How to "spark the curiosity of the readers"
Alejandro Largo is one of our recent additions to Reedsy, and a fantastic designer. You can see some of his beautiful work for a variety of academic titles over at his Reedsy profile. Fun factoid: Alejandro has worked on several covers for texts within the humanities and social sciences, including philosophy, sociology, and literature, which are of course some of the most awesome of academic disciplines, at least according to a quick straw poll of the Reedsy offices. Meet Alejandro below. Enjoy!
How did you get started in design, and how did you get into book covers specifically?
I was fortunate to grow up in Colombia surrounded by art and design. My father, brother and uncle all are designers. When I was young, way before I knew what graphic design was, I would use to go to my dad’s office and be amazed by the vibe of a creative agency. At that point I knew I wanted to be in a creative field. When the time came to go to college, I had the opportunity to come to New York and attend the School of Visual Arts. During the program I got really interested in editorial design, especially book design. So much that I did my internship with Simon & Schuster and my first job was designing book covers and interiors for Columbia University Press.
Where do you feel your strengths are as a designer?
One of my biggest strengths is that I bring a very analytical and strategic approach to design. Regardless of the medium or type of project, I always try to understand the problem and the client as much as I can, which then allows me to take a step back and look at the bigger picture to make sure the solution is truly relevant, exciting and fresh.
You’ve worked on books on a variety of topics - how do you keep your approach suitable to different subjects? Where do you find inspiration?
The approach actually doesn’t change that much for different topics. At the core, as designers we are trained to work with different clients and topics on a regular basis. What might change is the research that might be needed to better understand that specific topic. A big part of this process is to have great communication with the author.
When it comes to inspiration, I try to look beyond other book covers and even graphic design. While it’s good to see what’s been done, I like to find inspiration in other ways; reading, movies, art and architecture, and in general I just try to absorb everything around me. It’s interesting how ideas come up when we are not thinking about the specific problem we are trying to solve.
Is there something that makes an Alejandro Largo cover unique? Like a hallmark or identifying quality?
Simplicity. I am a big believer in coming up with an idea that clearly and simply distills what the book is about, or in some cases finding an interesting detail, situation or scene that might spark the curiosity of the reader.
How do you start generating ideas for a project?
As I mentioned above, the first step is diving deep into the topic and the manuscript, and learn as much as I can about them. Each book is different, therefore for some books it might make sense to come up with an idea that clearly explains what the book is about, but in order to make the book stand out, it is always great to find a special detail (a unique scene or situation) and incorporate it in the cover to draw the reader in.
Have you done much work with independent authors? If so, is there anything different about it compared to working with a traditional publisher?
I haven’t had the chance to work with many independent authors yet, but I am excited about the prospect of working more directly with the author to create the cover. With a traditional publisher there are a lot channels you have to go through to get the cover approved internally before it even reaches the author for the first time. A more direct communication could allow us to create a cover that is relevant, interesting and stands out from the standard look you see on the shelfs.
Thanks for your time Alejandro.