Welcome to another addition of Confessions of a Cover Artist. I met Radoslav Donav in a book designers’ group on Facebook and was BLOWN AWAY by his cover art. His artwork truly is in a class of its own. I’m so honored to have him on my blog this week. Even though I can’t read his cover titles, you get the feel of the tone of the books just by looking at the covers. Radoslav was kind enough to provide us with cover interpretations. As you can see, he’s designed for some BIG NAMES. Stunning work. Simply stunning.
TW: What training have you had in design?
RD: I graduated the New Bulgarian University; my major subject was Visual Arts. I should say that I am grateful that studying there provided me with wide knowledge in the area of art and design. Not to mention subjects such as photography, graphical design, applied graphics, color studies, art history, directing, playwriting, and many others which consequently helped me build a creative approach to solving various practical problems. I had a chance to gain knowledge and experience thanks to the teachers there.
TW: What tools do you use to design? Do you use your own photography? Stock sites?
RD: I mainly use ADOBE products, mostly Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign and Adobe Illustrator. My collection of images can not fully meet my creative needs, so there is a need to often buy photographs from sites dedicated and specializing in this.
Moreover, photography is one of my hobbis and if I have a certain idea, but I unable to find the right image I usually use my ability to shoot. Thus, I give the best of myself, stay satisfied with my life and what I do for living and have fun.
TW: When did you realize you wanted to be a graphic designer?
RD: Since a child I have been interested in all creative pursuits. At the age of 12 to 15 years I participated in workshops on applied graphics, then enrolled to a theater school and then as an adolescent I played the bass guitar in a rock band, all these activities have given me a lot and thus, I made the choice to do what I have been working on all those years.
TW: How did you get into book cover designing?
RD: Once finished with my education at the New Bulgarian University, I started working in publishing, where I dealt with historical and archaeological literature, went to archaeological sites, photographed ancient tombs, unique treasures, and subsequently captured and processed materials used for book covers and catalogs sold in Bulgarian museums were among the most interesting years in my field of my work. Since then I have been working as a designer of fashion book covers, magazines and catalogs for 10 years now.
TW: What have you learned along the way?
RD: I have learned to be patient, I believe that if a project does not happen the first time, it will happen the third or fourth attempt, it is important to keep believing in what you do! From my many years of experience working with many publishers and authors I have gathered knowledge how to achieve a balance between ideas and sponsors cover of my ideas, though I have already designed more than 600 covers of books from different genres!
TW: Do you freelance design? If so, do you only design for Bulgarian clients, or can folks in the United States and elsewhere commission you for cover art?
RD: I work for one of the largest publishing houses in Bulgaria, but I do some freelancing at home for private Bulgarian customers. I love my job and I enjoyed the new challenges like this to work for foreign authors and publishers. Moreover, I am definitely interested in new contacts, ideas, further professional development.
TW: Please list five elements of a good cover?
- Suitable photographs or illustrations
- Good composition
- Appropriate selection of colors
- Appropriate selection of font
- Suitable format for the cover
All these elements should draw the reader to conclusions about the content of the book, not the way the cover is illustrated. Effects should not be all by themselves, but it is good to have them if they help to understanding the plot of the book.
TW: What are some of the common mistakes authors make when designing their own covers?
RD: Some authors put too long book titles and this prevents the perception of the cover. Too complex and visually loaded covers do not help the understanding of the idea of the book. Sometimes the wrong choice of format and type of paper could also bring a negative impact.
TW: What advice would you give to authors trying to design their own covers?
The first thing I would recommend is related to the choice of title. It is very important that the title attracts and retains the reader’s attention. It is the title which recreates the atmosphere and emotions in the book to bring information and bring understanding. For instance, if the book is a part of a series, it is quite important for the titles to be related and help the reader recognize the next volumes. In my opinion, it is of paramount importance the title to be short, catchy and is easy to remember!
For all other things such as choice of photography, colors, fonts or paper I would encourage authors to refer to professional consultants.
TW: What’s your average turn-around for a cover?
RD: If the author and I have agreed on all details, it usually takes me no more than 2 to 5 days.
TW: Before you get started on a cover, what do you need from the author?
RD: The first thing I do is conduct an informal interview with the author about the book and its message to be conveyed.
Then, I make a research on the genre and the competition which then helps the author to choose the cover they like, so I get to know a bit more about what the author likes and how to meet his/her expectations. Then we need to come up with 5 key words that the author and I think best illustrate the story of the book and through them I try to build visual metaphors.
TW: List one other artist whose work you admire.
RD: I have been and still am inspired by different artistic:
The Graphical designer Chip Kidd:
The Bulgarian Avant-Garde Artist Christo:
The Photographer Saudek: