Peter Mendelsund’s Interview on NPR

I just finished re-listening to Peter Mendelsund’s NPR interview: The Jacket Designer’s Challenge: To Capture A Book By Its Cover. I enjoyed listening to the interview. Peter Mendelsund seems very calm and very real. His voice and the way he explained his points made him seem very down to earth. He a great outlook on book design and some important points. He says that is you look at a cover and feel the same way as you did when you were reading the book, you have a successful cover. This is very interesting. I didn’t do this with my book covers, but I also didn’t have the chance to read the entire novels that I was designing the covers for. I would like to fully read at least one of the novels that I redesigned for and see if I do feel the same way in both instances.

Peter Mendelsund gave us an insight into his creative process by informing us that he creates about 100 trial covers for each novel he designs. That’s a lot of book covers! He said that some are very very similar and there may only be one small tweak from design to design. Still, that’s a lot of covers! He has created about 600 covers in his career so far. So doing the math accounting for 100 covers per book, that’s about 60,000 book covers in all, as the NPR interviewer pointed out. That’s amazing! At the time of the interview he was working on fifteen different book titles and one freelance project. He commented that he likes working on multiple projects at once because it helps the creative process.

When he shows his cover to a client, he only shows one of the many he creates. He chooses his favorite of the group. This is because if he shows them various designs they will most likely pick and choose what they like from each one and ask that those attributes be combines into a new cover. This is smart. I would probably show the client multiple works, but after hearing his take I might reconsider that idea.

It’s super cool that P.M. gets to spend a great deal of time during his workday reading. Reading and enjoying reading is so important for his job! He says that when he reads outside of work for leisure, it’s hard to be analyzing the text and picking out visual emblems.

He points out that when we read, we don’t form a concise picture of the characters in the novel we are reading. He also states that the idea that reading a book is like watching a movie in your head is false. This is because, we are not picturing the author’s world; we don’t see the story in the same way that he did. We also rely a lot on our memories and experiences when we picture the story in our heads. We fill in bits and pieces to bring visual form to what we’re reading.

A great, quick interview, with some awesome insight!

The NPR interview with Peter Mendelsund, The Jacket Designer’s Challenge: To Capture A Book By Its Cover, can be found here.


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