About a month ago I began an email conversation with Molly Leach about her new cover and interior book design for Macmillan’s 50th anniversary edition of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time. Have you seen it? The dust jacket is an updated homage to Ellen Raskin’s original, redrawing the circles and the small silhouettes of main characters, updating the type treatment, and opting for warm autumn colors instead of Raskin’s blue and green. But under the dust jacket is the original cover in all its Time Tunnel-ish glory, so memorable to those of us who read Wrinkle back in its early days.
Molly also did the interior design, and as a designer myself I was eager to hear about some of her more subtle choices. Best known for designing Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith’s collaborations in a suitably in-your-face style, she’s also good at plain old everyday design — the kind most people don’t notice unless it’s done badly.
Here’s our conversation, which eventually included Macmillan art director Anne Diebel as well.
Q: What direction did Macmillan give you when they asked you to design the new cover?
Molly Leach: Anne Diebel at Macmillan sent me a PDF of the original cover and asked me to take that as the inspiration. I LOVE Raskin’s cover and was happy to oblige! I decided to keep the mesmerizing Saul Bass look but make it bolder. I hope we ended up doing that. I didn’t really consider anything else; it seemed obvious to me.
Q: What about the interior book design? How did you make those choices?
Molly Leach: I designed the chapter heads based on the cover design, along with the title page. I wanted it to look like it was a cohesive unit. More dizzying circles! More Bold fonts! (more cowbell!) The chapter head font is Bureau Grotesque. But it’s not grotesque at all, just sort of in your face. I didn’t have a copy of the original edition, but I’d guess that nothing special was done, since they didn’t do much decorative stuff like that on the insides in those days. I have actually never read the book. I understand that it was required reading for many, but not for me for whatever reason. I did read a sort of “Cliff’s Notes” synopsis online when I was given the assignment to design this edition.
The body copy is Garamond Premier Pro which I find to be extremely readable, grown-up and downright pretty. I have a loose leading for more easy reading. You have to think of the age group when selecting point sizes and leading. Generally, the bigger the leading and point size, the younger the audience (except it’s good for very old people too!)
I didn’t actually complete the insides, Jay Colvin did that at Macmillan, but I gave style sheets of a sort. By the way, it’s not easy to make a file with 275 pages. I think sometimes people think you just push a computer button and it takes care of itself. Well, it’s not the case — there are widows and orphans to deal with, a set page count, a set text content, etc. It can become quite the puzzle at times. An enjoyable puzzle, but a puzzle nonetheless.
I didn’t get a chance to tackle the “Cast of Characters” spread. Jay did that as well, and a nice job I must say. Imagine having that handed to you in long form without any graphics at all and trying to make it understandable at a glance. Crazy! I didn’t have the time to complete that, but I really enjoy those challenges.
I think soon all interiors will have four-color insides — not for artwork, necessarily — but for graphics like that Cast of Characters, title pages, and chapter heads. And they will be able to do it for the same price as one-color [black ink]. That would have been nice for this project, but alas, not there yet. I look forward to that!
Q: Did you determine the type size and leading or did you just give them a suggestion which they adapted based on chapter length, page count, etc.?
Molly Leach: I suggested 11/16 body copy and they used that size and leading, as far as I know.
Note: “11/16 body copy” means that the type size for the main text was 11 points and the leading — the space between lines — was 16 points.
Q: There’s lots of shiny stuff on covers these days — foils, varnishes, metallic inks. Some covers use these in a gratuitous, over-the-top way, but this cover seems to have the perfect balance of effects. Who made that happen?
Molly Leach: Anne Diebel, the art director, is the person best suited to answer that question. She knew the budget, made suggestions and had some tests run which she shared with me.
She’s very deft at effects! And while I love the final cover, as a general rule, I’m not all that into the over-the-top shiny stuff. This one happens to work very well. It makes the cover really pop and seem even more dizzying.
We sent the question along to Anne Diebel. Here’s what she added.
Anne Diebel: I consulted with Molly Leach about the special effects, of course. As she mentions, she does not usually go in for a lot of glitz, nor do I, but a golden anniversary of a beloved classic like Wrinkle in Time seems to cry out for gilding, if for no other reason than to command attention next to all that’s out on the shelves in 2012.
We proceeded very carefully however, with respect to Molly’s subtle and lovely design. One of our in-house designers, Alex Garkusha, built the complex mechanical in InDesign. The four-color digital art was on one layer and the various special effects and how they were to be applied were specified on further layers. This sort of thing is his specialty. We started with silver metallic paper and printed the four-color art that Molly supplied on top. In some areas we wanted the foil to appear full strength so the Newbery sticker is actually silver foil with CMYK overprinting and embossing — not a sticker at all.
We did not want the whole cover to be screaming with metallic, so Alex composed a white ink layer in the mechanical that rests between the silver metallic and the four-colors with gradations of tone so varying degrees of metallic could show through the CMYK. In that way the background areas have a softly dusted sort of look with variations that match the painted mottling in the art. In the areas where you discern no metallic — the letterforms and the figures — 100% white was applied. Where you see pure metallic shine — in the “sticker” and the thin gold bands — 0% white was applied. Think of the white ink layer as a mask.
Then to subdue the intricate background, we embossed the letterforms and the figures so that they sort of sit above the rest. This upper plane also received spot UV (varnish) while the background is matte. Finally, the thin gold bands moderate slightly so that they sort of come forward in the design and then recede. With all this complication, our particular concern was that it not make you feel dizzy to look at it. Toward that end, we did a press proof with a full variety of options implemented.
Lolly: Thank you, Molly and Anne. It was fun to talk shop and shed light on some of the subtleties of design and production.
Our conversation got pretty technical, so I’d be happy to answer questions and explain any jargon or techniques that need more explanation. Ask in the comments.