The Evolution of a Cover — Julia Kushnirsky on "Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City"

Earlier this week we featured the cover for Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City. In the following post, Julia Kushnirsky, the book’s designer, describes the thinking behind this beautifully evocative cover:

Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City is translated from Chinese and is an imagined literary history of Hong Kong.

The author sent us a cover of the Chinese edition that was published in Hong Kong. We felt that the significance of the bird may not be familiar to American readers, and we wanted a bolder, literary look.

Atlas, Chinese Hong Kong

I liked the concept of showing a map with the section of Hong Kong missing since it gave the reader a sense of wanting to discover the lost city. I decided to choose historic images to show the archaeological aspect of the book. I had found an antique map of Hong Kong that was created in 1841 by Captain Edward Belcher, which added to the sense of discovery and adventure felt by the explorers of the 18th century.

Atlas, Hong Kong Map

To “age” the black and white image I gave it a sepia tone. I wanted to fill the “missing” section of the map with a nostalgic image of the “vanished” city. I found an original hand tinted photograph of Hong Kong harbor circa 1900. It was beautifully naturally faded with sepia tones that worked really well with the map.


Finally for the title type I wanted it have movement and handwritten quality as if someone wrote across the map with a quill pen. For the final jacket design I added ragged yellowed edges to the flaps and splotches of ink on the spine and back flap.

Our printer, Coral Graphics did a beautiful job picking up the colors and adding dimension with matte and gloss effect.

Atlas, Dung Kai-cheung

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