Where My Heart Used To Beat - A Cover Story

Designer Glenn O’Neill reveals the inspiration and process behind his gilded cover for Sebastian Faulks’s new book Where my Heart Used to Beat.

The title is very lyrical and descriptive so it seemed best to avoid depicting a figure, or people, on the jacket as it would then be assumed to be referring directly to them. For a novel with such an emotional and historical sweep, a more lateral strategy was required. Any illustrative or photographic element would need to allude to the title, rather than be overly specific.

I began the design process by simply laying out the typography, and seeing where it led. The most satisfying word breaks occurred where the title occupied four lines; it seemed to give a slow, considered rhythm when read back. This felt appropriate considering the author adapted the words of the title from the Alfred Lord Tennyson poem, In Memoriam. The lettering used (the font Requiem), benefited being in all lower case. Subliminally it looks more personal. I also considered, but rejected, using handwritten calligraphy, which did initially suggest itself as hand-penned correspondence features often within the narrative. 

So I had typographic structure, with the lettering ranging from the right hand side. Now the jacket needed elements to complement the type, without revealing too much of the story. 

The book spans the twentieth century, with both world wars being pivotal to the lives of the novel’s protagonists. Its locations range from an island off France to the coast and beaches of Anzio in 1944, to England in the 1960s and back to the trenches of the Western Front. Amongst many threads the novel covers a passionate love affair, the nature of memory, and a doctor’s research into the workings of the mind. I consulted with the author and publisher on ideas that may be interpreted graphically. 

I initially tried a general background of marble statuary behind the lettering, kept vague enough that it may also be read as human flesh. The effect was too coldly classical. Then I thought again of the letters sent by soldiers back from the war zones, many officially edited to prevent troop positions being compromised. I photographed strips of torn paper thinking these could suggest censorship, and lay them horizontally under the lettering, it looked effective, but it needed more.

A couple of the torn edges resembled shorelines, the kind of serendipity that I like to exploit where possible. I enhanced by importing rock textures from pictures of Mediterranean coastlines. A monochrome photograph of Sicily, sourced from Getty images, had the most elegiac feel. The reflections and glinting of the sea added a further dimension. Keeping the effect semi-abstract was important: the layering is not always logical and the sea textures lie translucently over the land in a couple of places in the design. This suggested to me layers of memory and the past intermingling with the present – a major theme of the book.  

The strips of coastline continue onto the back of the book, contrasted in scale by ghosted impressions of umbrella pines on the flaps and annotated illustrations of sea urchins on the endpapers – both organic elements that are described within the text.  

Various colourways were explored, the most effective being a warm terracotta, harmonising with greys and golds on an ivory texture. The design was proofed up by overprinting some sections on to a silver foil, giving an iridescent lustre to the final jacket. 

Where my Heart Used to Beat is available on 10 September, so you can see Glenn O’Neill’s cover design, and the stunning sea anemone inside cover first-hand.

5 Questions with Glen O'Neill

Somehow, between working full-time as the visual mastermind redefining the Martlet and caring for his (adorable) newborn baby, Penelope, Glen O'Neill finds time to run an artistic empire in the form of Glen O'Neill Dot Com and his hair-brained charity series Beards, Mostly, on top of giving away a boutique’s worth of free t-shirts he designed himself. And in his off hours, if you can call them that, he’s hunched over the drawing board working on more of his trademark cheeky, lighthearted creations. He sat down with Mosaic to explain how he does it, read on to find out.

Keep reading

Hanhan by Glen O'Neill.

What do you get when a nerf-herding spaceship pilot and his Wookiee meet a journalist and his dog?

Hanhan - inquisitive and polite, but he’ll always shoot first and ask questions later. Not to mention it’s the only dog you’ll ever meet that can rip your arms off.

Two intrepid heroes mashed into one. And of course their furry life mates. Star Wars meets Tin Tin in this mash-up.

Available from RedBubble.

Vote for Glen O'Neill’s t-shirt design on Threadless.

I’m not just saying this because he has a beard, a family to raise, or because he likes Star Wars. I’m saying this because he does some really great work. In fact one of his prints is hanging above my desk in my office. 

Oh, and he’s from Victoria, BC. That usually makes anyone cool in my books. Support a local artist by voting for this sweet design for the Climate Change Project T-Shirt Challenge on Threadless. His design is streets ahead of the competition. 

Vote for “Future History Lesson.”

Glenn O'Neill x Threadless

Illustration wizard and Martlet visionary Glen O'Neill has submitted a design to the Threadless Climate Project T-Shirt Challenge. Each entrant has designed a T-shirt concept to illuminate the truth about climate change, and the public gets to vote on their favourite. Check out Glen’s design to the right, then head over to vote. If you give him a five, I’m sure he’ll slap you five next time you see him.

Video: One family's urgent fight to save their daughter's life

by Carolyn Robertson posted in Mom Stories Eliza O’Neill is four years old. She loves Dora the Explorer, dressing up, singing, dancing, playing around with her big brother Beckham. But in 6 months Eliza may not be able to talk, and in 2 years she may not be able to walk. She’ll develop seizures, she’ll… Read more »

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