behind the design: kate gartner & mare’s war

And now for the last stop on the Mare’s War Cover Love Train! Please give a warm welcome (and high five!) to cover designer Kate Gartner, the creative brainchild responsible for Mare’s captivating cover art.

TCG: Did you get a chance to read Mare’s War before starting on its design? What information did you have to work with before the concept phase?

KG: Yes, I always read the entire ms. before coming up with a cover concept. I feel that it is necessary to get the feel of the book as well as to catch any physical descriptions.

TCG: What is your normal design process after you get a working draft/thumbnail? What were the parts that kept getting tweaked for Mare’s War?

KG: I usually try to do fairly tight concept thumbnails. I either draw them or Photoshop together various images to try to reflect what I imagine the design should be. In the case of Mare’s War I put together photos and title type to reflect the image that came to me as I read the ms. I added the glow of the lipstick (which is mentioned in the book and I was careful to make the color accurate to lipstick popular in the 1940s) and that was it! The only tweaking was that she faced right initially and I changed it to make her face left. It just looked better facing left.

TCG: What were the easiest parts of the design/process of this cover? The hardest?

KG: This was an easy cover to thumbnail. I imagined the cover as I read the book, then simply looked for the elements I needed to make the image. The hardest part was finding an accurate World War II helmet.

TCG: What other YA covers have you designed? What’s been your favorite cover that you’ve designed so far? Are there any other YA covers (outside of Knopf/RH) that you love?

KG: Poisons of Caux trilogy, The File on Angelyn Stark, My Not-So-Still Life, The Devil’s Paintbox, When You Reach Me. I really can’t pick a favorite. I honestly like them all.

Poisons of Caux covers are absolutely gorgeous! And I might be completely biased here, but I’ve always love the When You Reach Me cover. I loved it even MORE after I read the novel.

TCG: What’s your brainstorming process like when it comes to a cover design concept?

KG: I talk to the editor and ask how they see the book. I ask what emotional themes should be emphasized and who our audience is.

TCG: What were your initial ideas for the cover?

KG: Usually I do a few cover comps focusing on different aspects of the story (do we want to spotlight the action, characters, relationships, setting, etc.), but in the case of Mare’s War, I saw the cover as I read it and did a single very tight comp.

TCG: Who (artists/illustrators/cover designers/photographers) inspires you?

KG: I suspect this is true of most designers . . . everything inspires me, and not just art and design. Living in NYC is a great inspiration. Great visuals are everywhere you look. My colleagues here in the KDD art department inspire me every day with their sense of humor and imaginations.

TCG: Do cover trends play into your ideas for designs? Also, where do you find the balance in prioritizing the message at the heart of a novel and including marketing at the same time? Or, do you feel cover art’s main focus always revolves around the art?

KG: I think it is a designer’s job to predict and make trends, not to follow them. It is important to me to reflect the heart of the novel, so that the reader knows what they are getting. Hopefully, a good cover is good from all points of view—marketing, editorial, design, and our readers.

I think I nodded at every single point of view you highlighted, Kate. When designing in publishing (and most other realms), there’s so many people to please. But please do check-mark your box for “YA Cover Snob Bloggers.” ;) Thanks again for the interview!

PS — These interview series are growing in numbers, which absolutely pleases me to no end. If you’ve missed any Authorthoughts or Behind The Design posts from the past, please do check them out!
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4 thoughts on “behind the design: kate gartner & mare’s war

  1. Great interview! I have the hardback of this (picked up at a library sale) and it’s a cartoon one. It’s done sophisticatedly but I adore the choices on this one.

  2. It’s great to know that such careful thought goes behind these cover choices. If ever I get a novel out, I should be so fortunate to get a cover designer like Kate Gartner.
    Rebecca Stead’s book captured my eye, because of the cover. And it totally fits the book.

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