New York-based Erin Fitzsimmons is an award winning typography designer and Associate Art Director at HarperCollins. Some of our favourite recent Fitzsimmons designs include Patrick Ness’ Release, Eileen Cook’s With Malice and This Darkness Mine, by Mindy McGinnis.

Here she walks us through the design process for Tiffany Jackson’s Allegedly, out now from Katherine Tegen Books.

The first mock-up
^ The first mock-up

It’s very rare that the first page of my first InDesign document ends up being the cover of a book I’m working on, but in the case of Allegedly, I found the near perfect image very quickly in the process. I loved reading this manuscript. It’s exactly my type of book: dark, twisty, and features an unreliable narrator. I love being kept on my toes while reading, and I wanted to translate that feeling of suspense and uncertainty into the front cover.

When I found this initial image (right) from PlainPicture, I knew it was the image. I loved the stillness of the image, but it still had an implied feeling of violence and anger from the scattering dirt. And the empty chair just struck me as a brilliant way to indicate loss, or the absence of something, or someone, all of which resonates with the main character’s struggles throughout the book. The other thing the image evokes are a lot of questions, which I felt was appropriate for a book with an unreliable narrator. What can you trust if you can’t trust the words in front of you, or what your eyes are seeing?

Of course, even if I think an image is perfect for a book, it still needs to be approved by lots of different people, so I tried some other options! I found a few other images I loved, so I designed a few more comps, playing with strong imagery, more colorful palettes, and bolder typography.

After sharing all the cover comps with our team, we decided that we all loved the original photographic direction. (Victory!!!) However, the styling and features of the model weren’t quite right for the main character in our book. She is younger, she hardly wears dresses, and she wears her hair in tighter curls. We contacted the stock agency, and by a huge stroke of luck, found out we could commission this exact photographer to re-shoot the cover! We hired a new model, with the right hair and body type, and styled her in the proper clothes for a teenage girl.


The shots and outtakes from the shoot are all amazing! We didn’t get to go to the photo shoot, as the photographer is based in Germany, but it was still a fun experience to witness from afar. We found out that they used coffee grinds to create the dirt effect…who knew?! They absolutely nailed the shot, and then some. You can see more behind-the-scenes images on the author’s blog here and here, and you can also read about the cover design process from Tiffany’s perspective.

The entire process was very rewarding, and I love how the final jacket came together.



Erin Fitzsimmons: Official site  |  Twitter


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