tell you, I emptied my batteries with that one. I’ve been looking for little old ladies to help across the street every day since. Believe in the Force, people, trust me.
It’s not that Doubleday was bad to me – but I’m a geek of the highest order. I’ll take vampires & space operas over diet books and chick lit any day. Like I said, I have a tattoo in Elvish, come on. I’ve worked in comic book stores in NYC and Boston. I still have my original Millenium Falcon in my bedroom. It was comics and scifi that got me interested in art in the first place. Designing scifi and fantasy books is a dream come true. The icing on the cake was that Orbit, thanks to the Publisher, Tim Holman (who came over from Orbit UK) is really determined to push the envelope on scifi/fantasy cover design. As a designer and a fan, I was a little sick of scifi/fantasy covers being expected to be bad, and I’m thrilled to be in a place to be able to do something about it. I think we’re really beginning to drag genre covers out of 1979, and even if we don’t nail every cover, at Orbit we’re always experimenting, which I love.
As for the Alexia Tarabotti series, this was one of the first books I started when I joined the Orbit team. The author, Gail Carriger, had done some research on her own (I love a design-minded author) and found a photo of Donna Ricci, the “goth supermodel”, in an awesome victorian kind of steampunk outfit, and sent it to us. The image was a near perfect starting point, so we just decided to see if we could use that very image. Donna was very happy to be our Alexia, so after a little Photoshop magic to make her look a little less punk and a little more proper victorian, we were off to a pretty good start. The foggy London backdrop was a no brainer for the story and feel. As you can see from the in-progress image, we initially went very Victorian, very steampunk-feeling. I even designed a medal that I was going to use on the back (the octopus is drawn from the story)...but ultimately it was too old-timey, a little too dark. If you get a chance to read the books, they’re hilarious. They’re kind of a Victorian comedy of errors, just with werewolves and vampires. And the heroine, Alexia, is more plucky than dark. So with a little less “steam” and a little more “punk”, plus some type with a nod to British punk, we came to the “victorian punk” kind of aesthetic of Soulless, Changeless, and Blameless.
Once the look was set for Soulless, it’s just been a matter of getting the right picture of “Alexia” in the right backdrop for the book: at the railing of a dirigible for book 2, and in Paris, ideally with an ornithopter, for book 3. I’ve been dying to do some more behind-the-scenes posts on the Orbit blog, because I know my friends & family love to see that kind of thing, and it’s fun to do. So I got some good screen-capture software for my computer, kind of organized all the images I had for book 3, and had at it. Let me tell you, I never knew how many times a day I checked my email until poor Eric Westpheling had to edit them all out of the video. He did a fantastic job condensing at least 6 hours down into 2 minutes. And yet focusing in on the fun bits....like when the author told me the Eiffel Tower wasn’t built yet. Or when I realized I had to retouch the cars out of the Paris background.
I love working on this series because they’re so much fun. Donna isn’t just a model, she also has a steampunk website, Clockwork Couture, so she’s always looking for new props for the next story. Hopefully Alexia Tarabotti will have a lot more adventures, because designing them is a lot of fun. And the stories are great – I tear through the manuscripts as soon as I get them from the editor.
Add a Comment!
3.16.10 // Kirk DouPonce said:Definitely a fun series to work on, great work Lauren. A Tengwar tattoo? Sounds like you landed the right job, congrats! Thanks for posting this stuff FaceOut folks, you guys are alright (except for Jason).