The Elegant Cockroach is a just-back-from-the-printer book that I had the pleasure of art directing and publishing. I fondly describe it as "a storybook for whimsical adults and sophisticated children." Written and co-art directed by Deidre Anne Martin, the book tells the tale of an elegant cockroach living on his own in the big city. Although there's always lots to keep him occupied — learning Spanish guitar, sitting in coffeeshops, going for walks and reading fine literature — the cockroach is out of place and out of sorts. He seems to be the only one of his kind and longs for love.
With collage illustrations by New York-based artist Stefanie Augustine, the Elegant Cockroach is a dapper and charming fellow living in a grey metropolis. Designing such a character and setting the scene was a challenge: how do you make an insect an appealing and sympathetic creature? How do you make what is perceived as a pest into the romantic lead? Deidre set the tone with this description: "It’s Charlotte’s Web meets The Elephant Man; Aesop’s Fables crossed with The Magnificent Ambersons; one part Tim Burton, two parts Leonard Cohen." Stefanie deftly used scraps of paper to piece together a cockroach with heart and style.
Further inspired by black and white cinema, New York in the 1940s, newspapers and classic literature, the book design is simple yet dramatic. The typography is set to enhance the nuances of the text and subtly shape the reader's experience of the written word.
The process of creating this book was very collaborative, with each of us bringing our sensibilities and talents into the mix. "Writing the story was only the beginning," says Deidre. "I had to walk around with it in my back pocket for what seemed an eternity until I came across just the right people to help me turn it into a real book."