You would be forgiven for not naturally associating the work of Virginia Woolf with the cult Finnish textile company Marimekko. Woolf, an author who muscled her way into an almost completely male literary canon in the early 20th century, usually inspires cover designs that are muted and sober. Marimekko, on the other hand, is known for its cheery prints and bold use of color.
That didn’t stop Penguin U.K. Creative Director Suzanne Dean from contacting the Helsinki-based illustrator and Marimekko designer Aino-Maija Metsola to design Woolf books that Vintage Classics are reissuing this fall. The results are as lovely as they are unexpected: Each book in the six-part series is rendered in lush watercolors and abstract patterns.
Metsola, who is Finnish, wanted to find a way to translate Woolf’s style of writing into images while still capturing the atmospheres and themes unique to each text. As she typically works in watercolors when designing textiles, it was an obvious medium for her cover designs. Inspired by the intensity of Woolf’s writing, Metsola chose strong colors, but also made her designs fluid and open to interpretation.
Though Metsola usually designs for clothing rather than books, she said she found similarities in the design process. “When I design a book cover, I start with someone else’s text and build on it, but when I design textiles, I start usually with my own experiences, feelings, and thoughts,” Metsola writes. “But as the projects proceed, both the book cover design and the textiles become personal for me, so in that way, they are in the end similar.”
The Virginia Woolf paperback reissues will be published by Vintage Classics on October 6.