Lydia D’moch, winner of the Best Paris Stories book cover design competition, is a California-based graphic designer. She specialized in book design for the adult and children’s trade markets as well as general publication and editorial design. Having worked in-house for several major publishers, she has been freelancing since 2009. We had the good fortune to discover this talented designer during the cover contest for Best Paris Stories. Her lovely design won the contest and has received so many compliments - for both paperback and ebook - that we wanted to learn more about her process. Interview
How did you get into book design?
I graduated from Scripps College, which has a rich humanities curriculum and a great art program. I anticipated an illustration career, but I also like to write, so I was rather unfocused as to what I wanted to do when I got out into the world. I was 24 and showing my illustration portfolio in San Francisco when an art director at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich casually mentioned a job opening for a junior book designer—and voilà, a twenty-five year publishing career was born. It was a perfect match since it combined so many of my interests and things I loved doing.
Can you tell us something about the book design process?
Book design involves organizing and designing content while understanding the specific technical requirements of good bookmaking. The design should support and enhance—but not overshadow—the author’s words and images. I think it helps to have a strong editorial sensibility in addition to solid design skills; I greatly enjoy working with editors and authors, as well as the whole process of transitioning a work from its manuscript stage. I’m always aware that my job is to create a visual identity that brings a book to life.
How did you come across the contest and decide to enter?
I found the call-for-entries while browsing Paris-related websites, only a few weeks before the deadline. A couple of ideas suggested themselves to me immediately, which doesn’t always happen—but of course, what better subject than literary Paris to run wild with creatively? I ultimately submitted two different ideas. It was great to design a cover for the pure pleasure of it, about a place that I love, without the usual pressures that accompany the cover development process, and I think that was very freeing—not to mention fun!
How did you come up with the idea for the cover?
I had a very clear concept from the start. The vintage photo was the catalyst—something that seemed perfect for this anthology. My husband’s a photographer who shares my interest in collecting old photos and ephemera. He purchased the original Kodachrome transparency years ago at a garage sale—it was a real gem among a cache of ordinary tourist slides that looked to be from around 1965. It depicts a still-postwar Paris on a wintry morning, and its mood and period details pull you in, suggesting stories to be told. I felt it was important to include all the authors’ names on the cover, but overprinting them was a problem, hence the blue and red bands. Although the contest objective was the front cover design, I completed the full cover so that I could fully integrate the components across the back and spine. And I was also asked to design a variation of the cover for the Amazon Kindle singles.
Any technical obstacles you overcame?
The original transparency was in remarkable condition considering its age, but it was quite dark, and heavy on the blue. I wanted to enhance the lovely monochromatic palette. After digitizing it, we did a great deal of color and contrast work on it, and added a warming filter to bring out the spectrum of grays in the wet pavement and cobblestones a bit more. I also did some Photoshop work to remove a couple of distracting color details that would have affected type readability.
What is your personal connection to Paris?
I’ve been to Paris numerous times, with my most recent visit in 2007. As a designer, Paris is of course a huge source of inspiration, but I’ve been drawn to it since childhood. Maybe the seed was planted by the French nuns that taught me in grade school. Later, when my family lived in Spain for several years, my older sister graduated from the American College in Paris (now AUP), and her experiences living and studying there really seized my imagination. I first visited when I turned 21—just the place for a memorable coming-of-age. Every visit is different, but I always return home exhausted, exhilarated, and ready to go back immediately.
About Lydia D’moch
Lydia D’moch’s design awards include Bookbuilders West Book Show, the AIGA 50 Covers/50 Books Competition of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, the New York Book Show. In addition, two books she recently designed are finalists in the upcoming Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Awards, as well as the IBPA [Independent Book Publishers Association] Benjamin Franklin Awards. She also designed a children's book (Smoky Night) which won the Caldecott Medal, the highest honor given by the American Library Association (ALA) for children's book illustration (the illustrator was David Diaz).