Under-cover: how book design happens

Daniel Choi is the talented young designer at Fitzhenry & Whiteside who came up with the cover concept for What’s for Lunch? I also just learned he’s a food blogger and an enthusiastic cook—the perfect person to design this book cover! I asked him a few questions about his process and he graciously answered them here.

Question: How do you start thinking about a book’s cover?

Daniel: After reading a book, I have a surge of concepts in my head that I want to get down on paper. I usually do up thumbnails and translate the ones I like into Photoshop. From there, I let my creative side take it away.

Q: What did you think about cover-wise when you first read What’s for Lunch?

Daniel: The first thing that I imagined for WFL was a lunch tray with different kinds of foods. I wanted to give the sense of choice and at the same time I wanted to show something that you wouldn’t necessarily see in your traditional lunch box.

This was one of the first designs Daniel came up with. He really wanted to use Sophie Casson’s beautiful illustrations from the book in the cover.

Q: What challenges were presented by WFL with its many constituent parts—ie. 13 different countries, miniprofiles, photo and illustration? How did you try to deal with this?

Daniel: Choosing the right image to represent the book was the most difficult part. I had such good photography to work with (by Yvonne Duivenvoorden) and wonderful illustrations (by Sophie Casson) that it was hard to pin down a single image to sum it all up. I narrowed it down by thinking about what each culture has in common: a neutral food like rice, a type of meat or even the way the food is served.

Still working with multiple images and the lunch tray concept, Daniel thought this ended up feeling too left-heavy and needed more balance. (Plus there’s a typo!)

Q: What’s the editorial process like? How many people have a say in the final cover? How do you decide?

Daniel: Design is always a process and it takes more than one set of eyes to see what kind of potential a cover has. Most of the staff in house have a say on it, and it helps me  better understand what viewers are looking for.

Daniel thought this had too much white space and not enough content. Editorially, I was concerned that using a Western-style packed lunch on the cover, when most countries around the world actually offer children a hot meal at school, didn’t really convey the message of the book.

Q: How did you get from there to the final image and font choice for WFL?

Daniel: It wasn’t an easy task! I tried a lot of different images that would sum up the book and the impression we wanted to make, but a few of the colours gave off a bad vibe. Some were just too elementary and dull. Then I came across the image from the Japanese school lunch and it felt just right. It has a good balance between the blues, it gave a soft, warm energy and looked like an appetizing lunch. The pattern on the mat underneath the tray gave texture to the cover. I added a neutral typeface (Helvetica) and that was just the finishing touch it needed.

I have to agree! Coming up with the right cover design is never easy but I’m really happy with this one. I like the image bleeding off the page, I like the colour and I really like the positive message it conveys. Thanks Daniel! (To read more about Daniel, click here.)


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Filed under School feeding, School gardens, School kitchens, School lunch, What's for Lunch?

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