Friday Book Design Blog: All The Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld
Put the hardback of Evie Wyld’s second novel, All the Birds, Singing, next to her first, After the Fire, A Still Small Voice, and you have a wonderful diptych. Carried across from one to the other are the strange flora and fauna collages, bundled like exploding cornucopia, or possible hat designs for Carmen Miranda; the idiosyncratic hand lettering; the tasteful lack of publisher logo or cover quotes and boasts (though Wyld, prize-winner and a Granta BOYBN, is short of neither). All in all they remind me rather of how literary hardbacks used to look in the 1970s. They border on the kitsch – partly because of the stock images, like something you’d get in a decoupage source book – but are pulled back from the brink by an obviously contemporary treatment.
But there is development between the covers, too. The colour schemes contrast, rather than match, with the monotone brown colouring of the animals and flowers on the new book allowing a wider, more powerful spread of the typography. The paper has changed, too, from a cream paper with matt lamination that makes it kind of shiny, to a matt, waxy paper with a lovely horizontal texture. Same, but different seems to be the message.
In fact the progression of the covers reminds me a little of the kind of thing you get on the covers of remix CDs of individual albums, taking the original idea and abstracting it – though obviously we’re not talking about a remix here, but a whole new book. (And I thought that before I found out that the designer, Darren Wall, has a long-standing relationship with the band Hot Chip, designing their rather wonderful covers.)
That said, ‘the same but different’ wouldn’t be a bad description of the new book for anyone who has read After the Fire and wanted to know how the second compares. A muscular and poetic take on the natural world, and the tough human lives eked out in and alongside it.
Wall is a friend of Wyld’s since their time at university together, so this is clearly something more than just another job. He gave an insight into how the project developed:
The brief was always to do something similar to the first book – an illustrative cover with strong typography – but we actually spent some time considering a different design, featuring animal bones buried in earth (albeit rendered in a very graphic style). I wanted to see if I could depict the menacing imagery in the novel in a way that was as delicate and inviting as the first cover.
We spent a while trying different variations of the design but ultimately, a big brown cover with a sheep’s skull was always going to be a risky move, and in the end we all decided that we should follow the style set by the first cover more closely.
Wall also gave me that rejected design and – good though it is – I certainly prefer what we have. By sticking with such a striking and idiosyncratic template, it immediately marks out the book (for a certain readership) as an Evie Wyld book.
The first book abandoned Wall’s cover for the paperback edition, and my assumption is that the same thing will happen with this one. Different editions for different readerships. People who are willing to splash out £17 for a hardback are going to be the kind of people who a) want to read a book as soon as possible, while it’s bouncing around the review pages and the literary webworld and b) appreciate good design.
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