How five of the best New Zealand book covers were created

What goes into the design of a book cover? Five finalists in the PANZ Awards for Best Cover take you inside their pages.

What goes into the design of a book cover? The five finalists in the PANZ Awards for Best Cover take you inside their pages.

The Auckland University Press Anthology of New Zealand Literature, Jane Stafford and Mark Williams (eds) (Auckland University Press) – WINNER

AUP gave cover designer Scott Crickett (who confessed he falls into the “not-so-well-read category”) a brief to come up with something that might attract the well-read and not-so-well-read alike – something that could live happily on the bookshelf in any New Zealand household.

“I found a lot of the material in the book unfamiliar,” Crickett says. “The idea for the design came from my own feeling of discovery as I read through some of the works involved. It’s really an illustration of a layman’s user journey – delving into this collection, uncovering one thing after another, and, in a lot of cases, not knowing what’s next until you get to it.”

Crickett printed out the covers that AUP had sent him, then tore, arranged and photographed them in one set-up. It’s all been done in-camera, aside from a little bit of retouching, and adding the typesetting.

“The typeface is National Extra Bold by Kris Sowersby,” he says. “I’m a fan of his and this seemed like a great fit – New Zealand-made and serious, but not too austere.”

At the White Coast, by Janet Charman (Auckland University Press)

Cover designer Keely O’Shannessy took inspiration from multiple sources. Firstly, Charman as the author said she liked “the idea that the veiled ‘whiteness’ of the coast could be either the ‘land of the long white cloud’ or the coast of England, or the coast of the imagination ... or veiling the future ...”.

Meanwhile, AUP interior designer Katrina Duncan said the poems “bordered on gritty social realism” and that she was thinking “Smiths albums, Mike Leigh films, Saturday night and Sunday morning, Coronation Street”.

“I tried to design a cover that incorporated both of these perspectives – a soft, veiled/misty abstractness and also a gritty, documentary, filmic quality.”

Essential Maths and Stats for Higher Education, by David Barton and David Cox (Pearson)

Cameron Gibb from Neu Design found the mathematical content of the book to be well outside his comfort zone, but his approach was to create a cover that was “conceptually strong”, while avoiding clichés often seen in educational publications.

“Admittedly the choice of the nautilus shell was as much for its pure physical beauty as it was for its hidden mathematical beauty, but it was the hidden that I was hoping to explore. The idea of numbers appearing in nature is so fascinating, and the close relationship between the Fibonacci Spiral and the nautilus shell felt like the perfect example of this.

“The inclusion of the actual Fibonacci Sequence numerals over the nautilus shell, invisible to the eye unless inspected more closely by the curious, hopefully illustrates this connection or at least raises some questions as to why the numbers are there. Use of the X-ray image hints towards exploring the unseen.”

Gibb kept the typography subtle but points out the Fibonacci tiling creates an almost typographic grid structure of its own, “which I quite liked”.

Ultimately he wanted to tell a story and make some connections, but not give too much away.

“I think educational books should be intriguing at all levels, and hopefully a cover design like this prompts a student to raise their hands and ask some questions. If they do that, then my work here has been a success.”

The Engine Room Eatery, by Natalia Schamroth and Carl Koppenhagen (Random House)

Creative director and co-founder at Alt Dean Poole says the design of the book used key graphic elements that are embedded in the Engine Room restaurant itself.

“The daily menus, which are handwritten by the chef on blackboard, are referenced graphically on the front cover using black paper with white ink.

“The silver foil logo is a nod to the chrome signage and the staff’s enamel pins. All food photography has been shot on craft stock to reinforce the bistro feel and the craft paper aesthetic is also used on the case binding.”

Melu, by Kyle Mewburn, Ali Teo and John O’Reilly (Scholastic)

Teo says the design direction for the cover came directly from the story but they “never have a preconceived idea” of how their next book will look.

Designers Teo and O’Reilly took the sense of the landscape – “sun-baked hills, on a rocky island, floating in a glittering green sea” – and tried to reflect that with a clean but textural style and clear, rich, Mediterranean-influenced colour palette.

“We used a lot of negative space to help emphasise the aridness of the setting,” Teo says. “The font was chosen to also reflect this feel, clear and crisp but also a bit rocky.”

The team’s roles cross over throughout a project depending on what’s required, and they don’t attack the cover until all the internal design and illustration is at least 80 percent resolved.

“We feel that only then has the feel and style of the book been sufficiently resolved to be able to work on the page that has to basically say it all.”