The Lesser-Known Creators Behind Well-Known Book Covers

When you walk into a bookstore, unless you are on the hunt for a specific release or beloved author, generally an enticing book cover will draw you over to a particular selection. Maybe you notice the bold typographical choices, the striking illustration, the contrasting colors. While you’re admiring the feat of creativity in your hands and considering whether you’re willing to invest in the content within, do you think about the human responsible for the interesting cover?

Meet Rachel Willey and Rodrigo Corral, two of the behind-the-scenes designers who have created notable covers that frequently draw us bookstore wanderers in.

Rachel Willey
Originally from Southern California, Rachel spent years working in bookstores, which fostered her love of fiction and nonfiction writing. Dissatisfied with her journalism program in college, she moved to New York and pursued her desire to be involved in the creative process of book production. A 2012 graduate of the School of Visual Arts, she now resides in Brooklyn. She initially designed book interiors for Abrams Books before moving on to cover design for Penguin Random House. She currently works as a designer for the New York Times Magazine, and some of her current clients include Henry Holt, Hachette, and Simon & Schuster.

Many of Rachel’s designs feature bold typography. For example, her design for New People by Danzy Senna has the title and the author’s name in bold, off-kilter type, which serves to indicate the similarly bold personality of the biracial protagonist and also hints at themes of personal struggle and displacement.

New People by Danny Senna book cover

New People by Danzy Senna (2017)

In an interview with Artsy, Rachel said, “The most rewarding aspect of designing [covers] for me is that I get to play a tiny part in a process that I find so remarkable.” Some of her designs include covers for The Mothers by Brit Bennett and The Pisces by Melissa Broder.

Rodrigo Corral
A lifelong New Yorker, Rodrigo grew up in Long Island and attended the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. With a publishing career spanning two decades, Rodrigo owns a design studio and serves as the creative director for publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Rodrigo has designed covers for many notable authors, including John Green, Junot Díaz, Jay-Z, and Chuck Palahniuk.

The inspiration for Rodrigo’s designs comes from a combination of experience and noteworthy moments in the manuscript. His work usually combines bold typographical choices with strong imagery, almost creating a specialized logo for the book. In a Wall Street Journal article, Mr. Palahniuk remarked on Rodrigo’s individuality, saying, “As proof of his gift I’ve seen thousands of young people tattooed with those images he’s created. I wish he could see the beautiful thighs, chests, backs, and arms where his work is showcased.”

Fight Club book cover

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk (1996)

Rodrigo particularly loves the collaborative process of design, working not just with the author but also with the agent, the publisher, and the marketing team to create a single image that encapsulates a book’s essence. Also quoted on Artsy, Rodrigo says that the most rewarding part of his job is getting “the opportunity to read stories that are about today and also not of this world, and then explore how best to translate them into an image or images.” Along with Fight Club, some of Rodrigo’s cover designs include Decoded by Jay-Z, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff.