Behind the Covers: ‘Scent of Apples’

5-santosDistinguished Filipino writer Bienvenido N. Santos was born on this day 105 years ago (March 22, 1911). University of Washington Press recently reissued his Scent of Apples: A Collection of Stories in the Classics of Asian American Literature series. This timely new edition includes sixteen stories Santos wrote between the 1940s and the 1970s and features a new foreword by Jessica Hagedorn and an introduction by Allan Punzalan Isaac. In this guest post, UW Press designer Dustin Kilgore walks us through his creative process in designing the book’s cover.

After reading the first-person story from which the collection draws its name, Scent of Apples, I was impressed by Santos’s ability to gracefully navigate race and class outside of his native Philippines. The title is also so evocative: smell conjures memories instantly, yet it’s fleeting, ephemeral, and difficult to define except by comparison.

To convey my sense of Santos as a person and author, I decided to draw the type by hand. I hoped to capture typographically a mood of unpretentious elegance—refined, but down to earth. Above all, I wanted the cover to be as spare as Santos’s lean style:

“Helen turned toward me and smiled. Her teeth were not as her lips had promised.”—And Beyond, More Walls, p. 31

Since the stories in this book are all over the map geographically and across many subjects, setting all of the type in italics conveys a sense of movement.

After presenting some mock-ups in a design meeting with a few apple-esque color options, it came down to a version with white type on a red back ground or red type on a white background. When the white cover started to emerge as the favorite, I was happy to oblige. (It can be difficult to get white covers approved because of fears of scuffing and returns from booksellers.)


Triptych of three early color options.

To prevent scuffing we went with a gritty matte laminated paper with embossed type—a real printing splurge for us. This kind of attention to detail and higher production value can make or break a minimal typographic cover like this.

I like that the white background leaves room for interpretation and gives the cover a clean airiness, much like the actual scent of apples.

The book was originally set in the typeface Palatino, so I retained it for the back panel.


The full jacket mechanical.

This cover was a treat to design. I hope readers feel it does Santos’s stories justice.