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2020 Books of the Year: Designers and illustrators on the year’s best covers

Grant Loveys
ECW Press
Designed by Rachel Ironstone

Rachel Ironstone’s design for Grant Loveys’s sophomore poetry collection comprises one of the most gleefully macabre covers in recent memory, thanks to the juxtaposition of a child’s knit doll in a brutal crime-scene scenario. “The featured photograph [by Lorie Shaull] shows one of ‘mother of forensic science’ Frances Glessner Lee’s ‘Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death,’” says Ironstone.

Lee created the dollhouse dioramas as an instructional tool for use in the burgeoning field of forensic science; Ironstone thought the uncanny aspects of the scene dovetailed perfectly with the tone and content of Loveys’s poems. “All that was really left to me was a little creative cropping and staid type that put that image at the fore and set the viewer’s imagination loose in the uncanny valley.” –Steven W. Beattie

Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
House of Anansi Press
Designed by Alysia Shewchuk

The striking cover image for Leanne Betasamosake Simpson’s hybrid novel was very much a collaboration between the Nishnaabeg writer; her editor, Damian Rogers; and Anansi senior designer Alysia Shewchuk, who mocked up several options featuring Indigeneous artists. “We wanted to create an image as powerful as the cover of Leanne’s previous collection of short stories, poetry, and lyrics, This Accident of Being Lost, so revisiting the work of Anishinaabe artist Rebecca Belmore was a natural choice,” says Shewchuk.

All agreed that the design featuring Belmore’s iconic 2007 photo Fringe – of a woman’s back, scarred with dripping, blood-red beads – was the perfect choice. “Undeniably arresting, the themes in Fringe harmonize beautifully with those in Noopiming,” says Shewchuk. “We were absolutely thrilled when we heard the news that Rebecca Belmore had also given us her full support.” –Sue Carter

The Little Ghost Who Was a Quilt
Riel Nason and Byron Eggenschwiler, ill.
Tundra Books
Designed by John Martz

When you’ve got such a creative picture-book title and concept, the pressure is on for the cover image to rise to the occasion. Illustrator Byron Eggenschwiler’s take on a quilted apparition comes through – completely adorable and irresistible. “Byron’s melancholic image of the ghost looking wistfully out the window seemed like a perfect encapsulation of the story,” says designer John Martz. “Is he looking longingly at the outer world that seemingly has no place for him, or is he looking at his own reflection, contemplating his own existence?”

Martz went for a distressed antique look for the type: “It befits a dilapidated haunted house covered in dust and cobwebs, but is still simple and sophisticated without being too spooky – not unlike a beautiful, comfy quilt that also happens to be a ghost!” –Shanda Deziel

Stories of the Saints: Bold and Inspiring Tales of Adventure, Grace, and Courage
Carey Wallace and Nick Thornborrow, ill.
Workman Publishing Co.
Designed by Tae Won Yu and Claire Torres

Byzantine art, traditional tarot cards, and the cartoon Samurai Jack inspired Edmonton artist Nick Thornborrow’s heroic takes on the saints, such as the cover’s badass Francis of Assisi. “Maybe I was being a tad irreverent, but I was much more interested in the graphic design potential than the canon,” says the illustrator, a concept artist for video-game developer BioWare. “Illustrating this book was more like interpreting Greek mythology.” –Ryan Porter


November 30th, 2020

12:10 pm

Category: Books of the Year, Industry News

Issue Date: December 2020

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