Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sex, Death & Oysters

An unusual topic, couldn't pass this one up. For Counterpoint, this book chronicles a food writer's experiences with oysters, including history and recipes. The author, Robb Walsh has written many cookbooks on mostly Tex Mex food, so this is a departure.

One alternate comp here, a more refined take on the subject:

And the final design using spot art. I added the detail of oyster forks in the ornamental frame surrounding the subtitle :

Friday, March 27, 2009

a night with AIGA...

The other night I attended an AIGA talk in Philly featuring Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich. It's not often that AIGA features a book cover designer so I was quite happy to go. Already very familiar with Roberto's work, I've long been a admirer, but had an especially good time seeing not only his new work, but also plenty of "shelved" comps...always interesting to see.

No one does type like Roberto. He has an intuitive sensibility about type as image. While some designers limit their typefaces to a few, there is a huge range in Roberto's typography--it is simply beautiful and never appears as an afterthought. And what a relief to see some beautiful work. What happened to beauty? While I think there is a lot of great work today, somehow beauty is too seldom a part of the equation anymore. Modern, engaging, fresh, bold, conceptual, yes, but beautiful...well, not always. Somehow beauty has been relegated to boring.

Roberto's work fills both those categories of being modern, fresh AND beautiful and it was wonderful to see.

Maybe in part because this was my first time being on my own for more than 2 hours since my daughter was born, but attending this talk was a pretty great way to spend an evening.

Feed the Hungry

Jacket for Simon & Schuster. From Amazon: This rambling memoir takes readers from a Virginia plantation to punk-era New York City, with stops in the Bahamas, Brazil, Japan and other alluring destinations.

For the first round of comps, I had the words "lush," "beautiful," and "exotic" in mind. I tried to balance these concepts with the writer's upbringing in Virginia. The first concept uses a recipe card to hold the type:

For this concept, I took silhouettes of various elements from the book and filled them with color (actually a photo beneath, moved around between the objects).

A more traditional approach, beautiful and literary in feel:

Much bolder, touches on the exotic elements in the writing:

I was then asked to work with photos of the author as a young girl and her father. I adapted the recipe card and also brought in some small ornaments to hint at the author's travels:

In the end, they went for a much simpler adaptation:

It has occurred to me after Jonathan's comment that there is some disconnect between the photo on the final cover and the title. This cover went through many revisions (more than what I'm showing) and basically kept getting "simplified." The overall tone of the book shifted too. The final cover doesn't give you any sense of "food" and instead looks like a memoir (with a slightly sad sensibility to it paired with the title). Only the subtitle gives an indication of the author's connection to food...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Hi, Anxiety

Originally called Hi, Anxiety, this is a cover from Amy King at Bloomsbury. The writing is an examination of anxiety disorders, specifically chronicling the author's own personal experience.

The final cover, which I did not design, is great. Sometimes the feel of the book goes through a transition. For this cover, I think I was working more towards "phobias" rather than "anxiety." That was probably where I went wrong. The final cover conveys a lot with such a simple design (again, on Amazon).

Here are some of my comps. First up, my version of making type look anxious!

Phobia overload:

I had this idea of making the back cover and front cover work together. I'm thinking the final cover took a bit of a cue from this design with the radiating circles:

Title change. A more intimate, memoir feel:

Friday, March 13, 2009


I love working for university presses. Great people, always challenging titles, and most importantly, limited revisions. In all my years working with these presses I think I've maybe had a job killed once or twice. Here is one of them...

I worked with Charles Hames at NYU Press on this title. Charles always gives me interesting covers to work on and I usually get comps that I'm very pleased with during the process. This title, Keywords for American Cultural Studies, came to me with the usual tip sheet and a couple photos of keys for direction. I liked the idea of using a key, but wanted to make it iconic and bolder so I used silhouettes. A literal take on the title for sure, but with a long list of words to include, the silhouette added a graphic element that created more visual interest. Comps didn't necessarily have to use all the key terms.

A darker variation:

Type only:

NYU provided this photo and asked me to work with it. The photo quality is low res, but it's of key hooks underneath of which I added the words:

In the end, which came quickly, they went in an entirely different direction (on Amazon).

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Waiting for the Apocalypse

I worked with Chin-Yee Lai at W. W. Norton on this jacket. I usually feel the most pressure to please an author with memoirs because they're so personal. The first question I usually have for an art director with memoirs is if we need to put an image of the author on the cover. Most of the time the answer is no. This jacket went through many revisions with no family photo until I asked for them. Should have asked sooner as it turns out...

The book is a coming of age memoir taking place in the 1970s. The author focuses on her childhood in an ultraconservative Catholic family. I thought the writing was often humorous, but there is an undertone of sadness.

From the first round, the young girl praying, kind of a 70s look with the hair. The distorted type making the sign of the cross:

Long shot here, but I really like the bizarre nature of the photo. The young girl, outfitted in 70s attire, laying in wait with her toy gun:

I was drawn to this photo of a young girl reading the bible. I think the one eye peeking out says a lot:

Eventually I did ask for family photos. Here is a cropped image. The "t" in waiting" is meant to look like a rosary:

And the final. The family photo turned on it's side with a sense of upheaval proved to be the best solution. Perfect sense of time and place: