Designing ‘The Art of Taxidermy’
Balancing delicate illustrations with thoughtful typography, ‘The Art of Taxidermy’ was awarded the Best Designed Young Adult Cover at the 2019 ABDA Awards. Designer Imogen Stubbs shares her collaborative design process.
The briefing meeting for this cover had a clear consensus on look and feel: beautiful, delicate, intricate, alluring. There needed to be a balance between light and dark given the subject matter (it’s a verse novel for young adults about taxidermy, among other things), and it should appeal to a young adult audience with possibility of branching to adult readers. The book, while a quick read, has a lot of depth and nuance, as well as many wonderful descriptions of animals (dead and alive) and Australian flora and fauna.
After reading the book I had a clear vision of what I wanted to do for the cover and what I hoped would translate to the right look for our pitch. I brought along similar intricate designs to the briefing meeting and was met with nods of approval from sales, marketing and publicity. I also knew straight away that I’d approach Edith Rewa to illustrate it, with crossed fingers that she’d be interested and available. Her style matched all the things we were after – delicate and intricate and with a thorough knowledge and her own love of Australian plant life. Thankfully she was and we begun the illustration process.
I sent Edith a brief outlining the look we were after, a list of plants, flowers, animals and objects she could possibly include and notes on colour schemes and feel. I also included the manuscript, as it’s an easy book to dip into and would help her get a feel for the work. I also pointed towards some of her previous illustration work and styles to show the detail we were after and potential colourings. At this stage the type layout had been discussed and mocked up but not finalised, so I included notes on where we were at with that and our intentions based on her work.
Edith and I then went back and forth about layouts, what items to include and colour palettes. Each round I was tinkering with the type which I had hand drawn from a serif font to give it more of textured and imperfect look. There had also been discussion early on that we’d be able to have foil on this cover and that it was most likely going to be used on the title type. So I had in the back of my mind that I’d need to try and find a way to bring some of that into the foil artwork given the fine detail limitations.
After about four rounds with Edith we came to our final design which was quickly and joyously approved by the team at Text as well as a very pleased and happy author in Sharon Kernot. Everyone agreed that Edith’s work was the perfect complement to the story.
Inside & Outside
With the front cover complete we also asked Edith to rework some of the elements to flow onto the back cover and separated out a selection to use in greyscale within the text. These worked beautifully given the detail Edith includes in her work and were a lovely way to break up the verses and utilise empty space. We were able to nicely match some of the elements to their parts in the storyline.
The Finished Object
Back from the printer with foil, uncoated stock and creamy text stock, it was a true work of art and elicited many oohs and aahs around the Text office. There was a lovely balance between the dark and light illustrated elements, with some of the colours popping nicely against the navy background.
Imogen Stubbs is the art director at Text Publishing, where she has worked as a book designer and production manager since 2011.