This is one of several posts to come that will talk about my work with Alina Simone. Alina is an amazing person, musician and writer from New York City. We’ve met back in 2002 at one of her shows in Brooklyn. We’ve been in touch ever since. Over the years, I’ve designed a few CD and vinyl jackets for her albums, as well as a tour poster. In 2010 her collection of essays was going to be published by Faber & Faber.
At first Alina asked me to do a mini-graphic novel insert for the book. Then I was approached by Charlotte Strick, the Art Director at Faber & Faber and a wonderful designer, to do the cover art.
Above is a little glimpse of the graphic insert that I did for the book that illustrates the life and times of Yanka Dyagileva, a Russian musician who had a huge influence on Alina (she actually recorded an album of Yanka’s cover songs a few years ago). In the future posts I’ll talk more about the process of creating those illustrations. I wanted to share a small part of it now, since one of the main graphic elements for the cover was inspired by the depiction of the smoke coming from the smokestacks, a typical scene of any small industrial Russian town.
Here is a little excerpt from the synopsis of the book:
“In the wickedly bittersweet and hilarious You Must Go and Win, the Ukrainian-born musician Alina Simone traces her bizarre journey through the indie rock world, from disastrous Craigslist auditions with sketchy producers to catching fleas in a Williamsburg sublet…”
The writing was great! After reading the first chapter and discussing the book with Alina and Charlotte, I knew that the cover needed to capture a lot: humor, irony, tragedy, the setting of the main events and the overall tone of the book. Alina had this idea of having an amp on fire, which would be symbolic of a lot of things that she talks about in the essays. Charlotte suggested to try and use the type in a similar way that I have used it in one of my previous projects, “The Book of Sound”.
I got down to work and presented a few drafts. Though we went with the idea of the amp on fire, the other ones didn’t go to waste. The draft on the right has inspired the cover for Alina’s next album.
The title of the book and author’s name were originally done on a letterpress using wooden type. Once again, I’ve used the facilities at the Otis Lab Press, gathered letterforms of all shapes and sizes and made a bunch of prints.
Later those impressions were scanned and digitized. The prints themselves were almost eaten by my daughter.
Once the typography was resolved, I moved on to carving the lino to create the main image of the smoke and the amp.
Those I printed in the studio using my little etching press. One of the challenges with the image came up as I was working on the smoke and the typical Russian church domes, that we decided to use for the cover. Since the domes are used so much to represent Russia, my job was to give them enough subtlety so the image would not appear to be cliche.
I used the technique of “ghost printing” (when the plate is run through the press several times before the final impression is made) in order to achieve this. The smoke and domes started to appear distant and ghostly, yet still had the necessary presence.
The image was designed to wrap around the spine and go on to the back. Here’s the final file combining the physical print and type.
You will notice that the final cover includes a quote by Neil Gaiman. An interesting coincidence is that I was introduced to Neil around the same time I saw that quote on the cover for the first time.
Did I mention that this book is great? It is! Get your copy here.