Saturday, April 14, 2012

Kura Carpenter

Today I am interviewing designer Kura Carpenter from Dunedin, New Zealand.  Dunedin is one of the creative hubs of NZ.  Kura is fast making a name for herself designing book covers. To set the ball rolling Kura, tell us a little about yourself.

Kura: I have a Bachelor of Arts, in Design, from the University of Otago, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts.
A couple of years ago my friend, Justin Elliot asked me to create the cover for his YA Fantasy adventure, ‘A Dark Future’, which is the sequel to ‘The Lord of the Beasts’ that was published by Scholastic in 2008.
Being an avid reader, I was thrilled to be offered a project that combined my passion for books with graphic design.
Q: Where do you start in the design process? 
K: I listen to my client, to establish what they want and mostly importantly what they need.
Good Design is all about communication and I feel it’s very important to think beyond the physical props and capture the emotional tone of the book. Only once I understand the emotional aspect required do I actually start thinking about what images to use.

Recently while working for the author Giuseppe Tortorici, he summed up the emotional cues, asking for a cover with, Quote: “A feeling of danger. The overall context should transmit the feeling that something sinister is about to happen, it should not be reassuring.”
Giuseppe’s book ‘Isemen’ is to be released in Italy later this year, see my website 

Q: How do you meld good design with what a customer wants?

Kura's Workspace 

K: A good question! Every product has a function to serve and fundamentally, Book Covers are adverts. I have to understand what is being marketed and what the target audience desires.
I would hope that a client has chosen to hire me because they liked my portfolio, and therefore they will have faith that I can deliver an appropriate graphic solution.

Q: What do you think are the essential ingredients of good design for book covers?
K: Knowing what your audience wants. Knowing what works in terms of how the book will primarily be viewed.
Q: How do print book covers differ from eBook covers?

K: Aside from the technical issues, the main difference is the way they are displayed. Traditionally in a bookshop setting a book had three faces, (front, spine and back) to catch the browser’s eye and make them pick that book up.
Ebooks have changed everything. The marketable surface area has been reduced from 3 planes to 1, and the initial viewing size is as small as a postage stamp!
Q: I often hear readers complaining that the covers aren't a true reflection of the characters inside the book. How important do you think it is that book covers are true to the story inside the covers?

K: One of things I like about self-publishing is the power to decide what goes on the cover has returned to the author. But equally that’s often the case when working with an independent press. For example, I’ve been swapping emails with Stephen Minchin of Steampress recently and I know they directly consult the author about cover choices.
When I work with authors I advise them to be open when choosing cover models, and don’t think about looks, but rather seek the essence of their character’s attitude.
Whether the woman has curly hair or dimples isn’t as important as capturing the spirit of who she is. Is she sad? Defiant? Because that’s what cues the Reader in to the true tone of the story.

Q: What importance should an author place on his/her book cover?

K: A cover is a hugely important marketing tool. For example late last year I worked for Titus Powell  who wanted to redesign the cover of his novel ‘The Dare Ring’ on the release of a second novel, knowing not only could he better show the quality of the book but also establish an author brand. 
We live in a society inundated with images, and people are very sophisticated at understanding and valuing their world through unspoken cues and symbols.
A well-crafted cover speaks to a prospective buyer on a subconscious level, not only does it hint at the content, but it also demonstrates how much the author believes in the story.
I’ve been fortunate to have clients who understand this, and have been involved in several projects where an original cover designed elsewhere has needed to be remade to meet the author’s expectations.

Q: What do you consider are the no/nos in book cover design.

K: Comic Sans. There’s just no excuse.

Shirley:  I had to ask Kura about the last answer... and was told Comic Sans is a font and this was a classic slice of designer humour....LOL. 

Thank you so much Kura, for your time.  Kura can be contacted at   

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