Friday, April 30, 2010

Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto

About a year ago I began a cover project for Graywolf Press called Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto. I was immediately struck by the title. The book has just printed (final cover at the end). Here is a summary of the novel from Amazon:

In a remote, piney wood in Finland stands a convalescent hospital called Suvanto, a curving concrete example of austere Scandinavian design. It is the 1920s, and the patients, all women, seek relief from a variety of ailments real and imagined. On the lower floors are the stoic local Finnish women; on the upper floors are foreign women of privilege—the “up-patients.” They are tended to by the head nurse, Sunny Taylor, an American who has escaped an ill-starred life only to retreat behind a mask of crisp professionalism.

Summer turns to fall, and fall to a long, dark winter. The patients begin to hear rumors about the changes being implemented at
Suvanto by an American obstetrician, Dr. Peter Weber, who is experimenting with a new surgical stitch. Their familiar routine threatened, the women are not happy (they were not happy before), and the story’s escalating menace builds to a terrifying conclusion.

At the beginning of the project my art director at Graywolf gave me several good bits of info to lead me along in my design process: The hospital building and it’s nod to the gothic, austere beauty, seductive darkness, the body and its meat-like reality and the feel of a greek tragedy. All strong elements to work with.

The main element that stood out to me was the body and the surgical stitch used in the story. These factor strongly into my design directions. I also was struck by the title...sounded like writing from a formal invitation. I make reference to this with the panel holding the type. The bright red line is meant to evoke stitching lines:

Stitches & the human body (with it's meat-like quality):

The body sectioned using a woman from the 1920s era and the sewing stitch again:

The nurse portrayed in an austere illustration style:

Revisions came back from this first round and I reworked the comps a bit. On this revised comp a small splattering of blood was added to the "invitation" as well as a new image of the hospital.

A (menacing) hospital bed, with the stitched type on top:

It became clear that the stitched type was liked, but I wasn't happy with the computer generated look on the older comps. I redrew all the stitching by hand for the next round to give it a more organic feel:

The author had an image in mind throughout the process that I hadn't used early on, but was brought back into the later rounds of revisions. The photograph by Elina Brotherus seemed to capture the mood the author was after. I then paired the stitched type over the photo (with the consent of the photographer) and our final cover was ready:

The printed cover with a spot gloss on the title:


Ian Shimkoviak said...

Wonderful. Great evolution. Usually we cringe at using an image the author supplies, but you made it work and the final has such depth because of the photo. All the comps leading up are nice too. i think the first one is very elegant and appropriate as well...

Doreen McGettigan said...

So that is how it is done!

Ian Shimkoviak said...

the one with the image split in half is also very interesting.

Fernando said...

Hey, I just saw this one in the NY Times Book Review yesterday and thought, 'I know that name from somewhere.' Fine work as always.

Diana Raabe said...

I just finished reading this book and have to say the cover fits wonderfully with the tenor of the story.

In the future when I pass this book on my shelf, I will look at the cover and remember, "ah yes..."

Well done!

mewmewmew said...

Hey, I just saw this one in the NY Times Book Review yesterday and thought, 'I know that name from somewhere.' Fine work as always.

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