“I love the fusion of type and illustration for Jeff ­VanderMeer’s Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy.
—Nicholas Blechman, Sunday Book Review

To those familiar with Rodrigo Corral’s work, it comes as no surprise his design for Area X made Blechman’s selects for “The Best Book Covers of 2014.” Corral, on the other hand, expresses some surprise. “The book was released so late in the year [November] and the list was finalized in December. We were pleased to make the list. There’s no better judge than Nicholas!”

As the creative director for FSG, New Directions, and Rodrigo Corral Studio, Corral knows authors. Some are more hands-on while others prefer to provide ideas via their editors. “The most successful relationships,” he says, “are the ones that trust in me and allow me the privilege to concept art for their art.”

Area X proved to be such a project. “[It] was originally published as three separate books, which were selling very well individually, with fantastic design by Charlotte Strick and illustration by Eric Nyquist,” he explains. “Combining these great works into one and then packaging it with great design would effectively give it a bigger push.”

And by bigger push, Corral, referring to his experience with the Fault in Our Stars, says, “Great books have the ability to take on a brand of their own, and design can play a significant role in helping the book rise above the noise.”

The absence of copy on the cover alludes to the intrigue inside, and if you know anything about this trilogy, suspense plays a leading role. Without the author’s name or title, the design does the heavy lifting. That’s not an easy sell in the publishing world. Just scan the shelves of your local bookstore to see cover after cover boldly boasting the title and author’s name. Fortunately Corral worked with a trio of forward-thinking creative partners—FSG publisher Jonathan Galassi, publisher and editor Sean McDonald, and author VanderMeer.

Not to mention Corral’s intern, Tyler Comrie, with whom he shares a design credit. “Oftentimes I work with a young designer or intern,” explains Corral, who’s no stranger to multitasking. Acknowledging that his days are filled with moving parts, Corral says, “For this project I had a clear vision and concept that I sketched and worked with Tyler to iterate on. He’s been great to work with.”

“It’s safe to say I read a lot,” admits Corral. And Area X? He was hooked from the very start.

It stands to reason that Corral would explore complex patterns for the design. After all, a mysterious ecosystem full of living organisms is central to the story. To represent this strange world, he developed mesmerizing, three-dimensional designs and other more organic solutions, but found them to be either too simple or too noisy. “I wasn’t sure what they were saying,” Corral says. “The final design was the right composition, and it was clear.”

While keeping up with Corral is a tall order, Instagram is the way to go. “We post things as soon as we’re allowed to make them public. And we’re always trying to peel back new layers and get to some fresh ideas.” This includes the Lindsay Lohan watch from his personal Doing Time series. Oh yes, quite the double entendre. See for yourself.