Talking to the Artist Behind Those Awesome One Teen Story Covers

11/29/2012 9:00 AM |

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When the Gowanus-based short-story bookleteer One Story launched a teen-fiction sister-publication this summer, it wasn’t just the intended audience that distinguished the two—it was the covers. While the adult boasts a functional recurring design, One Teen Story features vibrant illustrations from erstwhile Brooklynite Stefan Lawrence, an artist (and more!) now based in Los Angeles. We reached out to Lawrence to find out how he creates the covers—and how long he expects to do it.

Does the age of your audience affect your approach at all?
I don’t think so. Young adults these days are very visually sophisticated, so there’s never been any talk of dumbing down the designs. I do try to design with energy and fun, which fits the audience, but that’s how I tend to approach most of my design anyway.

What influences this work specifically?
It varies. A lot of the style is influenced (read: cribbed) from classic show posters, but there are covers in the series that take their cue from magic posters, zines and tattoo art. If there’s a throughline, it’s art that has a straightforward style—all about presenting information in a bold, attention-grabbing way.

The covers look like they’re stamped; are they really? Or is that just a digital effect?
Oh, I wish they were actually screenprinted! You guessed correctly: it’s just layers of digital noise. Given the time, I would love to have them screenprinted, scanned and reproduced that way. But I do try to make the distressing look fairly organic.

I feel like each cover has been better than the last. How has your approach to them evolved?
Well, that’s very nice of you to say! Originally, the idea was to design the covers along the lines of the Hatch Show Print posters—make them almost like little concert posters. But as I started doodling on the first couple of covers, that started to feel a little bit limiting. So I started to let the content of the stories begin to dictate the style of the covers—as it probably should be. I’m finding that the subject matter of the stories themselves is so juicy and fun that they tell me what kind of cover they want to have. It ends up being a very organic process.

How did you get the One Teen Story gig?
My sister-in-law Helen Ellis is an author, and she introduced me to [editor] Pei-Ling Lue, who was just starting up One Teen Story. We met and had a good lunch, where we talked about design influences and what she had in mind for the magazine. A little while later, she kindly offered me the job. I would have done it for nothing, it’s such a fun project with lots of creative freedom.

Are you their official cover designer?
I’m the official cover designer for the first year, so I’m on board for nine issues. We’ll see what happens after that! I know the original idea was to have a different designer do each year’s issues.

Did you ever live in Brooklyn?
I lived in Park Slope for 11 years, actually, until last January. I love Brooklyn. I miss it. 

Why did you move to Los Angeles?
I moved to LA in order to get into theme park design, which is how I make my living now. I work for a company called Rethink Attractions in North Hollywood, as a writer and designer. I get to go on business trips now where visiting Disneyland Paris counts as “research.”

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart