Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Book jacket designer Charlotte Strick

The fabulous designer Charlotte Strick of Strick&Williams joins us to answer some of my weird questions about book jacket design! I don't know about you, but I'm pretty obsessed with book covers and am constantly curious about the process. Charlotte has created some pretty famous ones (like Jonathan Franzen's Freedom) and is a thoughtful, creative woman who also happens to be mother to twin boys at my school. Here are Charlotte's thoughts on Anne Shirley, Roald Dahl, and inspiration. Enjoy!
-Karen, Williamsburg Northside School

We’ve been seeing a lot of reissues and redesigns of children’s classics lately. Which children’s classic would you like a crack at redesigning the cover for and what would you do?

Well, “Alice in Wonderland” of course or a grand edition of “The Wizard of Oz” would be a fantasy project. I’d love to design a boxset for the “Anne of Green Gables” series. Anne with an “e” Shirley, that plucky chatterbox, meant so much to me when I was a preteen; it would be a thrill to create a special edition of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s much beloved books. The first thing I’d do is enjoy the excuse to reread these books and see how my memories of the stories resonate with my adult-self. I’m a very different reader today, and as a book jacket designer, I read for visual queues and not strictly for pleasure. 

Speaking of redesign, is there a children’s or YA book cover you’d like to see redone? Why? 

I’d love to see Roald Dahl’s paperbacks repackaged. I’m enormously fond of Quentin Blake’s illustrations, and I have long come to associate his work with these books, but I like them less as cover art—especially when combined with digital type. As a collection, Dahl’s current covers feel more commercial and safe, and far less extraordinary than I think the writing deserves. Finding an original way to successfully capture Dahl’s dark wit would be a terrific (and dreamy) design challenge.

What is your favorite cover you’ve done?

It’s impossible to pick favorites. That would be akin to choosing one’s child over another! 

What is your favorite picture book cover?

I think “The Giving Tree” has a tremendously successful cover that should never be touched. It’s “a classic” through and through. It’s spare, unexpectedly glossy, kelly green cover with strokes of red for both the young boy’s overalls and the falling fruit, is difficult to forget. Shel Silverstein was marrying illustration and handmade typography on his book jackets long before it was trendy.

I’m always on the lookout for artwork that I wish I had the talent to have created myself. I design books mainly for the adult market, when I came across Todd Stewart’s illustrations in the picture book “See You Next Year”, by Andrew Larsen (Owlkids Books), I knew Todd’s work would be a perfect match for a new novel our studio, Strick&Williams, was designing. Todd was such a pleasure to work with; he took my little pencil doodle of a guitar-as-road and expanded on it in a way that we hadn’t imagined. This is the real joy of collaborating with other artists. “Vexation Lullaby” (Catapult) won’t be in bookstores until this Spring, but you can get a sneak peak at the finished cover here: http://shop.catapult.co/products/vexation-lullaby

What would you like to hear a student say about one of your covers?
A design student? “Is there anything I can learn from this?”

about Charlotte:
For 14 years Charlotte Strick was a designer and Art Director at Faber & Faber, Inc and the paperback line at Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Her work has been featured in the AIGA 50 Books/50 Covers show, the TDC Annual Exhibition, Print magazine, the Book Binder's Guild Annual Awards Show, and many books about cover design. The proud owner of a coveted Silver Cube from The Art Director's Club, Charlotte is also designer and Art Editor of the distinguished Paris Review magazine. Her writings on art and design have been published by The Paris ReviewThe Atlantic and The Huffington Post. In 2014 she partnered with Claire Williams Martinez to form Strick&Williams, a boutique, multidisciplinary design firm focused on the arts, education, publishing, non-profits and everything in-between. A graduate of Parsons School of Design, Charlotte lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, their twin boys, and a giant bowl of goldfish.


  1. I love the way the guitar forms the road on Vexation Lullaby. I also love the use of the color blue. Interesting post Karen!

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