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Book Making: Achieving the moody, feminine cover of Joanne Proulx’s latest novel

There’s a scene early in Joanne Proulx’s second novel, We All Love the Beautiful Girls, in which one of the protagonists, a photographer named Mia, shoots an image of her friend’s daughter, Frankie. The passage – which foreshadows the book’s themes of sexual power, personal loss, and betrayal – stuck with Penguin Random House Canada designer Jennifer Griffiths, who was assigned the task of creating a cover that would not only represent the book’s dark themes and tension, but carry through the vision of Proulx’s editor, Penguin Canada publisher Nicole Winstanley, and PRHC art director Scott Richardson.

Given instruction to find a “fashion-esque portrait of a woman,” Griffiths pored through stock photos, looking for a model who reflected the character’s appearance without overly influencing readers’ interpretation. “It’s one of the hardest things you have to do,” she says. “Maybe she’s not quite old enough, or the hair is the wrong colour. I think I lucked out because, in my mind, she looks how I imagined [Frankie].”

But the designer wanted more than just a pretty picture of a young woman. After narrowing down the photos, Griffiths painted over them to obscure the faces. “I did 20 different outtakes of paintings to get the right style,” she says. For the typeface, Griffiths selected Domaine Display Bold by Klim Type Foundry, which Griffiths says “adds a bit of femininity without being really girly.”

Griffiths presented three options to the editorial team, who right away gravitated to what became the final cover. Winstanley loved it so much, she approved the rare expense of a swath of spot gloss over the paint stroke, which Griffith says helps it pop out from the background. “It was probably one of the first covers I’ve done that’s been approved without any changes.”