Custom covers: Suzanne Dean’s sticker book for grown-ups

Published:  June 23, 2014
Lucy Waddington

Creative director at Random House, Suzanne Dean, was asked to commission a book cover for the latest novel by prolific Japanese author, Haruki Murakami: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. ‘Tsukuru’ is a japanese verb that can be translated as ‘to make’ or ‘to build’, a literary theme explored heavily throughout the narrative and actively showcased by Dean.

Created by five Japanese illustrators, Mio Matsumoto, Fumio Obata, Ryu Itadani, Natsko Seki and Shinko Okuhara, a packet of stickers is supplied with each hardback first edition — allowing readers to “design their own covers.” Dean says, “my young sons delight in using stickers everywhere started me thinking about this. I had seen stickers used on Royal Mail stamps, on CDs and books, but I didn’t think they had been incorporated into adult fiction.”


Divided by characters and colours in the novel, each illustrator was asked to create stickers that reflected each personality and unique story. A group of adhesive images for Colourless, Blue, Red, White and Black, speak with a distinctive voice that is translated by the stylistic nuances of its creator. Whether it be naive graphite or ink illustrations, carefully rendered graphics or bleeding watercolour stains, each collection possesses individuality but also a binding sense of cohesion.

Murakami stickers

Deemed one of the ‘100 most influential people in the book trade’, Dean started designing for Penguin over 20 years ago before moving to Picador and then Random House, where she now oversees all of Cornerstone and Vintage Publishing. Having conceived some of the printed world’s most diverse and memorable covers, such as Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, Don DeLillo’s hardback of Underworld, Ian McEwan’s Atonement and Mark Haddon’s critically acclaimed The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-time, Dean would have been a natural choice to steer the cover creation of Murakami’s latest release.

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