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Designing The Summer of Dead Toys book cover

A behind-the-scenes look at how book covers are created.

By Emily Davis

The Summer of Dead Toys by Antonio HillI’ll admit, I’m guilty of judging a book by its cover. An eye-catching cover compels me to read on, makes me curious about the story beneath it, and I become incapable of not picking up the book.

Working at Crown Publishing, I’m surrounded by covers that call out, begging to be taken home. And every so often, one comes along that wants to be cherished. The Summer of Dead Toys, a thriller by Antonio Hill, caught and kept my attention. Gold and red stamped foil that winks, matte black paper that looks soft to the touch, and spots of shine here and there that catch the light. And when you pick it up? The paper is softer than imagined and I catch myself stroking it. I’m in love.

Luckily for me, I get to indulge my obsession and learn exactly how this cover came to be. Chris Brand, Art Director of the Crown, Hogarth, and Broadway imprints, sat down with me to explain the design process for the cover of The Summer of Dead Toys. Chris worked with outside freelancer Roberto de Vicq, known for his custom typographic work. But before any design work could begin, they met with the editor and publisher to determine the overall feel of the cover. Questions were raised—–should the cover be more photographic, how will it stand out on the bookshelf, should a street scene be included.

The end goal was to create a cover atypical of thrillers, something that would set the book apart from others in the genre and evoke the story’s setting of Barcelona. After many iterations, what came to be was something spectacular. De Vicq created a font type specifically for The Summer of Dead Toys, hand-drawing the letters with curves meant to mimic Barcelona Gaudí architecture. The spine features a street scene that wraps around slightly to the front—–a gentle nod to the more typical thriller cover design.

The final piece is the sensory experience the cover offers. Printed on soft-touch paper, stamped with two different foils, and brushed with spot gloss, each cover goes through a machine seven times before the end result is achieved. It’s a cover that promises a riveting, sophisticated read. A promise that Antonio Hill delivers.

As I said, I’m completely infatuated with the final cover for The Summer of Dead Toys. But it’s also wonderful to see the iterations that could have been and the cover outtakes are included in the slideshow below.

Do you judge a book by its cover?

RELATED: Inside Random House: “The Art of Cover Design”


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