When Vee started drawing up initial ideas (“the roughest of sketches,” he emphasized), he began “in a very obvious place, using the flag but replacing the sun with a very literal heart. It’s playing exactly into the title.”
Then he decided to deconstruct the sunrise idea. “It’s still the sun at the top, but it’s casting these shadows,” Vee said. “I would have refined this; the words don’t exactly line up. The words in shadows are the same text, but in a Filipino dialect. The shadows speak to looking back on the past, and some sort of discussion happening between then and now.”
Another version incorporated a stock illustration of the American flag on an island — “this idyllic little island, where you’ve got your own lawn,” Vee said. “It just looks like the American dream to me. And I turned it into the Filipino flag as well and put that up top. I think the next step would have been to somehow make it so that if you turned the cover upside down, it would still work. The type is very rough, that was just a stand-in. I’m not a great hand-typer.”
The final cover, below, includes Vee’s treatment of an old stock illustration. He said that he normally tries to avoid using stock images, but this one reminded him strongly of how he felt while reading the novel. “It’s this idea of being torn between two homes,” he said. “Did she emigrate to America or from the Philippines? It evokes a certain time period of traditional American values. There was initially a full family there, and I erased the father and son.”
The type treatment for the title and Castillo’s name was originally “very straightforward,” Vee said, but the final version “felt like the book to me.” Vee deliberately cropped off the place where the path meets the horizon. “I just wanted it to be a vague idea of where they’re headed to, wherever that is. So the text is meant to be radiating out from there, almost like sun rays.”
“I really wanted to nail this on behalf of my people,” Vee said. “It was a one-of-a-kind opportunity. For a while I thought about just finding a picture of my mother that was taken at the right age. I was definitely playing with the idea of putting my mother on the cover of this book.”
Sometimes a designer gets the perfect cover on the first try; or just about, anyway. That’s what happened when Marina Drukman, the art director of Melville House, was working on Tom Feiling’s “The Island That Disappeared.” “I knew right away that I wanted to do a map, because I love maps, especially old maps,” she said.