Calvino book covers

Insights on book cover design from Jack Smyth

Fresh from designing the covers for a set of 32 titles by Italo Calvino, Smyth offers his insights into the unique challenges in designing for a series

Designing a book cover is a singular endeavour with its own set of challenges. How to ensure a design holds its own in a bookshop display or on a website? How to convey what the book might be about, or what its themes might be, once it’s being turned over in a reader’s hands? Designing a whole range of covers for a series requires that, visually, each one must be distinct but also bear some relation to the other titles that feature in the group. With series design, each book cover must stand out but also somehow blend in.

Cover designer Jack Smyth’s latest series design is for a remarkable writer, Italo Calvino, and spans a remarkable number of covers – 32 in fact. For Smyth, the implications of this vast project for Italian publisher Mondadori naturally required a different approach.

“Most of the briefs I work on are for new books, so the aim is to try to engage a new reader,” he explains. “With a series, the reader is often already aware of the author, so the aim is more about making a statement about the selection of titles or the author, elevating them by creating a unified look.”