Designing book covers is one of those dream jobs, right? Indulging in a book, engaging with the characters or themes and visualising them creatively, what a treat. Jennifer Heuer has this job and deservedly so, with the innovative variety of books she creates for a range of narratives.
After studying at the Pratt Institute, where she now teaches illustrative typography, Jennifer started a career in book cover designs in HarperCollins’ young adult department before transferring to adult covers at Simon & Schuster. “After a couple of years there I was able to pick up freelance covers, and decided to go into that world full time.” For the past seven years Jennifer has been freelancing, working mainly on book covers but illustration work too. “I truly enjoy picking those projects up between covers since the turnaround is so fast compared to the publishing world,” she tells It’s Nice That. “But, books are my passion, no doubt.”
Jennifer’s process for designing book covers of course starts reading with the manuscript. “Whether fiction or non-fiction it’s always important to get a sense of the tone and context,” she explains. “As I read, I take notes on imagery, concept, characters, settings and so forth. From there I make a series of very rough thumbnails to start weeding out the good ideas from the bad so I know where I’d like to head.”
Once Jennifer decides upon a concept, she pushes the idea to its fullest in order to convince the team. “When sending cover sketches over to the art directors, I push the layout, colour, type and imagery close to final. It’s just the way publishing tends to work,” she explains. “If a sketch can look as close to finished for the cover meeting, the more it looks like the book that could sitting on the shelves of a store, and it’s better to get the editor, author, and marketing person on board.” To accomplish this, Jennifer goes as far, “as setting up small photoshoots, creating fully rendered illustrations, and building out custom lettering all for a sketch”. As a result, “there are nearly final outtakes, a lot of which I’m happy to show in my portfolio,” says Jennifer. “My take is that, even if it didn’t make it to a shelf somewhere, but I’m happy with it, and it’s the type of work I’d like to do in the future, I’m going to show it.”
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