Virginia Woolf book covers – Interview with Suzanne Dean

A glimpse. A sniff. A touch. An emotion. A love at first sight…

This is what we, bibliophiles, feel when we spot the book of our dreams. It’s a connection that triggers imagination long before the words do. Our first encounter with the story and the author happens thanks to a book cover.

A well designed book cover is like the best dress you put on. You have a perfect body and soul, so let it manifest through what you wear.

Today, I want to present to you my interview with Suzanne Dean, Creative Director at Penguin Random House Group, whose work I showed to you some time ago in my post on Julian Barnes’s The Sense of an Ending.

Suzanne is the mastermind behind the new Vintage Classics Woolf Series‘ covers that have been created in cooperation with Marimekko‘s designer, Aino-Maija Metsola.

virginia woolf

Virginia Woolf covers collage

Barbara Bienias: Where did the idea of cooperation with Marimekko’s designer, Aino-Maija Metsola, come from? How important was the connection between the old and the new in the whole project (especially in the context of the classic Vanessa Bell’s covers)?

Suzanne Dean: I have made up a mood board of images of Vanessa Bell’s covers and views from the interiors of Charleston House. What I wanted was a modern interperation of the Vanessa Bell covers.

Suzanne Dean on Virginia Woolf's covers

Background image via here

Having looked at Aino-Maija’s work I believed she would be perfect for the commission.

I gave her the mood board along with a brief suggesting themes and copies of the book.

BB: Was the whole process of inventing/reinventing the series long?

SD: Once I had contacted Aino-Maija Metsola, and we had sorted out a schedule, it didn’t really take too long. The only bit we went back and forth on was the lettering.

BB: Do you have your favourite cover in this series? If so, why?


BB: What is your favourite Virginia Woolf’s work (or quote)?

SD: “I am made and remade continually.”

BB: I have a feeling that since Michael Cunningham’s The Hours we observe a growing interest in Virginia Woolf – her life and works. In your opinion, why could she be so important to modern women?

SD: Virginia Woolf championed creative and intellectual freedom, and the role of education for women.

BB. What are the advantages of a printed book over an e-book? And what is the role of a book cover in a digital age?

SD: The books on our shelves say so much about us. Not only does a beautiful book look great; it feels much better to read and hold in your hands. Overall, to me it’s a much more pleasing experience.

BB: Do you plan any other Vintage Classics Series in cooperation with home decor designers?

SD: Not with home décor designers — but we have a Vintage Classic Russian series that’s due out at the end of this year. I have used Russian textiles as an integral part of the design.

BB: What is one object that you use in your work on book cover designs that you can’t live without?

SD: That would be my reference library that I have built up over many years.

BB: Thank you very much for this, Suzanne.

If you want to see more Marimekko’s inspirations, take a look at my Pinterest board:

pinterest moodboard

What do you think about these book covers and the idea of connecting textiles with books? Do you have your favourite book cover? Leave me a message in the comment box below or in my social media.

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Have a great week!

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