‘Book designing prospects to get better in India’

The Oxford Bookstore Book Cover Prize, a first of its kind award for brilliance in book design, an attempt by the iconic bookstore to recognize and encourage the extraordinary work of illustrators, designers and publishers throughout India, announced renowned visual artist, designer and researcher, Ishan Khosla as the winner of the seventh edition of the prestigious prize. He speaks with The Statesman about the significance of book cover illustrations.

Q. Against the notion ‘never judge a book by its cover’, how important do you think book cover art is in today’s age for consumers?

A. The book cover is an essential branding and marking tool in an age where not only are we bombarded with many new books, but they have to be easy to identify, recall and comprehend – whether it exists as a small thumbnail or a large poster ; and whether it is an ebook, an audiobook or even a film based on a book. The cover is then literally the visual identity of the book and the corresponding author.

Q. What went into the conceptualization of the book cover illustration for Kintsugi that won you the Oxford Bookstore Book Cover Prize?

A. The concept for all the covers I worked on was always very closely related to the idea of ​​representing the characters, the setting and the metaphor of Kintsugi (the title) itself. The decision to choose the final cover was a question of tonality. Some covers were bolder, or louder while this one was quieter and it seemed to represent the right voice of the book.

Q. Tell us about your style in illustration and design.

A. I don’t think I have a particular style, but moreover a bent of mind or attitude that determines ideally, a fresh outcome each time. ForKintsugiI designed 4-5 covers, some of which were very different from each other.

Q. Did you read the book before designing the cover? Do you think it is imperative for illustrators to read a book before conceptualizing the artwork for it?

A. I read most of the book, whatever was provided to me. It is important to do so to understand the tone of voice and the TG (read: target group) the book caters to. How can we design the logo of a drink we haven’t tasted? or the label of perfume we haven’t smelt? It is the same thing. Today, the book is a brand, as an author. The lesser-known the author, the harder the cover has to work to persuade a viewer to become a reader.

Q. There are classic books that are being redesigned and sold to keep pace with contemporary tastes. Do you feel illustrators should experiment with original book cover art?

A. Covers of popular books would have to be redesigned with the times, like the form of a car, to not only keep pace with the times but to become a brand on that book, written in the past, appealing to the audiences today and not necessarily to audiences in the time it was written in. All designs in some form or another can be an experiment.

Q. How would you describe the prospects of book illustrators in India? What would be your advice to aspiring designers?

A. I think prospects are only going to get better for book design in India as the number of books being published and the value publishers gives covers is only going to increase. Awards such as the Oxford Book Cover Design award go a long way in giving book designers their due respect and appreciation which was hitherto lacking.


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