Thursday, April 22, 2010

Our Guest: Designer Richard Deas

Today we have talented Art Director, designer and illustrator Rich Deas helping us understand what went in to designing the U.S. cover art for ONCE (Henry Holt, 2010) by Australian author Morris Gleitzman.  The book, about a young Jewish boy hidden by his parents in a Catholic orphanage in Poland during WWII (the story follows his harrowing efforts to reunite with his parents), is part of a trilogy (ONCE, THEN, and NOW)  published first in the United Kingdom. The covers abroad look like this: 
A volume was brought out in the U.K which combined both ONCE and THEN. Here's the cover image: 
I have to say that I think the U.S. cover of ONCE is a real show-stopper compared to the U.K. version. The focus has come in much tighter, and the relative size of the barbed wire to the small figure produces a visceral reaction that the U.K. version, seen from much farther off and in visual competition with the train tracks and the text, does not. The font used for the U.S. title is heavy, brutal and in-your-face, appropriate to the story, while the U.K. font is gentle, in the style of early Dick-and-Jane books. From what I see in the comps below, the font was one of the first things changed. Though the original cover is good, it's not strong, in my opinion. But the U.S. cover is a knock-out.- each time I look at it, something new strikes me (for example, I didn't see, at first glance, the Star of David "caught" in the letter "C" - just look at how much that letter seems to be a link in a heavy chain. I love the subtlety of that.) 

Mr. Deas generously shares his thoughts about the U.S. redesign, along with jpegs of covers which were considered along the way - comps - something outsiders rarely see, and a real treat for us here at Jacket Knack!

"The first 2 titles, Once (book 1) and Then (book 2) had such a strong, emotional impact on me....I’d be delighted to share the process behind these covers.  Note: I have not read the third title, Now which should be coming our way soon.

Basically, I struggled through dozens of approaches trying to find an option that felt strong enough to represent these moving and thought-provoking stories by Morris Gleitzman. The direction we finally settled upon is based on the UK version of Once.  The original UK cover is beautiful and well conceived but we felt did not fully represent the emotional tone and harsh reality of these harrowing stories.  Since our final covers were based on the same concept we contacted the UK publisher for the rights and redesigned the package and art.  This approach is a bit of a departure from how we normally work but is also kind of interesting. Again, there are certain aspects about the original cover I love and I was very happy that we could incorporate and expand on it. 

 Full jacket designed by Dennis Clouse, one of my all-time favorite designers/ illustrators. Unfortunately,early in the process, we thought it best to go in a different direction.

 ....various stages of the final design approach....I think you can see the progression from these. 

Many thanks to Mr. Deas for sending us the comps - the process is fascinating! How I'd love to be a fly on the wall when this kind of decision-making is being done. 
Click here for a link to MacMillan's site, including new titles coming out from Henry Holt.
And click here for a link to Rich Deas's own website. 
Don't forget to take a look at Dennis Clouse's site at Cyclone Design Inc.
Click here for the reaction of Noa Wheeler, Associate Editor at Holt, to this book. 
And here is a link to the reaction of readers to this title - very positive -  over at  


  1. Those covers sure made me want to pick up all the books and begin reading. It is fascinating to think about the many-layered effects of a jacket cover and the gestalt of color, repetition, contast, image, associations, even rhythm. Thank you, Julie and Carol

  2. Fascinating to see the design progression. A powerful cover--the grey scratched background is bleak, while the C crushes the Star of David and the frail boy, balanced tenuously on the barbed wire, reaching for the star, pulls me right into the book. Magnificent. Many thanks for sharing this.