Down and Delirious in Mexico City
Author: Daniel Hernandez
Designer: Jennifer Heuer
Typeface: Berthold City and Gothic No 4
Thank you Jennifer for helping us get up and running again for 2011 with this beautiful cover.
How did you become a book cover designer?
Not long after graduating from Pratt in communication design, I began looking to get my foot in the publishing door. Dave Caplan (now at Little, Brown) brought me into the young adult department of HarperCollins. Dave was an awesome mentor and taught me the ropes of basic book design. In that department we had to design the jacket and interior, which is a great way to learn about a book as a whole package. While the team there was wonderful, vampire covers began to lose their luster after about 4 years, so I gearing up to make a move. The team at S&S became my new home (thank you design:related) which gave me the fantastic opportunity to work with all of the talented art directors there. After almost 2 years with S&S, my husband Jed and I hit the Oregon trail. He's spending the year with Wieden+Kennedy12 in Portland, which, in turn launched my freelance career (and I'm loving it!).
What do you enjoy about your job?
So I pretty much love my job. I love reading, and I love researching. Honestly, design in general—not just book cover design—is a wonderful field that allows me to dip into so many different topics and partially become an expert for a day on something in which I'd never know I'd find an interest. I've read books I would never have picked up and am glad for it.
Also, nothing beats freelancing! It can open up my schedule to give me the chance to take classes (just learned how to letterpress!), spend more time in book stores, go to museums and lectures, and work on my own personal projects (right now Jed and I are having a blast making a Pendletons-inspired cut paper piece for an upcoming Portland show!).
What is Down and Delirious in Mexico City about?
The author is a journalist living in Mexico City taking a look at the new urban youth cultures and the people who love them or sometimes violently hate them. This was directed at a young fresh audience interested in how certain, and sometimes similar subcultures can form and clash in different areas. The author introduces us to the new hyper-emo crowd, a fashion-forward crew, artists and musicians. It's in no way a tour book for the city, so the general direction was to aim in a fresh, modern and somewhat fashion-minded direction. Mexico City is set in a volcanic bowl which means the city can't physically grow outside it's borders. So the density within the city is intense, hot, polluted, and grounds for subcultural strife ready to boil over.
Were there any steps taken before starting, and was there a clear working process that led to the final? Any known influences?
I began by heading to the library (NYPL has a wonderful picture library and I'm lucky enough to have the Pratt library at my fingertips). I researched mainly aztec art, latin-american catholic art, Day of the Dead ephemera and so on. I also began setting up an online moodboard through Imgspark.com!
I tend to spend at least half of my time writing and sketching. I start by listing out categories within the book, then lists within those categories and see if there's anything interesting that pops out or crosses over(I find this works for fiction and nonfiction alike). It's also just good to get bad ideas and buzz words flushed out of the system so I can ignore their nagging.
The final and usually most fluid step is sitting at the computer with sketches to scan and design. Lately I feel like I've been creating a lot more with my hands before I ever start designing on the computer. I tend to find a lot of happy accidents that way, and it slows down the process to allow me to think while I'm making something. For this cover, the final piece uses a cutout aztec-inspired pattern and beneath is an image of a volcano erupting.
Were there any other solutions outside the final?
There were some other versions I was happy with, but being that the direction was to keep it clean and modern, I'm really happy with the way the final turned out. Below is another solution that had the same aztec reference. I ended up illustrating both the skull and then the type banners which had a look pulled from photos friends had taken during their trip to Mexico City (traveling is the best and most fun form of research).
What was the message behind the design? And what's something unique you learned while working on this project?
To sum it up, the message from the book was about cultural divides and more specifically those based in an area seeped in ancient history and modern urbanization. It was fascinating to learn about the history, geology, and culture that makes up Mexico City. I basically learned what I always knew; which is to get away from my desk, go to the library, museums, read through fashion magazines and the newspaper, listen to the radio, watch documentaries and observe closely. Oddly enough, I started noticing aztec art, Mexican fashion, latin-american bands and related articles everywhere—pay attention and a specific subject matter will show up wherever you're looking.
More work by Jennifer Heuer.
Please visit http://www.jenniferheuer.com/ to see even more of Jennifer's work.