Iss by Fiona Macinnes

iss book wraparound cover fiona macinnes martin scott laird
‘Iss’ by Fiona Macinnes. wraparound cover, 2013.


I was asked to design the cover for a novel by Orcadian author/artist Fiona MacInnes, called ‘Iss’, which was published by Stromness Books and Prints in 2013. ‘Iss’ is how the word ‘us’ sounds in an Orkney tongue, and the book deals with themes of cultural identity. Having been born in Orkney to parents who were not Orcadian, and then leaving island life for art school and the city, there is much in Fiona’s book that I can identify with.

“Set in Orkney and Edinburgh from the 1950’s to the closing decades of the 20th century, this novel is a moving and compassionate evocation of life in a small fishing community and the struggle to find one’s place and a sense of self at a time of political and cultural upheaval.”

For the cover, Fiona provided a rough concept sketch based on a photo which made use of found objects and textural marks. I expanded upon this idea using a variety of personal items which were provided by Fiona, and which had significance to her in relation to the novel. I looked at the work of Joseph Cornell and Dave McKean for inspiration, and constructed a wooden frame in which to create a composition of found objects.

Most of the objects in the design relate to fishing and the sea, such as buoys, fishing-net needles, shells (of the sea and shotgun varieties), and navigation charts. The resulting assemblage, a sort of relief sculpture, was then photographed. There is some digital manipulation in the final design, mainly to enhance colour and texture, and to add text.


For more information, including extracts of ‘ISS’ which you can download and read, please visit Fiona’s website: