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Midnight Doorways: Fables from Pakistan

About project

From the Bram Stoker Award for Short Fiction winner Usman Tanveer Malik, Midnight Doorways: Fables from Pakistan is the first collection of speculative fiction stories from Pakistan featuring the work of seven Pakistani illustrators. I was asked to design its cover, with Mushba Said handling the type treatment.

My illustrations would set the tone for the interior motifs used by Mushba who was also responsible for typesetting and designing the book. 

In our initial discussion Usman and I found we had similar influences in mind, particularly the work of 20th century illustrators like Edmund Dulac and Harry Clarke. The challenge would be to introduce Pakistani motifs as well as incorporate a contemporary visual feel to this unique collection.

Out of the options I sketched, Usman, Mushba, and I gravitated strongly to the first one. I suggested drawing motifs that would fill the cover, each having to do with one of Usman’s stories.

Usman described his stories as “restless” and unsettling so I used overlaid patterns to visualise that feeling. At the same time, I wanted to mimic the openness of a doorway and used negative space to make the patterns look porous.

As this is a collection of short stories, there are numerous characters within the book. I wanted the characters to be contained by the frames surrounding them but affected by the patterned elements as well, to underscore recurring themes in Usman’s work where the outside world deeply impacts and shapes the characters in each story.

Usman’s work also contains a lot of medical terminology and references to bodies as vessels of important powers/ knowledge. With the figures, I wanted them obscured enough that they could stand in for any of the characters but also use the effects of the patterns to mimic x-rays/heat maps.