Interview with Vladimir Stankovic, our cover illustrator

You are an illustrator. Tell us a few words about yourself and your work; why did you decide to become an illustrator?

I was born in Serbia, Nis, where I got my degree in graphic design and now I’m finishing up my Master’s Degree in Finland. I don’t think I decided to be an illustrator, because ever since I can remember I used to draw wherever there was paper around and when I was not drawing I was making little figurines out of plasticine, or I’d be chasing bugs! That being said, my work deals a lot with nature and all sorts of creatures, animals, plants – their anatomy, colours and forms are truly fascinating. On the other hand, folk tales and fairy tales, the grimmer the better I might add, are also a big influence on my work.

You designed the illustrations for the cover of Freshta. Where did the design inspiration for this particular book come from?

The inspiration mostly came from the story itself, it has a warm, homely atmosphere, the narration of some parts was very detailed, and you really get to know the characters’ personalities. In a way, I tried to visually translate those emotions with the use of warm hues and floral elements and to give the female figure an expression of hope and tranquillity.

Also, I did some research into the customs of Afghan people, their style of dressing, what are their common plants, etc, all of which contributed to shaping the final image.

Take us through the process of how you designed this cover? Do you start with sketches or work on the computer?

The process, as almost always, started with brain storming and pencil sketching. After that stage, I worked with watercolours and other materials so I’d make a more refined and detailed version of the chosen sketch and when it was done, other changes and variations were done with the use of computer. It seems that I can’t give up working with traditional mediums so working straight on a computer would be a real challenge for me, but I think I’ll try it sometime just to see the results.

How many drafts do you have to do before you settle on the final design?

I usually make around 10 – 15 rough drawings before I start to develop the ones that are the best. Sometimes it happens that the best solution is the first sketch, sometimes it takes a lot of time and even more sketching before I find the most effective one. When choosing the right design it’s very useful to know other people’s thoughts and to get their feedback about it.

Is the final version very different than your original concept idea for the cover? 

I guess it is different from the first rough pencil sketches, but it’s similar to the chosen idea, it was only a matter of finding the balance between the details and colours, and making it work within the frame and the size of the cover.

How important do you think a cover is to a book’s success? 

It’s very important, now more than ever, because constantly there are new trends and technologies that are being introduced, so it’s a big competition and a challenge to be visually interesting and relevant. But my opinion is that it doesn’t mean we should all jump on the bandwagon and follow those trends, because no matter what the technology or technique is being used to produce a design, in the end the idea and the quality of execution is what matters the most.

Are there any recent book covers out there that have really caught your eye? 

There was a book I’ve noticed recently in a book store called Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, and I really loved the cover, it has yellow typography against a red background, simple yet very striking.

How does the popularity of e-books impact book design?

For now, I don’t think that it makes a huge difference on the book design itself, but it will surely have a significant impact on the whole publishing industry and education, though it remains to be seen in what way.

Thank you!

Visit Vladimir’s website.

See Vladimir’s illustrations on Flickr.