Unlike many designers, Jason Anscomb likes to read a book before he designs its cover. He explained to me very early in the design process that he wants to make sure his art “truly matches the mood” of the writing. I recently reconvened with Jason about his inspiration for the cover of Freedom City and about his collaboration with renowned illustrator David Foldvari.
“[It] struck me that we needed a dark-edged, satirical feel to the jacket with a quick hit of irony,” Jason said of his initial impressions after reading some of the novel. “It also occurred to me that you had actually already hit on a very good symbol for your book: the bedbug. It just needed the eye of an expert illustrator and more of a hook to the design.”
As I discussed in an earlier blog post, bedbugs are an analogy for fascism and actually play a pivotal role in the novel:
Bedbugs mate through traumatic insemination. The male literally pierces the female’s body with its penis and injects its sperm into her abdominal cavity. A more evil creature Beach couldn’t imagine, except…
Jason happened to know just the right person to create the image, a highly sought after illustrator whom he met while studying graphic design and illustration at Brighton University. “David Foldvari is a very well respected illustrator and had just the right tone in his work for the job.”
At first Jason had a different vision for the design. “Initially we played around with the idea that the bedbug had the head of Donald Trump wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat,” he said. “Donald would be screaming… whilst burning over a flame.”
But David advised us to tone it down a notch. “[Freedom City] deserved to be seen in a more intelligent and restrained way,” Jason explained.
David’s brilliant illustration proved that his instinct was correct.
“The hat and the bug turned out to be enough,” Jason said. “David added a final touch of some bent-up, hillbilly-like teeth to the bug’s face. I can honestly say that this one of the best illustrations of a bedbug I have every seen.”
That just left designing the rest of the cover’s components around David’s art. The hotdog colors were Jason’s touch, as were the orientation of the design and the text. The result is a striking indictment of American fascism and the perfect cover for an anti-Trump novel like Freedom City.