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Book Making: Multiple accolades can make for design challenges

bookmaking madeleine thien do not say we have nothingMadeleine Thien’s novel Do Not Say We Have Nothing (Knopf Canada), about a mother and daughter who invite a young woman fleeing the aftermath of China’s Tiananmen Square protests into their home – has won, in the words of its jacket designer, C.S. Richardson, “an embarrassment of riches.” In 2016, it took home both the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Q&Q asked Richardson how he balances the promotion of such awards on a book’s cover without compromising the original design:

“When the announcement comes down that a title has won a prize, the next morning we’re collectively knocking our heads together going, ‘We’ve got a put the burst on there somehow.’ It’s up to us to suggest a placement to best advantage that can be read from 20 feet away but hopefully doesn’t mar the design.

“In the case of Madeleine’s book, it was more good luck than good management: we had some areas on the front panel where you wouldn’t obscure too much of the illustrations, the title, or any of the typography.

“When it came to the Giller Prize, we had a complimentary colour palette with the prize – we’re obliged not to alter any of the colours of the prize bursts that we get.

“We don’t consider anything upfront: I don’t think that down the road I’m going to need an area where we can put a sticker.

“The basic rule of thumb in book design is have all the bits and pieces at your disposal before you start designing the book. That’s the perfect world but that’s not the world we live in. Eventually we’ll do a paperback, and at that point we’ll probably do some adjustments to the design because we know going in we’ll be putting on bursts. But if she wins one more, we’re really in trouble.”