It was a great thrill to have the cover of the first edition of my novel Foxy-T designed by Gray318, who at the time was fresh from the success of the dynamic, hand-painted (and by then ubiquitous) graphic he’d produced for Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated, and who remains one of the best cover artists in the business. Interviewed for the Independent about his approach, Gray318 a.k.a. Jonathan Gray says,
Originally, design was very much about finding a lovely photograph for the jacket … I like creating more of a brand, a logo for the book. I’m a big fan of text, and of pushing that text to the limits of legibility. I don’t want to give a literal sense of the book’s subject, but more a flavour.
The first edition of Foxy-T was produced in a jacketed demy paperback, and Gray318 produced a stark graphic that picked up on themes from the opening pages of the novel by mixing a hand-drawn, graffiti-like, marker-pen treatment of the names of the novel’s two main characters—Foxy-T and Ruji-Babes—with the title and (my) name floating in bold and narrow sans serif caps that appear to be cut or fractured along a couple of axes, as if in a rough collage. In a final, romantic detail, the ‘O’ of ‘FOXY-T’ contains two vertical hearts, slightly reminiscent of (although more slenderly-drawn and closer together than) the Papermate pen logo; a device that perhaps brings together the relationship at the heart of the novel and the neat, felt-pen tags seen in its opening paragraph.
There are two colour schemes: the cover itself has white-out graffiti and hearts on a red ground with black title floating across the central third, while the paper dust jacket (below) in which the book is wrapped features red graffiti on a yellow ground with black title identically placed. The finishing touch is that the hearts on the dust jacket are picked out in red foil.
At the time, Gray318’s stark designs with their monochrome grounds reminded me of the simple typographic covers on Faber paperbacks of old: novels by the likes of Lawrence Durrell and Amos Tutuola. I loved—and still love—that the design of a contemporary Faber novel could make a connection with the house’s rich heritage of typographically-based cover art in this way.
This all came to mind recently, when I met up with Lee Brackstone, my editor at Faber and Faber, to go through the edits on my forthcoming novel. I don’t yet know what we’ll be doing for the cover of The Fountain in the Forest, but watch this space.
Incidentally, if like me you are into this kind of thing, there’s a great coffee table book of Faber and Faber cover design put together by the novelist Joseph Connolly.