Peter Mendelsund


I really enjoyed this article about book designer Peter Mendelsund's process. Fascinating!

"To come up with a cover, Mr. Mendelsund begins by scribbling notes on a manuscript and underlining key thematic sentences. He hangs the marked-up pages above his computer. Then he begins cataloging his ideas on a piece of paper covered with 16 rectangles, filling each one with a word, phrase or tiny sketch. He picks the most promising concept and creates a draft on the computer.

Once he has a rough design in place, he will often switch to illustrating by hand, drawing with an ink brush, layering on paper collage or filling in blocky shapes with gouache, a dense watercolor. Finally, he prints out a mock cover, wraps it around a hardcover and leaves it on his bookshelf for a few days. If his eye is spontaneously drawn to it a day or two later, he considers his direction on the right track. If the cover disappears into the background, he knows something is missing.

He often repeats this process dozens of times. For a new edition of Julio Cortázar’s 1963 novel, “Hopscotch,” he created 60 covers before choosing one with a pattern of blue footprints imposed on white squares. “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” was even tougher, taking nearly 70 attempts. The resulting cover became ubiquitous as the novel went on to sell about 10 million copies."

Written by: Alexandra Alter