American Gods Book Jacket Redesign
To redesign a book jacket in order to increase both new and old readership. The design should be both distinct and cerebral, stimulating people’s curiosity and pushing them to think deeper about the cover art.
About the Book
Released from prison, Shadow finds his world turned upside down. His wife has been killed; a mysterious stranger offers him a job. But this Mr. Wednesday, who knows more about Shadow than is possible, warns that a storm is coming -- a battle for the very soul of America and they are in its direct path. Shadow and Wednesday's journey across the country recruiting myths and legends to join their cause is intercut with stories of American immigrants throughout time and the gods they brought with them across the oceans. Neil Gaiman asks you to consider how the stories we tell take on lives of their own and in turn tell us who we are.
Existing American Gods Book Covers
I identified a few problems with the existing covers. The primary imagery (lighting and the tree of life) references the Norse god Odin, or Mr. Wednesday as he's known in the book. While there is a "storm" building throughout the story, I wanted to represent the work as a whole and not just one character. The typography varies wildly across covers, all conveying different tones.
I started breaking down all the different elements of the story to narrow down the themes and tone I needed to incorporate. I was drawn to haunting photography and pagan art to represent Shadow's grief and the spiritual subjects.
I wanted to create a visual representation of the story-wide conflict between old religion and modern society. I moved forward these these two designs which both depict religious imagery displayed through technology. But ultimately I felt photography was best suited to represent the complexity of the story. The retro style of the TV design, while eye-catching, wasn't in line with the tone of the story. So I decided to try a slightly different approach.
The Final Result
I chose the font Urban Jungle because the eroded texture evokes the way old traditions have faded away, and the cityscape silhouette shows what remains in their place. This typeface captures the spirit of the novel and stands well by itself on other pieces of merchandise. I managed to keep a reference to Odin: the altar on the television is one made to worship him! I also kept the road trip imagery used in many other covers since the majority of the story takes place on the road.
While it was a joy to design for one of my favorite author's works, it began as a struggle to create a comprehensive visual for such a thematically dense book. Building such a complex scene in Photoshop pushed me to get much more comfortable with the program. I'm much more adept and using adjustment layers and masks to ensure all the composite images in a piece appear as one.