March 2, 2015
These days, the screen is king. So it’s a (delightful) surprise when designer Jason Booher says, with zero hesitation, that “being a book cover designer is possibly the best job in the world.” Booher is the art director of Blue Rider Press, one of Penguin Book’s imprints, and the mind behind many of its most inventive book covers.
It’s easy to see why Booher is so enamored of his profession. Novels naturally lend themselves to illustration, so coming up with the best solution for a few square inches of real estate must be an especially savory visual challenge for a designer. Booher is especially suited to the job. As a kid, he wanted to have a career as a high school English teacher, but when that didn’t pan out, he found his way to design by way of graphic novels. Then a lucky break landed him a stint at the art department at Penguin, and things came full circle. It became his job to read manuscripts and analyze them—for cover designs, not a captive lit class.The key to creating stellar covers, according to Booher, is to first throw out the tired adage about not judging books by them. “Graphic design is really about selling things,” he says. Lest that sound soulless, the good news here is that Booher is selling other people’s creative ideas. And while every book is unique, Booher says he starts by reading the six or so manuscripts he gets per season, and then mentally digests them all. “You read it, you try and find the soul of the book, something that makes it special, and make it come alive,” he says.