The Lays of Marie de France
The author introduced this collection with the following words:
Marie’s subjects are the charms and difficulties of love of various kinds and the way goodness and wickedness are rewarded and punished in a complicated world. But it would be a disservice to her and to the poems to try to extract a philosophical or political “position” from pieces that are, I think, written as entertainments and deliberately mixed in approach and attitude. One might think of these poems as toys for adults, for they are decorous variations on themes from fairy tales and Märchen.
And then he sent along a fantastical picture of a werewolf for use on the cover.
Using futuristic folklore imagery on the cover seemed incongruous with the lyrical translations of twelfth-century french lais inside. I wanted to describe a creature of fable in a style that doesn’t contradict the era quite so loudly. So I roughed out a tail with some ink, leaving the face of the beast to the imagination, and paired it with the most geriatric typeface I could find (though it’s still a few hundred years younger than the High Middle Ages) Bruce Rogers’s calligraphic Centaur.
Social Democracy After the Cold War
Offering a comparative look at social democratic experience since the Cold War, this volume examines countries where social democracy has long been an influential political force — Sweden, Germany, Britain, and Australia — while also considering the history of Canada’s NDP.
The editors wanted to use the Socialist International rose-in-fist image on the cover. My proposal for a more informal and inventive interpretation of the organizations’s poetic logo was approved.
“. . . aspirations to perfection awaken us to our actual imperfection.”
– Patrick Grant
The client provided this loaded excerpt as a brief and it gave me lots to think about:
“As Bruce Bartlett (advisor to Ronald Reagan and the first President Bush) told New York Times reporter Ron Suskind: ‘This is why George W. Bush is so clear-eyed about al Qaeda and the Islamic fundamentalist enemy. He believes you have to kill them all. They can’t be persuaded, that they are extremists, driven by a dark vision. He understands them because he is just like them.’ One of the best books on the recent Northern Ireland conflict is Richard Davis’s Mirror Hate (Aldershot: Dartmouth, 1994), and, among other things, it can help to clarify some implications of Bartlett’s remark. In this elegant and telling analysis Davis shows that although Republican and Loyalist paramilitaries are enemies, they also mirror one another. The enmity in itself is not difficult to describe because it is plainly declared by the opposed factions and their propagandists. But a further process of ‘unconscious convergence,’ whereby the opposed factions come to resemble one another, is more difficult to discern. That is, if we hate with sufficient intensity, we unwittingly become like our enemy, mirroring our enemy’s strategies and our enemy’s thinking. And in this ‘symbiotic antagonism,’ says Davis, the simplifications of propaganda readily triumph over ‘humanity and common sense.’ “
Cover photo by Lauri Rotko.
I was asked to do the impossible: create an image that blends the author’s Cree/Ojibwe/Scottish/English heritage. Naomi McIlwraith’s new collection of poetry is written in both English and Plains Cree, and focuses on the concern of language loss.
Below is my preliminary pencil crayon sketch for the title block. Root imagery not only pops up often in the text, but is a fitting way to represent McIlwraith’s intricate lineage. Her work talks about language being rooted in the land, the multiple definitions of Seneca root, and the structure/roots of words.
We’ve all heard of it, we’ve all be affected by it, yet no one actually knows what it is. So, AU Press and Lorna Stefanick bring you a layperson’s guide.
This was one of those titles that completely confounded me for about three weeks, until I thought of this concept the night before the deadline and woke at 4AM to shoot the image. I don’t recommend photoshop work before breakfast. This project also spawned the realization that the lock on my sublet door is faulty.
Essays that illuminate the lives of late-eighteenth-century to mid-twentieth-century Aboriginal women.
Cover image: Frances Nickawa during her early performance years. Sweet Heart (1924), Young Family Fonds, 94.094P/1. Courtesy of The United Church Archives, Toronto.
Champagne and Meatballs
The brash, irreverent, informative, and entertaining adventures of a Canadian Communist.
The leftist rogue and protagonist, Bert Whyte, on the fly leaf with cigar in hand. Active for over 40 years with the Communist Party of Canada, Whyte was an underground historical rogue who challenged the illegality of left-wing politics during the 1930s and onwards. Brought to light and introduced by editor and historian Larry Hannant.
A hammer and sickle pin made it on to the left lapel on the spine.
The display face is Stephen Rapp’s Raniscript, which I paired with ITC Cheltenham (Tony Stan) and Trade Gothic (Jackson Burke). It was printed on 60 lb Rolland Opaque with two photo inserts on glossy paper (80 lb Sappi Flo).
Romancing the Revolution
Apparently the Brits (“British Bolsheviks”) really had a thing for Russia right around 1917.
The full sales pitch:
Over two decades have passed since the collapse of the USSR, yet the words “Soviet Union” still carry significant weight in the collective memory of millions. But how often do we consider the true meaning of the term “Soviet”? Drawing extensively on left-wing press archives, Romancing the Revolution traces the reactions of the British Left to the idealized concept of Soviet democracy.
This making of this cover almost got out of hand, but I had a bucket of water nearby, thankfully. Letraset lended a hand.
Light From Ancient Campfires
13,000 years worth of projectile points: Light from Ancient Campfires is a comprehensive archaeological record of the Northern Plains First Nations. Beginning with the earliest material traces of a human presence in Alberta, author Trevor Peck embarks on a detailed study of the physical evidence left behind by the area’s original inhabitants.
With 528 pages at 7 by 10.5 and weighing in at 3lbs, this book was dubbed “a weapon” by those who persevered with the production of such a lengthly and complex book.
The jacket was printed with 2 PMS colours on a 65lb parchment-style stock called Wausau Paper Astroparche, Ancient Gold. (Complete with french flaps.)
The arrowheads on the jacket are from the interior b+w plates and are in chronological order, grouped according to prehistoric period.
The text face is LTC Kaatskill, designed by Frederic Goudy and Jim Rimmer. The sanserif face is FF Seria, by Martin Majoor.
Through Feminist Eyes
A major coup for both feminists and book designers.
The author is a fairly cautious person and was concerned about the risqué nature of this image. We let it sit for a few weeks and then decided that it successfully deviates from the aesthetic of other Feminist works and will definitely garner attention. I can’t take credit for the illustration: it was originally on a poster created by R. Salvadori for the Italian Feminist Reunion of the Socialist League.
About the collection: “Approaching her subject matter from an array of interpretive frameworks that engage questions of gender, class, colonialism, politics, and labour, Sangster explores the lived experience of women in a variety of specific historical settings. In so doing, she sheds new light on issues that have sparked much debate among feminist historians and offers a thoughtful overview of the evolution of women’s history in Canada.”
Emerging Technologies in Distance Education
Yes, this is a cliché.
Education is a particularly challenging theme to design for due to the overwhelming amount of hackneyed school-related imagery out there. (apples, pencils, light bulbs, globes, chalkboards.) Distance Education is even tougher, because you have to toss all the technology clichés too. (binary code, flying computers, keyboards, electrical cords.)
So I did my best and produced four rough cover concepts for “Emerging Technologies in Distance Education” by George Veletsianos, and we posted them on his blog to solicit feedback from his colleagues. Some particularly insightful comments included:
“I like the 3rd one. It’s a bit old school. Whatever that means.”
“looks like you are offering me a cigarette.”
“B-boards (albeit subliminal) on ed books are, I’m afraid, a cliché.”
And finally, an ultimatum:
“I’ll only buy it if you choose #4 the other three are a bit pretentious.”
The “B-board” idea that was selected stems from the interactive whiteboard technology discussed in the book. The title has been traced with a finger into the dust on a chalkboard, showing a desire for tactile human interaction with a virtually obsolete learning apparatus. It’s a reminder of why new tools are necessary and also how far education has come.
It’s also a huge cliché.
The Dust of Just Beginning
Don and Don: poems by Mr. Kerr, painting by Mr. Proch.
(artwork titled “Asessippi Valley, 2006”)
A hit of colour on the interior:
I developed a “unicase” style for headers, eradicating ascenders and descenders everywhere. And the interior was set entirely in a sanserif typeface, tradition be damned.
From the back of the jacket:
“Don Kerr knows prairie culture better than most — he knows it from the inside out. He has made us aware of ourselves through his numerous volumes of poetry, his fiction, his many plays, his histories, and his interest in heritage. In this mature, accomplished collection, we can once again admire his unique prairie voice — minimalist, self-effacing, direct yet subtle and nuanced, immersed in his love of the vernacular language of this place.”
And for your enjoyment, the best (non)author bio I’ve come across.
I am running out of interesting ways to put paintings on book covers.
I usually try to talk the publisher out of it. The original artwork is produced at a specific scale and isn’t meant to be experienced as a thumbnail. There are usually strict rules set in place by the museum or artist that prohibit cropping, bleeding, or adding type, which severely dampens creative freedom. The proportions rarely fill a 6 x 9 cover, so the designer is forced to set it against a bland flood of colour. The texture of the paint, brushstrokes, and canvas is lost. Modern digital printing technology can’t replicate the colour properly. (Just to name a few reasons…)
My first time tackling an art cover demanded several mock-ups until I found a way to use the prominent art piece in a dynamic but still respectful way.
My next attempt was for Dreamwork, Jonathan Locke Hart’s latest book of poetry. To make things even more challenging, the watercolour on the table was painted by the author’s mother. (No talking anybody out of that one.) Fortunately Hart values graphic design and art equally, so I proposed some alternative ways to display the piece.
But how many times have you seen a picture frame or a page turn on a book cover?
So I took an abstract approach instead by magnifying an area of the landscape with great light, and printed the jacket on a textured paper that mimicks the surface of canvas and augments the stippled brush work. The full painting was revealed following the last poem in the book.
(American artist Titus Kaphar might be heading in the right direction by obscuring and shredding the paintings…)
Alberta’s Daycare Controversy
Controversial kids: apparently, between 1908 and 2009, daycare has been a point of contention in this province.
This is my preliminary solution for the cover of Langford’s exposé. The grainy illustration was pilfered from a child care manual circa 1986. I’m pushing for the upside down orientation, but it will take some cajoling.
The formidable Marvin Harder will be designing the interior.
(I told myself I wouldn’t indulge in white book covers anymore. They blend into the background on-screen. When the books are shipped from the plant, the plain white stock is always a disappointment. In this case, the stark contrast of the source drawing is responsible for my relapse. The black on white gives it that “low resolution output device on low grade paper” feel that suites the bureaucratic topic.)
The Political Economy of Workplace Injury in Canada
Instead of focusing on workplace safety (hardhats and goggles) or going gruesome like a lot of the Workers’ Comp. ad campaigns do, I decided to hit a sympathetic note with injury related imagery.
(1) Okay, I just mocked up the cast using a stock photo. I’ve done a lot of things to get a photo for a project (including tying my little brother to a chair, coating a person’s face with charcoal, persuading the director of the University bookstore to open the doors on a holiday and sell me medical equipment… to name a few.) But sneaking into a hospital to write on an injured person seemed excessive.
(2) I fashioned a book with the title on the front and then bandaged it up. I considered using band aids, but the gauze really gives the impression it’s holding something fragile together when wrapped around to the back of the jacket.
(3) A prime example of what I like to call opportunistic typography:
Personifying letterforms and then decapitating them.
(4) The approved concept exhibits the title on the greeting card in a looming get well soon bouquet. The sombre tone suits the content and alludes to injury and consequence without showing it.
From Bricks to Brains
Absolutely thrilled to be playing with LEGO in the name of literature.
(1) My challenge was finding ways to reveal LEGO as a psychological tool, not a toy. The first concept shows an inventory of pieces, leaving the final fabrication up to the imagination of the viewer.
(2) This next idea resulted from two things:
First – The LEGO robot I was attempting to build fell apart suddenly.
Second – When I’m lacking inspiration, I usually attempt to put type on something that isn’t suppose to have type on it. (also known as vandalism to some) I wrote on the blocks by hand, but it looked too unmethodical, so I covered it with a bold sans serif. (Thank you, Erik)
(3) A change in direction: Juxtapose the personal with the mechanical, I rendered the familiar building blocks as a pattern instead of a tool. However, the drawing style is a little too juvenile for graduate level psychology.
(4) Okay, I’ll put a robot on it. The final cover employs a rendering of a LEGO robot discussed in the text, cropped to abstract the form slightly.
Sometimes it’s nice to rescue a rejected cover idea by using it for the back of the jacket or interior design somehow. I placed an inventory of LEGO pieces isometric-projection-style on the back instead, creating a nice before and after relationship with the already-constructed robot on the front. We printed a spot gloss over the red lines and text.
“little windfall apples / green cherry bombs / each with unlit fuse”
(From one of Richard Stevenson’s poems.)
I think the imagery that these lines evoke is really interesting. However the publisher felt my apple-bomb was a little enigmatic and could be mistaken for a Christmas ornament.
I possess a natural aptitude for taking out of focus photographs, which actually worked in my favor here. The lack of focus obscures the object, but the imagery is still too direct.
My first two photographic attempts were abandoned for an illustrative approach that suits Stevenson’s work better. The square format (5 x 5″) provides symmetry and generous white space around each of the five-line poems.
It was a two colour job using orange and brown ink on yellow paper (mohawk via) with a linen finish. The interior includes a few colour pages. I lifted the orange/yellow hues from the original photos and then placed the colour back on top of greyscale versions, resulting in sort-of-duotones.
How Canadians Communicate
I combined found letterforms from various media to make the jacket for the 3rd volume in the “How Canadians Communicate” series. The collection of essays focuses on Canadian pop culture and censorship and how these things ignite expression.