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Saturday, 8 June 2019

Battle of the Covers: Who Wore It Better?



It's not always the case, but most of the time covers are designed for the market in mind - with regional differences in book coversI've always felt that I tend to prefer the UK design of book covers, especially compared with the US ones. Still, I wanted to test out my theory by doing a battle of the covers to see if this really was the case. I've focused mainly on UK and US editions - although, for a few books, I've included other country editions. UK editions are all on the left/the first image for each book. Also, I've mainly focused on books published in 2018 or 2019, but there are a few books published earlier including The Moor's Account and the Kenyan edition of Kintu. I know which ones are my faves, but who would win in your battle of the covers?



Pet by Akwaeke Emezi. UK cover via twitter (Faber & Faber, 2019) | US Cover (Random House Children's, 2019). 

The Other Americans by Laila Lalami. UK cover (Bloomsbury, 2019) | US Cover (Pantheon, 2019)

Manchester Happened/Let's Tell This Story Properly by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. UK cover (One World, 2019) | US Cover (Transit Books, 2019)

She Would Be King byWayetu Moore. UK cover (Pushkin Press, 2019) | US Cover (Graywolf Press, 2018)



Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo. UK Cover (Canongate, 2017) | US Cover (Penguin Random House, 2018) | Nigerian Cover (Ouida Books, 2018) | Kenyan Cover (Kwani?, 2018)

Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. UK cover (One World, 2018) | Kenyan Cover (Kwani?, 2014) | US Cover (Transit Books, 2017) 


 The Moor's Account by Laila Lalami. UK Cover (Periscope, 2015) | US Cover (Pantheon, 2014) 

Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani. UK cover (Saqi Books, 2018) | US Cover (Akashic Books, 2017)

Ordinary People by Diana Evans. UK cover (Chatto & Windus, 2018) | US Cover (Liveright, 2018)

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi. UK cover (Faber & Faber, 2018) | US Cover (Grove Press, 2018)


An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma. UK cover (Little Brown, 2019) | US Cover (Little, Brown and Company, 2019)

Washington Black by Esi Edugyan. UK cover (Serpent's Tail, 2018) | US Cover (Knopf, 2018) | Canadian Cover (Harper Collins, 2018)

Happiness by Aminatta Forna. UK cover (Bloomsbury, 2018) | US Cover (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2018)

House of Stone by Novuyo Rosa Tshuma. UK cover (Atlantic Books, 2018) | US Cover (W.W. Norton & Company, 2019)


The Hundred Wells of Salaga by Ayesha Harruna Attah. UK cover (Cassava Republic Press, 2018) | US Cover (Other Press, 2019)


Fifteen books, and different covers later, I can safely say for the most part I do prefer the majority of UK covers on this list. This is the case even when both covers are stunning. Take Akwaeke Emezi's Pet - both with gorgeous cover art by Shyama Golden, but the UK edition speaks more to me. 

Where the US covers trump (no pun intended) the UK editions for me are Diana Evan's Ordinary People (cover designed by graphic designer Na Kim with artwork by Iranian painter Salman Khoshroo) and Ayesha Haruna Attah's The Hundred Wells of Salaga (designed by Loveis Wise). There are also cases where I really do not care for either of the covers (Aminatta Forna's Happiness being one such case).

Salman Khoshroo, Sabke Sevvom exhibition view, Azad art gallery, Tehran. Source: Yatzer.

As a side, I find the UK editions of 
Diana Evan's Ordinary People designed by Suzanne Dean and Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi's Manchester Happened designed by Hayley Warnham to be pretty similar - even down to the maps on the corner. Dean's artwork for Ordinary People weaves maps of Crystal Palace in South London with West African wax print fabrics, while Manchester Happened weaves maps of Kampala and Manchester. 

If, like me, you are also fascinated with the process of cover design, Spine Magazine has interesting features, including on Sarahmay Wilkinson's design for the cover of the US edition of Novuyo Rosa Tshuma's House of Stone, which goes for "a bright abstract cover, to offset the dark and vivid nature of the narrative." There's also Greg Heinimann's design process for the UK edition of Laila Lalami's The Other Americans. Heinimann writes
Throughout, I wanted a cover that left a visual clue and hidden meaning, but one that would still ground the project in its literary foundations and not veer off into the thriller genre. Perhaps an image that demanded closer inspection where a story would reveal itself.

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