Alex Merto Combines Wit and Thoughtful Typography in His Book Cover Designs


Although the saying goes that you should never judge a book by its cover, it’s fair to say that when talking about literal book covers, most of us do. Still, in this creative case, perhaps that judgment isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, book cover design is a dedicated craft in which the narrative, context, and author of a title are carefully considered by the designer at hand. For us, one of the most thoughtful communicators in this field is Alex Merto, art director of Picador Books in the United States, an imprint of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Alex, who is based in New York, first entered the graphic design field in high school designing album covers and artwork for bands. His more formal education then took place after school, first in a summer art program at OTIS in Los Angeles, before moving to New York to attend the School of Visual Arts. Yet his interest in designing book covers comes specifically from the endless possibilities the medium allows. “I think it’s easy to get really bored with your job or what you’re doing,” he explains, “but book covers allow you to explore areas you haven’t explored yet. .” For example, depending on what the narrative may require, working in this area encourages a creative to try different hats: “It lets you be an illustrator, photographer, designer, editor, animator, or whatever you think be the best for the subject matter.”

In the role of Alex at Picador, the goal is simply “to try to create work that feels new,” the designer tells It’s Nice That. In more detail, Alex alludes to how his covers often lean into a “bold and graphic and hopefully unexpected” aesthetic. The text at the heart of his designs are titles “that have the potential to live on forever”, perhaps passed down enthusiastically by friends, inherited within families, or even studied in schools. “I want my design to become something that someone wants to hold on to for a very long time.”

In terms of the literal process, Alex says he follows the same few steps regardless of what title he’s been given, “although it doesn’t always work the same way,” the designer explains. Unsurprisingly, he will start with reading. This is necessary for fiction in particular, while non-fiction can allow for more cursory reading to get to the main takeaways. “As I read, I usually take a ton of notes and highlight words or passages that jump out at me.” Looking for “visual clues and/or places that help me get an idea of ​​why the author came up with this particular title for a book,” Alex will then combine his notes and random phrases or words drawn of the book “to create a new image.”


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