Saturday, June 2, 2018

MEET MY DESIGNER - Aurora Parlagreco

The next in a series which will let me introduce you to the 
most important people in my writing life...

Senior Designer - HarperCollins Children's Books

Pocket bio

Where are you from?
Long Island, New York

Where do you live now?
Brooklyn, New York

What genre do you read for pleasure?
Literary fiction, dark mysteries, YA

Favorite book ever?
Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice

How did you get to where you are now? Did you always want to design book covers?
I’ve always loved books, so working in publishing is a dream come true! I got my BFA in Communication Design from Carnegie Mellon University, along with minors in Photography and English. I was lucky enough to intern in the Children's Design group at Harper before starting full time after graduation.

Where do you start when you are putting together a cover? Do you always read the book first?
For each new book that I am assigned, I get a Cover Summary that includes a lot of important information- plot summary, character descriptions, as well as a list of competitive titles so that I can see where the book will fit into the existing market. If there is a manuscript available, I always read it before I get started. I love getting an early glimpse at the book, and it helps me to get a feel for the story and pull out details for inspiration!

I’ll then look at images and artist samples online for further inspiration, and put together a presentation of different cover directions.

Some of Aurora's recent cover designs

What are a book designer’s most useful tools? Do you ever use a paper and pencil anymore, or is it all done on computer?
I usually begin by taking notes as I’m reading, and sketching out ideas in my sketchbook. I’ll then move to the computer to comp up ideas in a more finished way. If I hire an artist to work on a project, they may deliver the art as a physical piece, although many prefer to send things electronically. I compile everything digitally, using the Adobe Suite (InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop) to pull together and refine all the elements of a cover.

One my favorite things to add to my designs is hand lettering (as in Wait for Me!). I’ll do this by hand before scanning and cleaning it up on the computer.

What is it within a story that triggers your decision to go for, say, realistic photography over drawing/painting, over textiles, over abstract graphics?
The context of a book really directs us towards what style to pursue. Sometimes I will present a variety of directions for a cover, and sometimes one style will feel like the right way to go. Often, we choose a direction through discussions with the book’s editor and our sales team, also taking into consideration what is working in the current market.

Designing a book is not just about the cover art, is it? What else is involved in getting a fully designed book to print?
The cover is often the first thing a reader will see, but I love being able to design a book’s full package. Once the front cover is done, we use it as a starting point to create the full jacket and then the interior. This involves choosing typefaces, designing chapter openers, and in some cases, adding maps, endpapers, and interior illustrations. Of course, there are a lot of other people involved in getting a book print-ready! We work with editors, copy-editors and production managers to make each book the best it can be.

What techniques/add-ons can a designer include for the big-budget covers and what’s the most complicated cover you’ve ever worked on because of that?
We work with our Production department to choose a jacket’s “specs” based on what will best compliment the cover design. There are a lot of different options we can choose from- do we want to the jacket to be glossy or matte? Should we print over foil for a metallic sheen? We can also choose smaller areas of the cover to apply gloss, or an emboss, among other things.

If a cover has a lot of complicated specs, a designer will sometimes travel to the printer to make sure that the printed jacket matches our vision. I did this for Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy - and again on Julie’s new book, Puddin’ (above). We printed the cover using a mix of Pantone colors to get pure, bold colors. We also used a soft-touch (velvety) finish, emboss and gloss on the title type, and a silver foil for the crown. These finishing touches helped to enhance the design and make the cover really pop!

Where does the decision-making power lie for cover art – with the designer, the editor or with marketing/PR team? Does the author get any say in the matter?
I’ll first discuss the cover with my art director and the book’s editor. Once we have a cover that we are happy with, we’ll bring it in to sales and marketing to get their thoughts. We also show the author and always try to accommodate any ideas or concerns they may have. The goal is to create a book that we are all proud of!

Would you take us through the process which ended up with my own gorgeous WAIT FOR ME cover?
In reading Wait for Me, I knew it would be important for the cover to show the romance between Lorna and Paul while balancing the tension of war.

Alice and I looked at a variety of stock images before landing on the perfect one. Some of these featured just one figure, but ultimately we decided that it was important to show a couple. I love that the hands in the final photo are almost touching, but not quite- it captures a lot of the complicated emotions involved in their relationship. I decided to create hand lettering for the title type to give the cover a more contemporary feel.

Because time and place are so important to this story I wanted to be sure that we were depicting an accurate setting. I looked at reference photos for the Scottish landscape and we added some WWII planes in the sky to emphasize the lingering danger. With the help of a retoucher (and Caroline’s guidance!) we made sure that these planes were the correct models- two Spitfires and a Flying Fortress.

What advice would you give to a teenager who is interested in becoming a book designer?
It’s important to keep up with trends in the book world and be aware of what’s out there. You can look at blogs, go to bookstores, and, of course, read! Try creating covers for classics or books that you love for practice. It’s also great to have experience working in both traditional and digital formats. It helps to be able to express your ideas in a variety of ways!

Which YA/children’s book cover do you wish you had designed and why?
A Series of Unfortunate Events- these were some of my favorites growing up, and the whole package is so unique and special! The covers, illustrations, and even the endpapers perfectly capture the mood of the stories before you even read a word.

What’s your favorite among all the books you have designed and why?
This is such a hard question! I would have to say Dumplin' because it was one of the first books I worked on and has a special place in my heart. The other would be York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby (left), because it is exactly the kind of book I would have loved when I was younger (and still do)!

Aurora has been an amazing designer, not only for my covers, but she also designs the inside pages of the books too. As she mentions above, when we were first looking at the WAIT FOR ME cover, I asked if the largest of three planes, originally drafted as an RAF Lancaster bomber, could be swapped for a American bomber, the B17 Flying Fortress, which was mentioned in the story. Aurora didn't turn a hair. She studied the WW2 Royal Observer Corps silhouette outlines I sent to her, and the Lancaster was suddenly a Flying Fortress. Hands up if you'd spotted the difference!

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