Peter Mendelsund’s Skillshare course

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I just finished watching Peter Mendelsund’s Skillshare course, Read, Think, Design: Creating Stunning Book Covers. This course was awesome. It was easier for me to focus on than the previous Skillshare video.

In the first section of the course, Peter Mendelsund suggests looking at other artist’s designs. He says to pick out those that you like and designs that you don’t like and ask yourself, “why? or why not?” The next step is to imitate these designs to see that you can make them yourself. This is so important. I like to go on Pinterest when I’m working on a project and get ideas from others who have worked on the same type of project. We do this a lot too with the blogs and websites Kathy provides for us on blackboard to see other artists’ work and learn about what’s out there.

Before starting the actual book cover, we need to identify our goals. Peter Mendelsund says the three goals in book cover design are:

  1. The cover has to represent the author’s work.
  2. It has to sell the book.
  3. It needs to be new.

He suggests trying different mediums because that can be a way for you to stretch yourself as an artist. In this section he explained a little bit of how his process works and showed us some of his book cover designs.

“A title for an author is like what a book jacket is for a designer.”

Peter Mendelsund reads through the poem with us and underlines the important parts. He picks out the three component parts or the title: wondering, loneliness, & clouds. He emphasized that getting to the end of the novel is important because the ending is always very significant and impacts your takeaway from the book.

Every text tells a story and we must:

  1. Understand the story at face value.
  2. Discern the underlying meaning.

He also brought up TI sheets, which he says contains the summary of the novel, previous sales history, marketing notes, the target audience, and that sort of thing. This was pretty cool because I hadn’t really thought about or heard of that before.

Mendelsund goes through and sketches some thumbnails of potential book cover ideas. Will the cover use a photo, drawing, painting, collage, just words, or maybe something digital? These are all things to consider. Even sub-questions, like: will the photo be a stock photo, and where will I get it from? Or will I hire someone to do a photo shoot, or will I take the photos myself? He shows use some more of his cover designs and describes the medium he used for each cover.

“Your media choice should inform the way you feel about the cover.”

The last few sessions of the lesson were my favorites. In designing the cover, he brings up an important point. “The only limits are your imagination and financial boundaries.” It’s important to ask your client at the very beginning, “How much can we spend per book cover?” Different production techniques have different costs, so it’s important to consider price before the designing.

It was super cool to watch Peter Mendelsund create his ideas for the poem’s book cover. It was awesome to listen to him narrate his thoughts and visually watch his ideas come together on the screen. It was also crazy how quickly he made each of these ideas come to life, but it’s just something that comes with years of practice I’m sure. It was also fun to watch him collage the words and daffodils. I don’t collage often, but it looks like fun and like it can lead to some pretty cool images and ideas.

In the conclusion section of the lesson, Peter Mendelsund emphasized the fact that when he shows a client a book cover, he only shows them one. He doesn’t show them multiple because it’s likely that the client would like different parts of each cover and would ask you to combine the ideas into one cover, or ask for more examples. As the artist, Mendelsund feels that he knows his work and will choose the one that he feels best represents the novel. He also emphasizes that before showing your cover to your client, you should always have other people look at it first. This includes: other designers, readers who have read the novel before, or anyone else, like your mom or brother. That way you can get some final feedback from an outside source to see if anything should be changed.

This was a fun and informative lesson! I loved being able to see the way Peter Mendelsund’s process works and hearing his thoughts while creating.

View the lesson here.


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