Readers often wonder about the behind-the-scenes aspects of book publishing, and jacket design can seem especially mysterious. Today, Creative Director Anne Winslow explains the creative process behind the jacket for Brock Clarke’s The Happiest People in the World.
Deploying the wry wit and nimble prose for which he is known, Clarke has crafted a darkly comic social satire that GQ calls “a literary first: a book that feels like the love child of Saul Bellow and Hogan’s Heroes, full of authorial cartwheels of comedy and profundity.” Hitting on just the right visual representation for such a novel, then, might seem like a tall order. It’s common for book jackets to go through numerous rounds of comps (mockups of possible jacket designs) and revisions before arriving at the version that best captures the book’s narrative and tone and that most successfully speaks to the intended audience. But actually, said Winslow, “This was one of the easiest jackets we’ve ever done.”
The protagonist in Happiest People is a Danish cartoonist who finds himself in hot water after drawing a controversial political cartoon about Muhammad. The CIA relocates him to a small town in upstate New York where he becomes, naturally, a high school guidance counselor. “The magic of book jacket creation comes with having a clear mandate and hiring the right designer for the job. Our clear goal for the cover was to convey the humor in an appropriate way,” Winslow said.
“Fortunately for us Will Staehle, one of the most talented designer/illustrators working today, agreed to take the cover on. He submitted eleven very different comps. The Happiest cover was immediately apparent. It’s the simplest. It nails the humor, the darkness, all the things we’re trying to convey. The cartoon style and the guy in the hole — that completely says it all.”