The Art of Fielding gives cover-savvy readers a difficult choice between two amazing designs. (Continue reading to compare them!) Both Art of Fielding covers - like the book itself – come across as a huge labour of love.
Chad Harbach’s first novel is a charming, introspective, character-driven novel that just happens to involve baseball. As such, one of the main criteria for this cover was that it couldn’t directly involve the sport.
Artist Keith Hayes struggled to find an image everybody agreed on, ultimately ditching the idea of imagery altogether in favour of simple, eye-catching typography. Only very subtly drawing on baseball colours and imagery, he did a remarkable job at matching the warmth of the story.
The development of this cover is unusually well documented in Vanity Fair’s How a Book is Born: The Making of The Art of Fielding (a short ebook well worth a read in its own right).
‘The nature of the business is “collaboration”… The editor might think your design is beautiful, but the sales excutive in the room doesn’t feel his accounts (the bookstores) will like it; the marketing executive might think it will sell, but the editor finds it too crude.’ – Keith Gessen
“Fifty or so” cover concepts were pitched, none quite finding that magic point of pleasing everybody.
The UK hardcover edition took a very different (but arguably just as compelling) direction, rather sensibly avoiding the foreign and alien baseball theme in favour of the college/classroom angle.
This design comes from Dana Tanamachi, a letterer and designer celebrated for her amazing chalkboard work. (It’s the chair in front that really does it for me, transforming a flat image into a three dimensional space. What an inspired touch!)
As an Australian with little grounding or specific appreciation of baseball, both Hayes’ and Tanamachi’s covers went a long way in selling this story as “real” literature, and I’m thankful they got the opportunity to develop these ideas. It’s a remarkable book worthy of their efforts.
Which cover do you prefer? Your thoughts are welcome in the comments section below!