Interview: Scot Bendall – La Boca

Interview: Scot Bendall – La Boca

A little while ago, we started a new section on Counter-Print, offering a selection of fiction books for sale. We are avid readers here at CP HQ and this was something that had been on our to-do list for some time, though we were at first daunted by the size of the field we were dipping our toe into. However, when we settled on starting with limited edition covers and anniversary editions, as well as award-winning book designs, it became easier to set in motion.

One of the first designers on our list for inclusion in this section, which we new we had to feature, was La Boca. We’ve been fans of their work since we included them in our first published piece of print, ‘Eight:48’, a number of years ago.

La Boca are responsible for some of the most progressive and eye-catching cover designs in print today, so we thought we would catch up with Scot Bendall of La Boca to pick his brain about book design and his relationship with the world of publishing.

What was your introduction to designing book covers? 
It was all down to a nice man called Michael Salu, who at the time was art director at Granta Books. Similar to us, Michael had a background in music design, and he had this funny idea that record sleeve designers could potentially translate what they know into designing interesting book covers. I’d never really considered the cross-overs between music/book design, but actually it makes sense. I see both as attempting to visualise a connection between the musician/author and their audience. It’s almost acting as a bridge between them, and in a way, both are concerned with designing a cover for something without a real visual presence of it’s own. 

You have a very unique style. How did it come about?
It was never a conscious decision to create any sort of style for the studio, it’s something that has just developed naturally over the years. We try to create something appropriate for each project, so it’s never about trying to shoehorn a project into our own style. We’re nearly always creating designs for a client of some sort, so our personal graphic desires are never more important than the project we’re designing for.

What is your process when you receive a new brief?
I’m a strong believer that the cover of a book lies within it’s pages, so the first thing I always try to do is read the book. From this point you hope the ideas start to manifest themselves.

Have any great ideas slipped through the net?
Haha, I think this might be a sensitive subject for many book designers! We’re fortunate to work across many different industries, but with book design in-particular, there are a lot of ideas that get lost along the way. The roughs for book covers tend to get a little more developed as they go through approval rounds, so it’s not unusual to have 5+ designs in the running for the final cover. It’s inevitable you get attached to the one that doesn’t make it through sometimes (all the time ;-)

What is the relationship like between book designer and author?
I don’t think we’ve ever spoken to any of the authors we’ve designed for about the cover. It could be that a large proportion of the books we work on tend to be classics or re-issues, so maybe a lot of the authors are no longer with us, but even with new books it seems to be the same. It’s quite strange for us because when working on record covers it’s essential to speak to the band to form some sort of connection, but with books that part of the process is quite different. Perhaps authors are particularly sensitive types, but there usually seems to be a concerted effort to keep us away from them – or maybe that just says more about us!?

Is there a particular book cover you are most proud of and why?
I’m quite fond of our 3D cover for 'Brave New World' by Aldous Huxley. It was art directed by Suzanne Dean, one of our favourite book-people, and I think it represents the story quite well. It was also the first time we had tried to design a 3D image so all-in-all the process was quite fun. We’ve since gone on to re-cover more of the Huxley library, 12 covers and counting I think.

Do you have any plans for future book cover designs?
That is largely in the hands of publishers. 

Scot Bendall – La Boca


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