If you look closely at the cover of Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd, edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci (Little, Brown, Aug.), you’ll notice that many of the avatars look exactly like M.T. Anderson, Kelly Link, Scott Westerfeld and other well-known writers. No coincidence, since the 20-odd writers on display on the jacket all contributed stories to the collection. We spoke with designer Ben Mautner about the idea and execution for the book’s cover image.
This was assigned to me based on my personality; I love geeky stuff. The book immediately made me think of this group called EbOY, which does avatar designs. Initially we asked them to do fantasy figures [some of which remain on the cover, like Geeky school girl and Superhero]. Those were so cool, we asked them to do the authors. We gave them full-sized photos, and they managed to capture the author’s personalities. There were very few changes. The authors looked so cool that we added them to the book. At the end of each story, there’s an author bio in a speech bubble coming out of the author’s mouth.
The concept was approved almost immediately. The final design took forever—how many characters on the cover, how or if they would wrap around to the back, how big the type should be. I have several, maybe a hundred printouts. The process for the cover and the design of the book started in June of last year, and we completed the final design in March.
Here's a guide to matching up which author goes with which avatar.
ROW 1 (left to right): Cassandra Clare (blue Batman shirt); Cynthia Leitich Smith (red boots); Garth Nix (black suit); Superhero; Cecil Castellucci (gray and green t-shirt, green sneakers); Hamlet; Nerd
ROW 2: Knight; Libba Bray (orange hair, red sneakers); David Levithan (blue tshirt); Cosplayer; Bryan Lee O’Malley (white button-down shirt); Geek girl; Tracy Lynn (gray shirt, satchel purse)
ROW 3: M.T. Anderson (glasses and gray suit); vampire; Scott Westerfeld (all black); Wendy Mass (green t-shirt and shorts); Geeky school girl; Hope Larson (red tights and skirt); Kelly Link (skirt over jeans)
ROW 4: Greg Leitich Smith (blue shirt and glasses); Barry Lyga (blazer); Holly Black (red hair and all-black outfit); Lisa Yee (blue t-shirt); Sara Zarr (tan blazer); Batontwirler; Guy with telescope