Ahdini Izzatika on designing covers with spontaneity — Singapore Lit Prize feature

This July 2018, in light of the biennial Singapore Literature Prize (SLP), we’ll be featuring our writers who’ve had their works shortlisted for the SLP 2018! Ethos is proud to have five titles on the shortlist this year—Phedra, 17A Keong Saik Road, Bitter Punch, The Magic Circle and Giving Ground—and beyond the SLP, we’re most interested to find out what went into the creative process behind these books.

A good cover catches the eye, compels you to pick up a book in a busy bookstore, and often gives a unique take on the story. Throughout this series of 'Judging a Book By Its Cover', we discover books through their cover designs.

This week, we have Ahdini Izzatika, the cover designer of Bitter Punch. Read on to find out about the artwork that inspires her and how Bitter Punch inspired her own poetry work!


"With drawing and painting, I used to have a vague visual of how things might turn out, but I am not restrained as I rely on spontaneous flow.”—Ahdini Izzatika

What is design to you and what mediums are you drawn to?

To me, design or art is about responding to a phenomenon that we observe. And mediums are much like a bridge to get across to the topic inquired or expressed. Although there usually is a vague medium preference from the start, the concept plays a big part in changing the direction. Sticking to one medium can be draining at times and I take it as an indication to experiment with different approaches – whether or not a shift or a mix of mediums is needed – because they would each present different tones in responding to the concept.

Currently, I am focused on a lot of video, drawing, and writing work. I enjoy the way it engages people ultimately, I don’t try to label the mediums because I see them as extended hands. For example, if at one point, say, I feel the need to burn half of my drawing and exhibit part of the ashes and that sums up the concept better, I would be open to that. At least, for now, the concept is what makes the project exciting, and medium follows.

Describe your creative design process.

With drawing and painting, I used to have a vague visual of how things might turn out, but I am not restrained as I rely on spontaneous flow. I don’t like to make pre-sketches. But recently, my direction has changed slightly and gotten more complex, so I’ve been brainstorming a lot. Mind-mapping, which was too tedious for me previously, now becomes important. But with constant reflection, changes are still very likely to happen.

Share with us one piece of artwork that inspires your journey as an artist.

The classic Agnes Cecile speed painting video on Youtube made me start painting after I’d found no reason to for so long. Pathompon Mont, who does both contemporary art and experimental films has given me a mental breakthrough of what could be attained between two ideals. But with regard to being inspired by a working living artist, I look up to some of my lecturers. I guess that is the importance of being in the same space with a certain kind of people; there may be a gap of experience but being mere feet away, talking to them, shows many possibilities in direction for an artist.

If you could describe your art style with one food item what would it be and why?

Concept wise, a steak. To a certain degree, it has to have rawness in it. But it also has to sort of makes sense. At least for me.

On book design, what was your main inspiration for the cover design of Bitter Punch?

The sense that I’d gotten from the title was the first thing, and then a few pages in of the manuscript brought me deeper and showed me much of what would suit the title. It was a spontaneous line of drawing that I felt suited the book best after considering the above.

If you could use just three words, how would you describe the poems in Bitter Punch?

Reality. Mundane. Acceptance.

What do you think is the difference in designing covers for books as compared to other creative projects?

Well, in this particular project, designing the book was closer to fine art than design as I was given trust to apply one particular style that I had, which became quite therapeutic for me in the process. Although of course as art also does, some adjustments were made for some purposes.

Responding to the question, I believe the difference would be more toward the kind of audience, people who receive from the other end and the percentage of compromise between their preference and ours as creator.

With the advent of e-books and digital platforms, some say that book covers are increasingly taking a back seat. How do you think book cover designs can evolve with this trend?

Probably the case with digital e-books is the same as to how covers would attract people in a conventional store. The title gives a pretty clear idea but that alone won’t give people a further glimpse into the vibe of the book.

If it’s the matter of the shift of investment due to the shift of printed media, then I suppose probably with much lesser cost in digital production, circulation of cover design might be faster as well. Maybe… haha.

You have released your own compilation of poetry and art in 2016, are there any future plans to release another collection?

Haha… thank you for mentioning it. It was just a small project I did with my good friend and yes, I have always liked writing although I’m still learning to commit to it. Knowing which to expose, which not to, was also part of the challenge.

Actually, if you look at the alternate style between the poetry and drawing, it was clearly inspired by the project I did with Bitter Punch.

As for future releases, there have been some discussions and progress but there’s still a lot of work to be done.

If you would like to check out more of Ahdini's art as well as her own compilation of poetry, click on this link!

If you loved this article about the cover design of Bitter Punch, why not participate in this contest and vote for Bitter Punch as your favourite cover design for SLP! Stand a chance to win a copy of the book as well!

Bitter Punch is also available on our webstore, and in all good bookstores.

P.S. For the first time and in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Singapore Book Council, the public is invited to attend the SLP awards ceremony. Come meet your favourite authors! Free registration here.