Back in mid-2012 when I was still at Penguin, I was assigned the cover for the first English translation of the famous Turkish novel The Time Regulation Institute. At the time, the manuscript was still in the middle of being translated, so for about 1/2 of the text each sentence was repeated 2 or 3 times consecutively, each time with slightly different wording. This made for some tedious and confusing reading, but in the end I was able to piece together most of the plot.
This novel is about the formation of an absurdly bureaucratic organization (The Time Regulation Institute) whose sole purpose is to synchronize all of the timepieces in Istanbul. The subtext deals with the tension between East and West, Modernity and Tradition, and the story is narrated by a very serious character who relays all of this absurdity and silliness with a straight face.
The original plan was to publish this book in hardcover as a special edition. I started off with bold, colorful, mid-century inspired designs, emphasizing the combination of Turkish tradition, timekeeping, and absurdism:
As soon as I had finished my Round 1 designs, the entire project was put on hold due to translation issues. About a year passed, and when the cover came back onto the table, I had decided to try some paper collage in order to give the cover a quieter and more serious type of intrigue, while still being playful:
These designs went over pretty well, but the cover was put on hold once again until mid-2013. At this point, the publisher had decided to scrap the hardcover idea, and instead wanted to release this in paperback as a Penguin Classic. A special dust jacket would be produced to go over the paperback cover, which would have die-cut holes to show through the art from below.
This meant another re-design, in order to allow the jacket art to interact with the cover art, while still keeping each element interesting on its own.
In the end, we changed the color to maroon for the final design: