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Cover story: behind the design of Conversations on Love

Natasha Lunn’s collection of interviews with thinkers and writers, including Roxane Gay and Lisa Taddeo, is set to be the non-fiction read of the summer. We find out how its cover came to be.

Sometimes a book cover turns up that seems, almost instantly, a classic. The cream, red and blue simplicity of Natasha Lunn’s Conversations on Love certainly fits that bill; upon its reveal, bestselling author Dolly Alderton announced: “This is the type of book that when I was 14, if my parents had gone out, I'd run over and get out to read.”

In it, Lunn examines sex, parenting, friendship, loss and vulnerability through interviews with writers and thinkers such as Alain de Botton, Diana Evans, Roxane Gay and Esther Perel. Encapsulating the universality of love on a cover proved a challenge, says designer Anna Rebecca Morrison: “The difficulty with this cover was that it's obviously about love, but we didn't want it to be romantic, because I don't think that that's what Natasha's written about. It's about love as an all-encompassing thing.”

For Art Director Richard Bravery, the combination of Morrison’s design with Lunn’s writing was an obvious one. “They had a mutual admiration of each other’s work; [Morrison] described herself as ‘a hardcore fan’ so I knew that she would have a great understanding of what we wanted to achieve with the cover: something that felt modern and relevant, nothing too saccharine."

'There was a divide in the cover meeting between wanting something type-driven or something that felt more pictorial'

One of the first routes Morrison tried involved a detailed illustration of two rosebuds. Others were inspired by botanical drawings and Greek mythology. But in the end they went for the simpler design.

"There was a divide in the cover meeting [where potential covers are debated by the team] between those wanting something type-driven, and those who wanted something more pictorial and less in the typographic mould that was fast becoming shorthand for books in this space,” says Bravery.

“When I found our, I was really pleased," Morrison says. "It's so much more confident, and I feel like it works better than what we were going to do.”

There was also the issue of the title. “Conversations is such a long word!” Morrison laughs. “It was a case of trying to sort of get ‘conversations;’ to fit with 'on love', in a really beautiful, unique way."

The result was setting the words to create an L-shape in themselves, with the strapline: ‘Lovers, strangers, parents, friends, endings, beginnings” nestled into the vertical line of 'Conversations'. “We eventually found our way back to the simple striking L form, which was a favourite of both Anna’s and mine from the beginning,” says Bravery.

A flatlay of Anna Morrison's different colour options for the cover
Anna Morrison's different colour options for the cover. Image: Anna Morrison/Alicia Fernandes/Penguin

Of course, with such a text-dependent cover, choosing the right typeface was crucial. “The cover really relies on the font, and it’s a beautiful one from a lovely French font foundry,” says Morrison. “It’s a sexy font!”

There’s something inexplicably alluring about Conversations on Love’s cover; it has a kind of wink to it. It looks like a book a cool aunt would bestow upon a teenage niece or nephew when they first get a boyfriend or girlfriend. As Morrison says: “There’s going to be stuff in here that you're going to need to know.”

Finally, it was a case of settling on the right colour palette for the book. “The first colourway was pale pink with the cream and then red for the author name, but then when we changed direction we tried all sorts of palettes,” says Morrison. “It was actually Richard who suggested sticking with the red type and the cream background but adding the royal blue.” A shift away from the pink helped to make it more universal.

The result is a cover that feels, somehow, like it has already existed on bookshelves – and is certainly ready to appear in shops. It was also a pleasing result for both Morrison and Lunn, who had been following one another’s work online for years. “For me,” Morrison says, “it was a total dream.”

What did you think of this article? Email editor@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk and let us know.

Image: Stuart Simpson / Penguin

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