Jacket required: Ottawa designer makes book covers for memoirs that don't exist
On his Jacket Everyday blog, Steve St. Pierre publishes the best books never written
If you had to title your life story (up to this point), what would it be called?
There's an artist in Ottawa who wants to know, and if you're lucky, he'll make you a book cover so good, you'd better start writing your memoirs.
Since mid-March, friends and strangers have been sending Steve St. Pierre pitches for their would-be autobiographies, submitting the titles through his project's website, Jacket Everyday. Like the name suggests, the blog is all about book jackets which St. Pierre creates and publishes. Every day.
I Want to Start a Cult, Nightmares are Dreams Too, Hot Turkey & Tears. You've never heard of the authors, and maybe you never will. But if their writing is anything close to as witty as St. Pierre's designs, you'd read them all.
As a freelancer, odd jobs designing book jackets were always St. Pierre's favourite assignments. Now, the avid reader is an art director for a branding agency. "I love my job," he says, "I essentially get to draw pictures every day."
Still, he craved a passion project, he explains. "I wanted to fall in love with design again, in a way."
That's how Jacket Everyday began. It was meant to be a whim, a sideline where St. Pierre could just mess around with favourite subject. In less than a month, however, his book covers have developed some personal meaning, for both the artist and the dozens of people who've had their "biographies" brought to life.
With a few hundred submissions and counting, St. Pierre is now designing covers for more than his friends and Twitter followers.
"Honestly, the feedback — I don't get to really experience that in my day-to-day job," says St. Pierre. "If I get a couple freelance jobs out of this, great, but I wouldn't say that that's the focus," he says. "To be able to do little projects like this that bring some semblance of joy into the everyday for people, I think that's great."
"I love book cover design," St. Pierre says, and the thing that makes it special, he says, is that a successful cover is "kind of like a blind date."
"You're trying to essentially put charm into a book cover," he says. But unlike drinks with some random from Tinder, the relationship you have with a novel is likely going to be longer. Probably way more meaningful, too.
"It's that negotiation, trying to be charming and trying to get someone to just think twice about what's in front of them," says St. Pierre. "That, to me, is my favourite part of designing these things."
If you're sending St. Pierre a title, here's a tip. He likes a sense of humour in an author, and when he's picking a fresh assignment, he admits that the funniest lines usually get first priority.
"I did one last week called Nothing Make Sense And I've Stopped Even Trying to Pineapple," he says. "I lost my mind when I read it."
Once he has a title, he'll sketch out 5-10 concepts on paper, ultimately producing a cover — art often influenced by designers he loves, such as Peter Mendelsund, Coralie Bickford-Smith, or in the case of this writer's future memoir, Alvin Lustig.
St. Pierre keeps certain questions in mind while working, like this one: "What's something I can do that's kind of unexpected?" He tries to inject a bit of the author's personality into the piece as he can — which is "a bit of a crapshoot," he says, when you've got no manuscript and you're going off little more than a title and some light Instagram stalking.
"I really hope I can make them look like best-sellers," he says.
As for his own life story, St. Pierre says he's got the title picked out. You'll find it on the blog some day, but don't expect it any time soon. "It'll probably be the last one that I do, whenever it happens," he says. "But hell, if I can get one for every day of the year, sure. Why not? Go big or go home."
See St. Pierre's library of book covers, and submit your own title, at Jacket Everyday.