Q&A with book cover designer, Leah Doguet

“I revel in the love-hate relationship that Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy share” – Cover designer, Leah Doguet

For anyone that loves typography, design, words and books, these covers are absolutely perfect. All I can do now is dream that they get picked up and run with, because I would love these on my shelves as a series in hardback.

This beautiful Pride and Prejudice piece is the result of Leah Doguet, a 22-year-old who currently lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “I recently graduated from Tyler School of Art with a degree in Graphic & Interactive Design,” she told The Bennet Sisters, and it’s obvious, from the series of covers she has designed below, that she’s very talented.

“I am currently job hunting. It goes without saying that I love to design and illustrate. In my spare time, I read and write. You could call me a closet poet,” she says – and I think that her love of reading is obvious through how well she has put together these covers. I’m very glad she was happy to tell us more about her work, as it really shows the level of thought that goes into creating a cover. I also adore her other Pride and Prejudice (and other Austen) covers, the pictures of which are below. I can’t make up my mind which ones I prefer, to tell the truth!

“I’m an avid Tom Petty fan, cat-lover, and a bit of a beer connoisseur.”

Leah, pictured above, seems to have really delved into what the books mean to deliver us a selection of book-addict-friendly images. For me, this cover is slightly similar to the Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Classics Series version, but I prefer Leah’s attention to detail, with the small iconographic head-nods to different aspects of the time.

Her alternative Pride and Prejudice cover is wistful, and reminds me of Lizzy considering Mr. Darcy’s letter after the first proposal. While that’s my interpretation (and you can read her reasoning for it in the Q&A following), I think that everyone will take something from it themselves.

How would you describe your design style?

I would describe my design style as fun, whimsical, and full of personality. Almost all of my illustration and lettering is drawn by hand. Incorporating hand-drawn elements into my design gives it a life and vitality that I would not be able to achieve otherwise. I am by no means perfect, but I have always believed that there is a beauty in imperfection.

Tell us a little about the project.

I designed the Jane Austen covers for an illustration class. The assignment was simple – choose an author and three of their books and design a series of covers. The covers were supposed to work cohesively in a series and reflect the style of the writing and the mood of the stories.

How long did they take you to complete them (and when did you finish the project)?

I completed the book covers over the course of a couple months. For a few consecutive weeks, I brought them into class to have them critiqued by my professor and classmates. Drawing each cover by hand  took about 12 hours. At the end of the semester in May 2012, I made some final revisions and posted them on my website.

What was the process involved in making them?

First, I spent time choosing a quote from each book. Not only did I want the quote to embody an important theme of the story, but to use visual language that would inspire what icons I would use on each cover. For each cover, I did a rough pencil sketch, deciding on the overall layout and which words I wanted to emphasize in a bold serif, and which ones I wanted in a loopy script. Once deciding the layout, I drew each cover in pencil, and then went over it in sharpie marker. I scanned these in, and used Photoshop to clean up any mistakes or clunky lines. In Photoshop I added color, and brought in other elements such as the spine.

What other designs did you come up with initially before you decided on these and what was your thought process?

Initially I had another concept, which was not typography-driven at all. For each cover, I illustrated a landscape with silhouetted figures. Each cover showed a scene that occurred in the story or spoke of an important theme. For example, the Pride and Prejudice cover portrayed a woman crossing a bridge. This scene literally occurred in the story when Elizabeth had to cross a bridge to get to Mr. Darcy’s estate. This cover also talks about meeting someone halfway, crossing a bridge to understand someone different from you.

Ed. – this is something I hadn’t given much thought before. A really interesting point to pick up on, and, as book covers should do for everyone, they really have me thinking about this ‘bridge’ concept.

Why did you choose to do Jane Austen covers instead of another author?

I chose Jane Austen because my illustration style lends itself so easily to her novels. Though I have been encouraged to take on a more gender-neutral style, I usually tend to illustrate in a feminine way. I’ll admit I’m a sucker for flourishes, cute illustrations, and pretty lettering. I also chose Jane Austen because her personality shines through her writing the way my personality comes alive through my illustrations. I suppose I feel akin to her in that way.

What is your favourite Jane Austen novel and why?

It may be cliché, but Pride and Prejudice is my favorite Jane Austen novel. I love Elizabeth’s strength and stubbornness. I revel in the love-hate relationship that Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy share. Perhaps, most of all, I love how the barriers of class and social status can’t stop Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth from being together in the end. This story only speaks of a class barrier between two lovers, but the moral is applicable to other social differences such as religion, race, and gender.

Which Austen heroine are you most alike to?

I would have to say I’m most like Emma. Though I don’t meddle in other people’s affairs, I share Emma’s impulsiveness and a knack for getting into trouble. Like Emma, I always have good intentions, though the results may be a bit unpredictable. Emma’s good friend George Knightly is her opposite – where she is scatter-brained, he is level-headed, where she is impulsive, he is sensible. And at the end they realize they love each other. A similar case of opposites attract has occurred in my own life, so in a nutshell, I am basically Emma.

Why did you choose the first line of the book for the Pride and Prejudice cover?

I chose this line because I just couldn’t help myself. It’s the most famous line from the book, and it so neatly sums up the premise of the story. The novel centers around the concept of marriage as a social convention – of something to be taken for granted. Also, this quote embodies the biting snarkiness that Austen is so well known for.

Why did you choose those specific colours and symbols?

The colors I chose were meant to be sophisticated and reminiscent of the Victorian era. The symbols I chose not only reflect on the lifestyle of the Victorian era, but directly tie into the visual cues given by the language. For example, on my cover of Emma, a fan is intertwined with the word “lady.” In Victorian times, not only did the fan have functional and decorative purposes, it served as a means of communication for women. If a lady wanted to convey affection for a possible suitor, she would spread her fan open. A tightly shut fan would indicate distaste or even hatred.

How does creating a book cover differ from other types of design?

While designing a book cover, it’s important to keep in mind that the book title and the name of the author needs to hold its own. With these book covers, it was especially difficult to make the title and author stand out because there’s already so much going on visually. I settled on placing Jane Austen’s name at the top with a couple flourishes on either side. I placed the title on the bottom in a box with a slightly darker background.

As these covers aren’t currently on books – are you intending to try and get them published?

I haven’t thought of getting these published because that would be a difficult process. I made these covers with the intent of having a lot of fun with them and exploring different lettering styles. If I ever did work for a publishing company, I would definitely want to use this style in book cover design. I’m happy knowing that other artists and Jane Austen fans are coming across them and enjoying them!

You can see more of Leah’s work through her online portfolio, as well as view her short animations online.

I’m very much adoring these covers right now- what do you think? Would you buy them? Have they made you consider the novel in a different light?

1 Comment

Filed under A good find, Artist Profile, Q&A

One response to “Q&A with book cover designer, Leah Doguet

  1. Pingback: First Impressions | readitandsteep

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