Behind the Covers: Micaela Alcaino

How did you become a cover designer?

I actually fell into cover design. I had moved from Sydney Australia to live in London after finishing a Digital Media degree and literally applied to every graphic design job I could find. The first interview I got called into was at Transworld Publishers, Penguin Random House. Since I had applied to so many jobs, I went to that interview not know what the job entailed until I got there. It was the best job I could have ever fallen into. Show us one of your favourite covers that you’ve ever designed.

Its so hard to chose one favourite but one of my more recent ones is Ariadne by Jennifer Saint. What was your process?

I always try and start off my process by reading the manuscript. As much and I love a great brief, I find that reading the actual story itself gives you a wealth of knowledge and understanding about what the book is about, whilst being about to find elements that may not have been stated in the brief that would work well for the cover. Once I had finished reading the manuscript I have a call with the Art Director for this project to go through the brief and what they were after. From there I went off and spent 3 weeks designing first round concepts. When it comes to a big brief like this, I like spending extra time doing research before I begin designing. In this case I went off to the British Museum to look at the Ancient Greek pottery collection they had there, as well as their greek jewellery collection. After the success of Circe, I wanted to make sure I designed a cover that was equally as beautiful but different in its own right, and there’s only so much inspiration Pinterest can give you. I also love buys art books, as you can get a lot of inspiration from old artworks.

Then I began designing from sketches I had created in my notepad. How many concepts did you create and how long did it take?

I started off designing 8 Covers for Ariadne for first-round concepts. None of which were chosen, but one of them inspired the journey into the cover we have today. It was a collaborative journey and that’s what I love most about working alongside others, because a cover can evolve to something extra special.

The whole journey took a couple of months and 9 rounds of tweaking. But I am super happy to have designed and illustrated the cover we have today. Were there any finishes?

Yes!! So lucky to have Gold foil, Spot UV, Emboss as well as Endpapers for the Special Editions. What is the most important aspect of a cover design brief?

I would say, is understanding the story and the authors tone of voice. If you have access to the manuscript read it. There’s only so much you can get out of a brief. The other thing would be is understanding the context and the setting. What are you reading?

Currently reading a manuscript for a future job, as well as The Start Up Wife by Tahmima Anam, Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday and Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde, all of which Im thoroughly enjoying. Name a talented cover designer who doesn’t get enough credit.

Oh man! To name only one would be so so hard, and I hope they are all getting the credit they deserve. But call out to my friend Andrew Davies (Instagram: @andrewdavis_designs) who is UBER talented!

Micaela Alcaino is a freelance book cover designer.


Twitter: @micaelaalcaino

Instagram: @micaelaalcainodesign

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