Artist Sean Freeman and his creative partner Eve Steben worked with the team at Penguin Random House on the cover of New York Times bestselling author Stephanie Perkins’ latest release ‘There’s Someone Inside Your House’. Interview below with Sean and Eve gives a bit of insight on working on the project and the challenge of creating the scary scene, sans blood:
How did you come up with the concept? Did you and Stephanie have any conversations about it beforehand?
We explored several creative avenues around the house theme and the author’s notes, and tried to think about how we could translate something scary without showing violence or blood. The title being quite evocative of someone watching you – we thought the danger felt more imminent and menacing from inside, enhancing the feeling of proximity.
The addition of a play with darkness felt like a natural extension of this idea, pushing the sensation of isolation – that you’re alone inside with a stranger, with something not so fun just about to happen… That said, we thought that the staircase was a good symbol of these rural houses featured in the book – also translated well this idea of a scary chase in the dark.
Bedding the title directly into the scene as a kind of flashlight effect is also in line with playing with the space with as much realism as possible, thus making the depth and details breathe a scary atmosphere.
Can you walk us through how you designed this cover?
Once the team was aligned on the concept, we decided to go for a wooden miniature set, based on historical replicas (fascinating world!), which we painted and assembled by hand. We built several different sets of stairs, as well as a modular ‘room’, where we could play with the angles of the walls, and subsequently the light effects and how the title would hit surfaces. We finally created several layouts for our title, and tested a plethora of fonts to see how it would react once projected into the set, with different light intensities, colours, etc. Many, many clicks and trials of various combinations later, a cover artwork magically emerged.
Why go through the process of creating a model, photographing it, projecting, etc? What is the added value of doing it in such a tactile way instead of digitally?
The idea was to create an immersive visual, therefore having a real life model definitely adds a strong element to the visual. It’s an entirely different way of working, allowing lots of flexibility and experimentation in the development process, with the possibility of adding lots of natural details. Even more importantly in this case, going the physical way was the only way of exploring the space itself, and embracing how it would organically guide us towards the perfect design while playing with lights and shadows.
What were you hoping to get across in the cover?
Our goal was to create an eye-catching cover that would stand out from the usual horror blockbuster aesthetic – to create a spooky ambiance using classic elements, with a modern, graphic twist.
What was the most challenging part?
The biggest challenge was to play with the light itself, as any slight little movement distorts the lettering and wraps elements in a whole different way – creating each time an entirely different scene, almost like a whole different story. That said, the tricky and somehow laborious parts of this project were indeed to find the equilibrium between the geometric elements of the space, the light & the shadows, but also integrating a rather long title while retaining a maximum legibility. Ultimately, we wanted to create an image where both the title and the scene were very powerful visual elements – at the same time contrasting and completing each other.