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How designer Jessica Sullivan found the perfect cover image for The Jade Peony


I designed the current cover of The Jade Peony in 2005. (Which seems like a long time ago now — I was still in my twenties and I didn't have any children!) I remember Peter Cocking (art director at D&M Publishers) and I were both working on the covers of novels set in Vancouver's Chinatown in the middle of the 20th century.

We decided to take a different approach to these covers instead of relying on any stock imagery. Given that the setting of the books was just down the street from our office, we took a field trip to Chinatown.


We walked around for a couple of hours checking out different shops and streets, waiting for something to catch our eye. I came back with a $100 dish, a tiny little antique plate on a slight pedestal. I wish I knew what it was for. But it just seemed right, for the tone of the novel, the domestic aspects, and it also fit nicely with the title.

I recall Wayson Choy was pretty happy with the redesign and later contacted me directly. As the designer, I almost never get to meet the authors, so it was an unexpected call. We met for ice cream and he had me sign some prints of the cover, which he also signed and later auctioned off with copies of the book at a charity event. (I recall hearing afterward that he was very excited by what he was able to fetch with the packages he had made.) He also presented me with a pendant. He had chosen it because it reminded him of the colours from the dish and cover design. It was really beautiful, and again, very unexpected.

I was so nervous meeting Wayson, and left so speechless by the whole encounter, that I was never able to tell him how much I enjoyed his novel. To this day I cringe when I think about that. But I can say it now — I very much enjoyed reading The Jade Peony, which made it easy to take some extra care with the design. And I very much enjoyed meeting Wayson, who is a very sweet and lovely man. I think of him every time I wear his pendant.

Jessica Sullivan is a designer at Douglas & McIntyre.


Read the blog posts from the designers of the other Canada Reads books:


Designer Scott Richardson describes how the cover of Fall On Your Knees has evolved

A tale of two covers: David Drummond on designing both editions of Good to a Fault

Judith Stagnitto Abbate describes following Douglas Coupland's visual cues in her design of Generation X

Designer Scott Richardson opens up about the cover of Nikolski



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