Welcome to the second entry in my cover artist spotlight series. The first entry in the series was incredibly popular and I can’t wait to get more artists involved. This week I have interviewed Jarrod Taylor about his work in the book art industry. It is a great interview and I am grateful for Jarrod giving up some time from his busy schedule to get involved. I will share a few details about Jarrod and then straight onto the Q&A. Please share any thoughts or appreciation for Jarrod’s work in the comments below and thank you as always for stopping by to check out this post.
About Jarrod Taylor
Jarrod Taylor is an art director, designer, and illustrator. He is currently the art director for Twelve Books, an imprint of the Hachette Book Group. His work has been recognised by the Art Director’s Club, Print Magazine, the Type Director’s Club, and more.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org for project inquiries.
The Q&A Section
Could you tell us a bit about your career as a designer/artist?
I grew up in Washington state and went to school for two years at the Art Institute in Seattle. After graduating I worked for a few years, mostly at design firms and agencies around Seattle and then decided it was time to finish school so I settled on Parsons. I was back in school mostly to figure out what exactly I wanted to do, and once I took a couple of cover design classes that got me hooked. After I left Parsons I was at Columbia University Press for a couple months before getting hired at Harper Collins as a junior designer. Harper has a really big list each season and it was there where I really got some great experience at working on all kinds of books while under some pretty tight deadlines. I was there for around nine years when I left to be the art director for Twelve Books, which is a small imprint of Grand Central Publishing and Hachette. Now I’ve been there for a little over a year and a half and loving it. I think that brings us up to date.
Do you work with specific genres of book or are you open to any sort of project?
I like to work on all sorts of books. Lately I’ve been doing more nonfiction because that’s how the Twelve list skews, mostly big nonfiction and political books with an occasional literary novel thrown in. But I like to do it all cause I think it helps to keep you from getting into a stylistic rut.
What sort of challenges do you face as an artist in this industry?
I think the biggest challenge we have is to figure out how to continually adapt in a rapidly changing industry. It’s something that’s talked about nonstop at Hachette on a larger scale but also applies to us as print designers, and I think it’s different for each person. For me it’s been mostly about trying to integrate different aspects of design into my job here at Twelve to kind of handle some of the branding and such.
Have you got any projects going on at the moment that you could give some insights on?
I’ll talk about the most fun project I’ve got to work on in a while which was for Al Franken’s new book, Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, by Al Franken. In the beginning we talked to the Senator and he said he wanted a cover that looked like a really pompous oil painting like you would see in the halls of the Senate. We were more than happy to go that route so at his suggestion I set up a photoshoot at the historic Minneapolis club with a great photographer, Brian Kelly, and he arranged to get some props including a giant globe and some leather chairs. After the shoot and once we had gotten approval on the right image I commissioned an illustration from Tim O’Brien, who did a great job. The main thing we had to get right was the kind of smug look on his face and Tim really nailed it. Once the cover was approved and right before the book release I got to work with our advertising group to put together a promotional video with some footage of the shoot we took and a voiceover that Mr. Franken wrote which does a great job really hammering home the joke. The whole project was very long but a lot of fun the whole way because of the different elements and collaboration that it took to bring it together, and I got to learn a little about working with video in the process which kind of goes back to my last point about adaptation.
Where do you draw inspiration from when you set out to design a piece?
Oh, I don’t know, mostly the book and the style of writing I guess.
What is your favourite design/piece you have done so far?
Probably Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff. I had recently read At the Mountains of Madness before getting that cover to work on and so the timing was perfect for a little extra inspiration. I think that was also the only time I presented just one idea to the editor too. It took a little selling to the author but they went with it eventually. It’s an excellent read by the way, Matt Ruff is a great author, and I just heard the Jordan Peele is turning it into a show.
Do you prefer doing bigger works of art or lots of smaller designs?
I kind of prefer doing separate pieces, I guess that’s one of the things that appealed to me about cover design is the unique challenges each different cover brings.
Could you give us a brief overview of how you plan/approach a cover design?
I try to begin by talking with the editor and see if they or the author have any ideas. It’s a really great place to start because they know the book better than anyone and can help to steer you in the right direction most of the time. Then I’ll usually read as much of the book that seems necessary to get a feel for the mood and ideas for imagery. And then I just try and squeeze out as many ideas as I can before the deadline.
What is the best part about being an artist in your opinion?
The things we get away with because we’re “creatives”.
Have you recently read a book or article that you would recommend to me and the readers of this post?
Hmm, maybe The Quiet American by Graham Greene. It’s a classic that I’m sure a lot of folks have read before. I hadn’t read any of his work and was just getting back from a trip to Vietnam and something about it really struck a chord.
Thank you to Jarrod Taylor for taking the time to answer some questions for this post. I love this series and I am grateful for every artist that gets involved. I hope you enjoyed this post! Please leave a comment if you did. If you have an artist you want to recommend for this series then please let me know. Thank you for the support and until next time, happy reading!