Starting a new book cover

Starting a new book cover
It’s snowing in Central Finland today and I somehow need to direct my thoughts and visual ideas towards the slums of Rio de Janeiro. My next project is designing a cover for
Cidade de Deus / City of God by Paulo Lins. Some of you might already know the story as an Oscar nominated film from 2002. It’s about two boys who grow up in the slum of Cidade de Deus surrounded by violence and poverty. One of the boys becomes a photographer, the other a drug dealer.

Gangs, drugs, guns and extreme poverty are distant from an ordinary Tuesday in a somber Finnish town, where you see old men cycling everywhere even in midwinter and iced over lakes are for fun and games like skiing and skating. Surrounded by infinite lakes and woods, we are spoiled by living in the middle of a Greetings from Finland! postcard infiltrated with characters of Northern Exposure. It’s generally a friendly town full of chatty people.

Just like the image of where I live, the first thing I think about Rio is not the reality of favelas. I need to reference Rio in the design somehow, but not be too literal. The design for this book definitely needs to be darker and grittier than my usual work, so I’m trying to dig a little deeper for ideas as well.

I started by just scribbling some ideas on paper. That’s how I often begin anything, whether a design project, writing an article or doing a larger concept. The paper gets filled with a lot of bad ideas, unrelated scribbles, better ideas and hopefully with at least one idea I feel happy enough to take to the next level, which means starting work in Illustrator or PhotoShop, depending on whether the idea involves creating vector graphics or editing images. Normally there’s a little bit of both.

This time I’ve also had a little bit more to work with since City of God has been made into a film. I’ve watched the film to know the story a little better. (Trash is another excellent film about slums of Rio)  I’ve also looked at photos of Cidade de Deus and other slums in Rio. I’ve looked at a lot of photos of Rio in general.

When a project is about certain location, I like to go to Google Street View and take a “walk” through the place. I listen to local music – right now Seu Jorge and Racionais MC’s – just to nudge my mind out of its usual surroundings and perhaps catch a little bit of Brazil in my design. Music is an important, if not integral, part of my work process.

Especially book cover ideas don’t come to me immediately, they usually take a little more pondering time before I even get started with the actual design. Currently I’m at the point when I’ve tested two basic ideas in Illustrator, not being too happy with either so I’ve had to come up with something else. I have a vague idea of what I want to do, so my next post will be about realizing that blurry image in my head to something a bit more concrete.

In the meanwhile, I recommend listening to Seu Jorge’s albums Músicas Pra Churrasco Vol.1 and Vol. 2 on Spotify. 

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