Designing ‘Lento & Fox’
Creating a bright and engaging package with a sense of mischievous fun, Ben Sanders takes us through the design of his award winning cover for ‘Lento & Fox’, winner of the Best Designed Children’s/Young Adult Series at the 2020 ABDA awards.
The Lento & Fox books would never have seen the light of day had it not been for drastic improvements to the original cover concept that accompanied early drafts of the manuscript.
Over the last few years I’ve indulged in the habit of visualising my stories with a single image splashed across a photoshopped mock-up. It gets me excited about the possibilities of the story and how it can be told visually. It sets the tone of the book and puts the title, characters and feel of the story to the test.
The cover concept for Your Attention Please! failed, and hasn’t been seen outside my studio until this post. The same with it’s equally ill-fated follow-up This Is My Book. There is a lot that’s not working in these early attempts to create a feel for the story, but it’s often necessary to explore bad options before stumbling on something that actually works.
One day I walked away from the title, characters, type styles and colour palette. It was all scrapped. I worked on other book concepts and nearly forgot about it.
ONE COVER IS NOT ENOUGH
When I eventually revisited the manuscript I felt that the characters needed to be animals. Opposites. A fast, sly fox. A slow, friendly sloth. The species are already setting the tone for the personality of the characters. This was better.
I explored two cover options. One featuring a green sloth front and centre, and the other featuring a fox. I couldn’t decide which I liked best and agonised over which I would be forced to axe. I fantasied that there could be a publisher who would be happy to throw money around like confetti to print two different covers for the same book. Unlikely.
Despite doubts about being able to have my cake and eat it too, I submitted my manuscript with two cover designs that supported the idea that the ownership of the book is in doubt as the two characters vie for the reader’s attention.
To my surprise the publisher loved the idea and I was soon signing a book contract and started developing the book further with the cover as number one priority. Cheekily I asked if I could be the book designer.
WHO’S COVER IS THIS ANYWAY?
The sloth design quickly won the battle of for the cover, but Fox ended up having the last word and staged a cheeky back cover ‘takeover’ creating an ‘alternative’ cover that did a lot more to reveal his true character than I’d ever expected. We even get to read Fox’s take on the story as he writes a cutting blurb and defaces the title of the book… renaming it Fox’s Book (not yours). Why did I worry earlier? I got my double-cover wish after all!
Now the cover design is doing more than I’d anticipated… all with a wry grin. And the sloth v fox, green v red ‘thing’ was actually becoming quite effective.
Just to be sure, some other options were explored. They didn’t stack up, but it was worth confirming that we were already on the right track.
CREATING A BRAND
The next step was refining the characters and creating a brand that would live on the spine and be consistent through the Lento & Fox series. A number of options were designed and it was agreed that this should be applied with minimal interruption to the simplicity of the front cover composition. Tucking the branding along the hinge was the least intrusive and most desired option. Mm mm mm … clean.
As the internals of My Book (Not Yours) developed I felt it would be hilarious to show how Fox staged his back cover heist by incorporating it into the story. Yes, that’s Fox on page 26, painting a self portrait for the cover in order to make himself the star!
Looking back, the front cover hardly budged from those early concepts. The colours and composition are the same. The real story developed on the flip-side – the ‘other’ half of the hardcover that you can only see once you’ve picked the book from the shelf. Which is why, when I’m at the book shop or the library, I turn every second copy of My Book (not yours) so the rear is facing out.