I was responsible for commissioning illustration, which included negotiating with the illustrators’ agents and liaising with Pushkin Press, who in turn liaised with The London Library on my behalf. Early on in the design process we decided to bring in three Illustrators: Neil Gower, Joe McLaren and Stuart Patience to give personality to the covers and add pace and variation to the series. But in other instances, we sourced the images directly from the pages of the essays and modified them to use on the cover. I foolishly tried to illustrate some covers myself, but would inevitably reach a point where professional help was required. On other occasions I would mock up an idea which would serve only to convince me that the whole cover wasn’t working.
I would share cover concepts with the team at Pushkin whenever I felt like something was starting to work, usually every couple of weeks, before developing it further when their response was positive. Only when a cover was developed more fully did we share it with The London Library. I tend to present covers one at a time; I would much rather a design approach be fully rejected before dusting myself down and starting again. That way I can refocus completely and talk with the client about where the first approach went wrong. This ensures – I hope – a closer fit come round two.
If you don’t know the client well, this approach can have the unwelcome effect of making them feel they are being dictated to, rather than being provided with a choice. But I believe this results in a cover that both designer and client feel has more conviction and clarity of purpose, as opposed to the the kind of Frankenstein cover that can come about after showing them a selection of covers side by side. Once decided, I was also responsible for preparing the final artwork ready for print.