Paperback Covers for Random House
posted: March 18, 2008
Finished cover I sent for Death in the Afternoon...
Last year I get a call from Random House in London for two Ernest Hemingway paperback covers for the Vintage series. They have a basic cover format using Gill Sans and Bodoni and they want me to create simple images that look like they fit the period of each book. Death in the Afternoon and The Old Man and The Sea. What could go wrong?
I send two pencil sketches each, they pick the ones they like, I finish them up and send them off. Everybody's happy, I get paid and look forward to seeing  the printed books.
Finished cover I sent for The Old Man and The Sea...
A few months pass, and I think, "I wonder if those books are in the stores yet?" I'll check the UK Amazon site and take a look.
They're listed...but something looks odd.
Finished covers issued by Random House...
It seems like the art director or someone at RH thought the covers needed that little something extra to make them look "Vintage."
I need a drink.
Sketch for Death in the Afternoon...
Sketch for Death in the Afternoon...
Sketch for The Old Man and The Sea...
Sketch for The Old Man and The Sea...
David Flaherty March 18, 2008
Weird. So they added all that noise? Odd indeed.
Dusty O\'Toole March 18, 2008
Holy fuck they took an elegant design and put it through the gimmick filter. Limey assholes.
Jim Paillot March 18, 2008
For what it's worth, Paul, your work is so well done, elegant and works great with the type. Sorry about what was done to it. Geez.
Gary Taxali March 18, 2008
Pay me late, etc but edit, modify my work and I start breaking legs. It's the one clause I always blackline, Paul. (I just blasted a major publisher for having the balls to send me a contract with that clause yesterday). I like your original art and the 'noise' adds nothing to the already beautiful work. I'll buy you a drink.
David Goldin March 18, 2008
See Paul Rogers Vintage Hemingway covers digitally restored to their original beauty only @ drawger! I love your work and the covers as you finished them. Now the Matador is in flames and the Marlin's spewing a cloud of milk...
Rob Dunlavey March 18, 2008
Potent design or dissipation? Incredible. I wonder if any other editions will sport the new vintage look or they'll use your original powerful designs.
Steve S March 18, 2008
"I just blasted a major publisher for having the balls to send me a contract with that clause yesterday" Wow!!! what you lack in talent you make up with blowhardiness ( is that a word ?) Steve
Steve March 18, 2008
Hi Paul, Is there a chance that the images on Amazon are just mock-ups? Often a publisher will make a phony cover for web ordering purposes. Just a thought
Nancy Stahl March 18, 2008
Whoa. That's egregious. What will you do when they want more work from you? Because, you know, they probably think this was a successful "collaboration". Ha.
felix Sockwell March 18, 2008
Paul, Either way i think they look great. the Gills Sans choice is a bit off though (reeks late 80's)
Cathleen Toelke March 18, 2008
I've found that publisher's online images of covers often look garish. Perhaps the real covers aren't that yellowed and distressed looking? Just a thought, but regardless, the giant "holes" in the paperback covers are odd. Contracts often need negotiation. Your original designs are beautiful.
Stephen Kroninger March 18, 2008
Beautiful work up top, Paul. They look classic and contemporary at the same time. Maybe I'm old school but the proper way to distress a book is for people to carry it around and read it. I prefer to see edges get bumped, pages get dog-eared and covers get scuffed and discolored the old-fashioned way, with lots of love (use).
Scott Bakal March 18, 2008
Hey Paul: I am all for the 'distressed' look but jeez. They pounded on it. I wouldn't have been happy with that. I agree with Kron...let the people who bought the book scuff it. Very beautiful art...delicate and appropriate.
Marc March 18, 2008
Beautiful work, Paul, and criminal of them to make thse kinds of changes—and not even tell you! Your name gets the credit for their bad judgment.
Doug Fraser March 18, 2008
Good morning from the west coast......Hmmm let's see what this is ....WHAT THE!!!???@@###. So much for the British perspective. Wow! Paul your work was so graceful without the bogus computer poo added. I guess that's a little bangers n' mash for ya'. Yeesh, sorry my friend.
WAM March 18, 2008
Love your original. I agree about the Gills Sans comment.
Adam McCauley March 18, 2008
These are beautiful pieces, Paul. I actually don't mind what they did with the design, but it's really egregious they didn't discuss this with you beforehand. For what it's worth, I've experienced similar events with RH UK. To me, this looks like the marketing department decided they needed to look "olde" and had the designer scuff it up. The marketing people will be the death of us all!
A.Richard Allen March 18, 2008
Old Man and that Sea's a great image, Paul. My only reservation with their treatment of it is that (and here I may be echoing Skron's point) I can't really see what effect they're going for. I'm all for distressing an image but this seems an odd melange of burning, and staining . It's the sort of look I got when aging a self-drawn treasure map aged eleven by tipping a cup of tea on it and, when dry, grilling it. I'd love if they'd tried with the Death in the Afternoon of making it look like weathered, layered bullfighting posters. Gill Sans too late 80s? Fonts fall in and out of fashion. Pervy Eric's classic sans is from 1928 so I think we can safely assume that it's been trendy every twenty years since. It's a bit like lamenting the trend for 80s style threads in clothes shops the world over right now. Interesting point, Felix, but resisting the ebb, flow and churn of fashion seems a bit Cnut-ish (no dyslexic cuss intended)
Robert Saunders March 18, 2008
Paul, your covers have a true vintage quality. The designer's solution incorporates the distressed look. Distressed style is contemporary affectation which many artist-designers employ today to add an ironic or extra-graphic edge, and not displeasingly so, either. But here the finished look is muddled and the designer's intent runs head-on into yours. Great to see the intended look. I sympathize: it has happened to me.
Paul Rogers March 18, 2008
Thanks everyone for the kind words. I sent these designs with a white background as well, which would have allowed for Mr Kroninger's preferred distressing technique. It's not so much the idea of "distressing" these covers, its the ham-fisted approach that bugs me. As for Gill Sans, the display face alphabet was designed by Brithish calligrapher Edward Johnston in 1916 for the London Underground and adapted by Eric Gill in 1928. But, Felix already knows this. Gill Sans always looks British and Modern to my eye. That's probably because of its long history with the London Underground, and classic Penguin paperbacks. In London, it seems to be everywhere. I'll see you all in the bar at ICON.
Melanie Marder Parks March 27, 2008
YOUR covers are elegant and perfect, JUST THE WAY THEY ARE. Perhaps they are putting something in the water at B & N. How do you do that "ripped" look? Cathleen Toelke was kind enough to tell me about your covers after I relayed a tale of woe. Maintaining control of one's work in publishing seems to be rather impossible. We need more really strong Art Directors with good eyes and taste.
Melanie Marder Parks March 27, 2008
Sorry B&N... it's RH!!!
Duane Spurlock December 17, 2009
I really love the pencil drawings. Nice, tight little gems. The final, published versions? Ugh. I hope they pay you more than the art director. 626 564 8728