Monday 27 October 2008

Nicholas Motte Follow-Up

In the comments to the Nicholas Motte interview, Dalkey's book designer Danielle Dutton expanded further on the book design process. I thought it was too good to leave there, so here it is, with pictures!

Nick's work came to us at a really interesting time. We at Dalkey had talked for a while about doing covers that used a detail from some larger artwork and had just a tiny piece sticking onto the bottom of the cover. This was the idea behind the Hotel Crystal cover (which was one of the first I designed with Nick's art) where I took a detail from one of his drawings and left most of the cover white.

We liked that minimalism and this became the basis for the designs of the other covers. What we liked about Nick's art was his unexpected use of color but also, primarily, the looseness of his lines. There's a story about a Paul Klee scholar who happened to line up 50 or so of Klee's nonrepresentational pencil sketches and noticed that the lines from one ran into another. When he organized them a certain way, the result was a giant portrait, which Klee had secretly cut to pieces after it was done in order to isolate the rhythms of the lines themselves.

Above: Paul Klee's Contemplation
Below: Klee in his studio

This is more or less what we've tried to do with Nick's work. He sends us pieces without knowing what the books are, and I typically pull some detail or details to stretch or turn etc. to create the cover design. Lately, there have been a few cases where Nick did a straight-up representational image for us because the book needed that - that was the case with A Nest of Ninnies, for example.

For the most part, though, what's made these covers seem so vibrant to us is precisely the element of surprise that comes from this combination of constraint and collaboration. It's a kind of OULIPAN attitude toward cover design, I guess, which seems appropriate given that, as Nick says, he came to us/we came to him through his father, Warren Motte.

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