28 Oct 2022 |
For this month’s Cover Design Q&A, we’re bringing you a taste of Tel Aviv’s vibrant culture! We spoke to Stuart Hardie about his work designing the beautifully striking cover for Oren, discussing Bauhaus inspiration, and Stuart’s journey into design. Based in the UK, Stuart works as a Graphic Designer and Art Director across multiple different disciplines - you can see more examples of his work on his website, or follow him on Instagram.
Tell us about yourself.
I’ve been working as a Graphic Designer and Art Director now for twenty years. After graduating with a degree in Graphic Design from Salford University I moved to London and started working for a design studio called Traffic who specialised in design for the music industry, so I was predominantly working on record covers and album campaign artwork. I then started working independently around ten years ago which allowed me to diversify my practice and explore other areas of design which led me to designing books too.
My work covers quite a diverse selection of different disciplines including typography, art direction, illustration, branding and identity design.
What was the brief?
The brief was to design a new cookbook by Oded Oren, a chef from Tel Aviv who also has a restaurant in London called Oren. The book was to be about the eastern Mediterranean food of Tel Aviv, and the melting pot of food cultures found there. It was going to be a travel cookbook, with nods to the restaurant thrown in. Eve, the commissioning editor wanted the book to feel really elegant, have room for beautiful location photography and be in keeping with the style of the restaurant. There was also a mood board of references to accompany the brief.
There were two directions for the brief of the cover, the first was to focus on Tel Aviv’s UNESCO heritage-protected area of Bauhaus architecture called ‘White City’. The sleek lines were reminiscent of the restaurant’s logo and the concept was to reference this through the use of line drawings. There was a reservation with this idea, that it might be too subtle, however it could also feel different to other books about the food of Tel Aviv.
The second route was to explore the more ancient side of Tel Aviv, and its mishmash of old and new, with lots of markets and vibrant colours. The subtitle also flagged that the food was eastern Mediterranean, so something that evoked the warmth of that. Oded also had a collection of old black and white photos of the city in its heyday, so a photographic cover was another option as there would eventually be location photography available.
Can you share with us the process of this project? What was the idea and inspiration for the cover design and layout?
Once I’ve read the brief, I’ll always start by doing as much research as I can to help inform my design. I’d never been to Tel Aviv, so I immersed myself in finding out about the city. I’ve always loved architecture so researching the Bauhaus inspired buildings was really interesting. My initial idea was to explore the line drawings of the Bauhaus buildings and began making some illustrations and working these up into cover designs. The restaurant has an elegant graphic logo, so I wanted to try and use that as a reference for the cover and the book’s typographic styling. Along with the line drawings I also explored some bolder graphic illustrations with buildings on coloured backgrounds.
I then developed the second route and worked on cover designs that could feature photography from Tel Aviv. There weren’t any photographs at the early stage of the project, so I had to use holding imagery to suggest potential creative directions. I played with the idea of using the arch from the restaurant’s logo as a framing device for a photograph on the cover.
At this stage I felt I had developed the initial brief, but I wanted to try and push the cover concept a little further. I loved the Bauhaus reference in the Tel Aviv architecture, but I wondered if there was an opportunity to explore a Bauhaus modern art aesthetic. I came back to the restaurants logo which has a circle which reminded me of the sun, and this led me to experiment with creating an abstract landscape of the Tel Aviv coastline. I broke the image down into basic shapes to represent the sea, sky, sun, beach and buildings.
Once I was happy with the composition, I experimented with adding texture to the image to make it look more like a painting. I then worked this up into a cover concept, and I was really pleased with how it came together, it definitely stood out as my favourite option amongst the designs I submitted. It was great that this design was selected as the final cover.
Once I had a selection of cover designs, I worked on some interior design layouts. I knew the brief was to make the book feel elegant, so I kept that in mind when styling the recipes and chapter openers. The aim was to make the photography stand out.
Once the cover design was approved, there weren’t many changes to the original submitted designs. We did explore creating illustrations in the style of the cover for the chapter openers which I did enjoy, but it was decided to keep these a little subtler in the end.
The process of editing the photos for the book was probably the biggest challenge. Oded had spent some time on location in Tel Aviv with photographer Itiel Zion which provided a wealth of great imagery, which meant there were a lot of images to edit. The location photography tells the story of Tel Aviv’s vibrant food culture and these sit alongside Issy Crocker’s food photography and Benjamin McMahon’s photography from the Oren restaurant.
I designed the cover image to wrap around the front cover, back cover and the spine of the book. The type on the cover and spine is finished in bronze foil with the title also being debossed.
Looking through your website, you work across genres, designing both album covers and books. How often do you find them providing inspiration for the other - does music play role in your book design process and vice versa?
When designing for music I’ll often get sent tracks or rough mixes as part of an initial brief so I’ll always listen to these, and they can often help shape the creative output. I always have music on when I’m working, so again, there may be something going on subconsciously that influences the creative process when I’m designing books.
I tend to approach every project with the same philosophy, and I find that I’ll always learn something new from every project. There is certainly potential for a cross pollination of ideas even if it’s on a subconscious level.
From quite an early age I had an interest in drawing and art, and while I was at school a teacher suggested I do my work experience at a local graphic design studio. I really enjoyed that and then focused studying towards becoming a graphic designer and really found a passion for the subject at art college and university.
I’d always been drawn towards typography and logo design, so when I started my first job working at Traffic (who were working with clients in the music industry), I found my work translated well to developing identities for bands and designing for album campaigns.
I was introduced to the team at Hardie Grant by another designer Claire Warner, who mentioned that the commissioning editors were looking for new designers to work with, and this is how I became involved in book design. I enjoy working across a variety of different projects and with print, it’s always nice to have that physical product at the end, be it a book or a vinyl record.
Oren is a celebration of Tel Aviv’s food and culture. Have you ever been? If not, would you like to visit, now that you’ve worked on the book?
I haven’t been to Tel Aviv, I’d love to go one day, but we’ve got two young boys so a cultural trip like that is probably some way off in the future.
How do you spend your time when you’re not working?
I live in Sheffield now and we’re lucky enough to be on the doorstep of the Peak District so I spend a lot of time with the family out exploring the countryside. It’s great for cycling too, so I like to get out on my bike when I get the chance.
What is your go-to lunch time meal on a work day?
I’m not very adventurous with lunch, it’s usually a sandwich, a cereal bar and a coffee.
What are your top choice of songs/artists on your work playlist?
I’ll often let the Spotify algorithm do its thing which means I don’t have to change the record, which is good for discovering new music. It’s often a very eclectic mix of genres, electronic, indie, alternative, rock, blues, hip-hop.
These are some of the artists I’ve been enjoying recently: Rival Consoles / Idles / Fontaines D.C. / Wet Leg / Bicep / Daniel Avery / Four Tet / Khruangbin.
Read our previous Cover Design Q&As!
From Scratch series with Lucia Vinti | Fire Feasts with Emily Lapworth | Advent with Emily Lapworth | The Italian Deli with Katherine Keeble | Crave with Claire Rochford | Sea and Shore with Nikki Ellis | La Vita è Dolce with Susan Le | Bowls and Broths with Han Valentine | The Nordic Baker with Gemma Hayden