The making of the cover design for The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

Overview   Process  

The illustrator reads the book. The men in the world of the book have a habit of tattooing their wives’ portraits on their chests. The protagonist is not married, so the seamen make him a tattoo of a famous Korean actress which leads to him being recognized as the true husband of this woman, a high ranking official.


johnson process 01

Art director: OK.

Showing to the client.

Client: I have mixed feelings. I really like the large, ragged, unusual typeface. It took me time to realize that it is a tattoo on a man’s chest: the man’s figure can’t be easily recognized, the flowers around the tattoo look like a funeral wreath.

After some consideration, the client tunes into the idea of the illustration and approves the draft.

Drawing the final version.

johnson process 02

Client: This is beautiful. Though I think there should be a Byblos logo on the backbone, as well as on the first cover.


Receiving reviews to be placed on the back cover and realizing that they won’t fit.

johnson process 03

Deciding to adjust the illustration. Relocating the fishes and moving the flag.

johnson process 04

Art director: The author’s name is illegible and it’s sloppy under the text on the back.

Making final adjustments to the illustration and putting age restriction mark.

johnson process 05

Order a design...