Stars in the Dark is a writing project that centers on a character born into a South/West Asian-coded society known as Mahjuren, but his heritage is Kinam, a culture coded as Southeast Asian. For the book cover, I wanted to incorporate visual elements from both real-world regions.
For the South and West Asian elements, I took my cues from iznik tiles (see above) and Turkish illumination, which feature beautiful geometric and floral motifs. For the Southeast Asian elements, I focused in on Ancient Vietnamese culture, specifically the Dong Son bronze drums (see below) and their intricately crafted surfaces.
My concept sketches were a little busy and left little room for text, so I cut back on the detail and focused on the essential elements: the central star-and-fox, the flowers, and the geometric border. I contrasted the repeating sharp spirals taken from the Dong Son drums with arabesque corner motifs that incorporate the drums' center star.
The colors I chose were directly influenced by iznik tiles but also reference key parts of the story. The shade of red often used as an accent in iznik tiles is conveniently perfect for a red fox's fur. Blue, and particularly aqua blue, is an incredibly important color in Kinam culture, being the color of "sea, sky, and stone." The "stone" is a glowing blue ore infused with magic, found only within the volcanic rock of Kinam's islands and central to the premise of the story—hence the strong usage of its bright blue on the cover.