Designers vs. Illustrators (vs. Authors)

This is not really my field, as I’m not a cover designer, but the Guardian just posted a rant by an author with the teaser (sorry—there’s a proper term for this in newspaperspeak, isn’t there?), “Now that pixels have replaced pencils the art of drawing has vanished. I’m so exasperated I’m designing my own book cover.” Supposedly, after thirteen rounds of comps and despite specifically requesting a hand-drawn illustration, the author still has only been shown covers using photographs, and she concludes that this is because designers can’t draw.

Give me a fucking break.

As someone has already posted in the comments,

  1. Designers design; they don’t necessarily draw. That elusive artist you’re looking for is called an illustrator.
  2. If the author has been asking for hand-drawn covers and the designers aren’t providing them, after thirteen rounds, it’s the fault not of the designer but of the publisher, who either isn’t
    • stating this preference in the design brief, or
    • providing a budget for an illustration, which is billed separately

The book and publisher are not mentioned by name, but it’s probably The Post-Birthday World, forthcoming from HarperCollins. We’re talking about a design department run by people who create their own fonts. I can’t believe they’d balk at buying or drawing an illustration. There’s clearly some backstory here.

9 thoughts on “Designers vs. Illustrators (vs. Authors)

  1. It’s nice to know this sort of thing goes on in the big houses, too. I just worked with a client who sent his own images. He’s worked with three designers and has had more than 40 proofs that I know about and now he’s demanding refunds or extra work from everyone because they didn’t make him happy. LOL.

  2. God. The backstory there most likely begins, “As a child, Author X enjoyed plucking the wings off insects and vivisecting small woodland creatures . . .”

  3. I found a very professional reply to the author’s ‘rants’ by one ‘Book Designer’. That person—Book Designer—explains about the role of designers, illustrators and photographers in designing the cover. I think the author should leave the cover design to the professionals. He or she could suggest what should be the theme, but I think the final decision should be the designer’s.

    Many authors try to interfere in the cover design process creating a lot of trouble, headache and extra work for the designers and in most cases the author does not have a clue to what is going on and how the sample shown to him will look when it is finally produced.

    So as an author, I always leave the covers to the designers with a few suggestions or comments and as a designer I never allow the author to interfere in my work other than giving his views.

    Pixels replacing pencils is actually a boon, provided one knows how to use it properly. In the hands of an expert the computer can be a better tool than a pencil and the cost of making changes and modification will be much less and will save a lot of time.

    So it is better to embrace better technology when it is available rather than sticking with tradition thinking that it will produce better results.

  4. Yes, BookDesigner’s first comment is the one I referred to above. There are a lot more pissed-off designers commenting there since this morning, I see.

    I also say “hear, hear” to Thalia1, who feelingly runs on, “It’s all about money. Time is money. It can take days and days to produce a beautifully hand drawn or painted artwork and people will not pay you for the time and we actually do have to live you know.”

    Illustration is a very specialized skill, and you wouldn’t believe the amount of labor that goes into producing some of the little incidental drawings we see every day, e.g., in magazines. I recently read Adobe Master Class: Illustrator Illuminated, and although I didn’t always like the pieces being discussed, I couldn’t help but appreciate the artists’ command of their craft. They know how to draw, and they know how to use computers, and they put the two together daily, occasionally producing amazing stuff. It’s not something you just pick up on the fly.

    And while, obviously, the subjects of such a book are something of a self-selecting sample, all of them seemed to feel that the computer allowed them to do better work, with more flexibility, than they could with pencils and paints alone (though more than half start each project with analog sketches).

  5. In the world of self-publishing and micro-publishing a new animal has arrived on the scene to make life even more difficult: The Book Coach. These people, none of which I am aware has ever set foot in a publishing house, much less the bindery or print shop, are paid big $$ to offer “expert” advice. The issue here is they’re trained sales people and have considerable skills in persuading authors and publishers to view them as knowledgeable. Some suggestions I’ve had to indulge via book coach:

    “Add more white ink.” (I SWEAR someone wrote that).

    “A red to black gradient will make the book look like all the others on Amazon, so that’s what we should do.” (Yes, I did require therapy after that project)

    “It’s not important that the image is only 72 dpi, it’s important that it’s in the right position. Readers don’t care what resolution something is.” (The guy who owned the image they lifted off Goolge, might).

    “Fonts. We need more fonts… A professional cover needs 5, 6, 7 or 8 fonts. I can’t believe your designer doesn’t know this.” (I’m such an amateur. I had no idea. Really. No idea.)

    “The bar code needs to be changed to red bars on a yellow background so it matches the book.” (I did this one. I’m sorry. I couldn’t argue any more. That was bad of me. I did it. I then charged $50 to change it back after it didn’t scan properly.).

  6. Cathi, those are hilarious! I just snorked very loudly as someone was walking by my office. Oh, well. They had to learn eventually that I’m peculiar. The fonts one is my favorite.

  7. Office? OFFICE? They gave you an OFFICE?

    Man, being a freelancer really doesn’t pay.

  8. Yea, verily. An irregularly heptagonal office, with a door, and a name plate outside. We’re not in nonprofit/anarchist/sweatshop Kansas anymore, Toto.

    Really, though, I think it’s more because the building I work in is peculiar than because I’m such an important person. There aren’t many cubicles (and none of them are cubic), otherwise I’d probably be in one. I’ve seen only four cubicles on my floor, out of maybe . . . thirty offices?

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