One of the biggest projects for LS Books was how to find a cover design that not only evoked all the great covers we loved in our youths — from the Holbein-esque paintings to the loopy fonts to the now-rare convention of not cutting anyone’s body in half — while at the same time alerting readers that we were doing something new, modern, and just for them. [I believe my directive, as I handed over nearly 700 classic images, was, “I don’t know how you’re going to do this. But good luck!”—Ed.] The response to Lizzie Skurnick Books’ look has been so overwhelming that we corralled our brilliant designer, Eric Gordon, into giving us some insight into his process.
What were the challenges in designing for a catalog that wildly varies in genre and time period?
Had we been designing for just, say, 70s-era books, they might have had a very specific look, evocative of that period. Since the catalog spans multiple decades—each with their own distinctive design trends—the goal was to come up with a design structure that could feel appropriate for any of those time periods. Not quite retro, but retroish. The primary typeface we used (Harriet by OkayType) really does a great job of being able to slip between eras, and the different color schemes and photo treatments can help push the covers to be more vintage-y or more contemporary.
The covers are very modern, despite the books themselves being decades old. Why did you decide to modernize your design?
While reprinting the books with their original covers would resonate people who read them when they were released, modernizing the design really allows us to appeal to a broader audience. It also frees us up to create a design that unifies the entire LSB library, hopefully encouraging readers to collect the whole series.
What’s the origin of the official LS seal?
Along with the type and layout decisions, the seal device is used to evoke the past without really being specific. There’s actually a few subtle “library book” elements—the seal and the colored canvas spine among them—that hopefully help evoke a time when you had to use a card catalog to find one of these books.
Our first release is Debutante Hill by Lois Duncan. What’s the story behind the cover?
Lois Duncan is the daughter of renowned commercial photographer Joseph Janney Steinmetz, and appeared in many of his famous photographs, including the one on the cover of Debutante Hill. It’s a great shot—appropriate to the novel’s time period, but it’s also objectively just a well-composed, dynamic image.
—Interviewed by Natalie Beach