Felicia Yap’s debut novel, Yesterday (Mulholland, Aug.), crosses several genres, which made the job of Gregg Kulick, the senior art director in charge of the cover, all the trickier.
“When I first started working on Yesterday, I struggled for a bit,” he says. “On one hand, this book is a police procedural. But it’s also a high-concept thriller, and also sci-fi."
Below, two early comps.
The staticky typeface, he says, alludes to the way characters' memories "fade and then disappear” in the novel. Society's elites are able to remember the preceding two days of their lives, and the rest of the population can recall only the prior 24 hours.
"I wanted the type to look like it was shifting and not at all solid or defined," he says, "like the image on a TV that was just turned off." But these comps overemphasize the science fiction component of the story. The next tries, he says, “use a more traditional typeface, and try to convey the idea of memory in an abstract way.”
Like the earlier comps, he says, these also put too strong a focus on the fantastical elements of the story. The image above was thought to be too alien. "I liked the idea of not seeing the face," he says, "but it felt otherworldly in a way that isn’t quite right for the book." Similarly, the comp below was deemed too surreal.
Finally, Kulick changed direction, getting away from human faces entirely. “One of the main characters is a gardener,” he says. “I wanted to try a flower image on the cover, but in a way that conveyed mystery and maybe even suspense." Below, the final result.
"It's difficult to describe a feeling, but something about the flowers made me feel uneasy," he says. "There's a starkness in the way they were photographed that seems almost unnatural. The way the twigs go back and forth—are we in the woods? Is this at night? In the end, that's what we wanted—to evoke a feeling. And the flowers, like the memories in this book, bloom and then eventually vanish."