Cédric Escarbelt: HarperCollins Designer Interview

Cédric Escarbelt of HarperCollins France is an art director and designer we enjoy working with on a regular basis. He very kindly agreed to be interviewed, and to share some of his experiences and insights with us

1- Tell us a little about yourself, and how you became interested in design!
I was studying to become a construction manager, but I was more interested in design and creativity. So I changed lanes and began a creative communications course in Paris (alternating between school and working in a company)

2- Tell us a little about your role at HarperCollins. How did it come about?
I first worked in a small B2B agency, with clients in the automotive industry, where I learned to manage my workload very efficiently.
Then I came to Edition, which was when HarperCollins France was still Harlequin. It was a new world for me and a big change as I went from the world of cars to that of romantic literature!
Now, a few years later, I’ve been made Artistic Director and DTP’s Head Manager, in charge of the internal studio and the production of a thousand books a year (both print and ebook titles).

3- What is your process when you receive a new brief?
First of all I read the brief carefully! Generally we’ve got the gist of the story, and the first ideas soon come to mind. I like to chat with the editors to understand what they have in mind, and be able to find the best cover.

4- What is the relationship like between book designer, editor and author?
At HarperCollins France, the book designers don’t have a direct relationship with author. The editor makes that link. So our relationship with the editor is more a partnership. We have to work in the same direction to create the best cover for the author.

5- What aspect of book cover design do you find most compelling? Definitively the Photoshop processes. I really like image editing!

6- What is your favorite book cover that you created and why?
Difficult to answer! I’ve made hundreds of covers and unfortunately, my favorite designs haven’t always been the ones chosen!
Two covers stand out to me for different reasons. The first, Rumeurs (‘Rumours’), is because the brief did not obviously take us towards that kind of cover, but everybody loved it.

The second is La maîtresse du capitaine (‘The Captain’s Mistress’). When I first showed it to the editor she was shocked, and said it was too risky… But eventually everybody came to love it, especially the author. The image was very stylish and worked well for this cover.

7- What gives you ideas and inspires you to design book covers?
We have to be aware of what’s happening in the creative sector… So inspiration can come from creative websites, like Behance and Instagram. We also look at what the competition is doing.
When I search images on stock sites, the ‘find similars’ tools are very helpful to get new ideas. You can click on one image that looks interesting and, that leads you to another that you would never have thought of at the beginning!

8- In your opinion, what dictates book cover design trends?
Cover design is changing very often ! That’s why you have to follow it carefully. What is certain is that there are particular styles for particular genres. A thriller book cannot be approached in the same way as romantic fiction.

9- What do you expect from a stock agency when you research images for your projects?
Originality, uniqueness, and quality… Working with Arcangel is great, and the image quality means we avoid a lot of retouching and colour treatments.

10- What changes do you foresee in stock photography and book cover design over the next few years?
We’ve seen a lot of changes in the recent past years, with the expansion of microstock agencies like iStock and Fotolia (now Adobestock). They offer a lot of images, some with good quality, some without.
This allows an agency like Arcangel to offer us high-quality content with a privileged customer relationship. I hope that this level of quality and that kind of relationship will continue!