How to design a cover for Amitav Ghosh
"The Great Derangement was the big book of the year with high expectations. I was designing for Amitav Ghosh for the first time. Ever since we acquired this book, I was hungry to get my hands dirty on this.
Because firstly, it was for Amitav (I’m an ardent lover of his work), and secondly, it’s wonderful to be associated with a socially responsible book that’s coming at the right time and for the right cause. My own worry about the degradation of nature and the general ignorance towards it made me walk that extra mile for this project.
My designs were continually being rejected, which brought me very close to the deadline. I’m not a writer but, for this cover, I wrote a small design brief (on the image selection, font choices, textures etc.) for myself to push and pull from. It was also to keep me on track whenever I would deviate in the gamut of visuals available online.
Normally you tend to get carried away with your designs and ego, and develop that kind of attachment with your work, but for this one, I have been extremely objective and strict with myself from the beginning.
As always, I wanted the cover to remain in the reader’s mind for long. To bring that strength and clarity to the cover, I was looking for that perfect marriage of an aesthetically satisfying image with appropriateness to the content between the covers. I don’t even want to recall the number of images I researched and discarded for different reasons. Getting the right image for this book was paramount.
I developed close to thirty designs, from photographs to illustrations, with different typographic arrangements, and had almost reached saturation point, when I arrived at this image for the cover. If you are a creative person, you immediately sense when it is right; when that moment arrives!
I feel this cover allowed me to represent the message of the book at many levels, and yet offer that room for interpretation, of which I’m a firm believer.
For me, a good cover does not give too much away, and offers readers something they did not think of before. That sense of mystery or discovery has to be there, or else it is dead for me. This is Amitav’s first work of non-fiction after a very long time, so his constant involvement was very helpful at every stage.
I hope the design is able to convey the message Amitav has so beautifully and meaningfully packed into these few hundred pages."
Gunjan Ahlawat is Senior Design Manager at Penguin Random House India.