Behind the Storyscaping Cover Design

Cover Art Work

In honor of Storyscaping: Stop Creating Ads, Start Creating Worlds hitting the shelves today, our SapientNitro, Senior Art Director, John Starr gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the inspiration and evolution behind the cover design.

When I first began thinking about the Storyscaping book cover, I knew that I wanted to come up with a simple visual that could sum up a complicated idea. So I did a bit of brainstorming around the idea of storytelling as a whole and what types of visuals could best represent it. I ended up latching onto the visual of a campfire. I had just come back from camping the week before, so sitting around the fire and telling stories was still fresh in my head. I thought about how humans have been sitting around the campfire for millennia: sharing stories, experiences, staying warm, laughing, sitting under the stars and simply enjoying nature. The campfire could be an invitation to sit down and have a conversation.

At this point, I felt like the campfire idea was pretty strong, so I decided to submit a book cover. It was time to start designing. I had been loving the trend of designing in low poly (reducing the fidelity of an object in 3D by reducing the polygon count). When done correctly, it feels a bit like origami. So I figured this was the perfect opportunity to give it a try. I have been goofing off in a 3D program called Cinema 4D for about 10 years, so I felt confident this was a style I could pull off for the book cover.

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I started off by making a simple rectangular object which resembled a wall. I then used a displacer + polygon reduction and tweaked the setting. I threw a texture on it, put lighting in my scene, and rendered it. Boom. It did exactly what I had imagined. It was a nice geometric background to go behind my fire. I then used a similar process to create my campfire. Utilizing simple shapes like cylinders and spheres I was able to achieve the look I was hoping for.

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It was starting to look OK, but the fire by itself over a dark background wasn’t looking as interesting as I had hoped. I realized that I needed to give the campfire a bit more context. I had initially been worried about creating an entire scene in 3D, but I really didn’t have a choice. I quickly sketched out a scene and got to work.

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I wanted to create a cozy little spot in a forest where the campfire lived. A handful of trees helped frame the campfire and fill out the scene a bit. Less trees turned out to be more in this case. I then added a few logs around the fire to help it feel more inviting. I was pleased with how it was coming along at this point.

I had a few more ideas that I wanted to try. So I decided to create an alternate version of the same scene. For this one, I really wanted to incorporate some mountains in the background. I also played with the idea of the entire scene being made up of pages out of a book. So I used actual text from Moby Dick to texture my trees. A storyscape created out of stories. This version also had a different title lock-up for good measure.

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An example of how I imagined all illustrations in the book would be created stylistically:

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In the end, I was really happy with the final outcome. It was a great learning process, and I was able to stay true to my core concept from beginning to end. I can’t wait to finally get the book in my hands!

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By John Starr @digitalslurp, Senior Art Director

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