(left) Tim’s initial idea; (center) stock photo; (right) final book cover
Assignment: Author Tim Leach contacted me to design the cover of his poetry book, Icarus Flees the Garden of Earthly Delights. He showed me his cover idea—an old illustration of the Garden of Eden with a small Icarus pasted on the top corner. We met in person, Tim described his target audience (ages 48-plus, male-and-female poetry readers), and told me the publisher would be designing the interior pages.
In an email, Tim expressed: “You are the designer, and I assume you are not an illustrator, so you probably use existing images to create the cover. If the concept is potentially an attention-grabber, thanks to the title and imagery, that is what counts.” It’s true, I’m not an illustrator, but I know how to use impactful images for book covers.
In our discussion, Tim referred to his book as Icarus flees. I recommended that we emphasize “Icarus” vs. “Icarus Flees” because it sounds like an odd name or the word fleas! “Flees the Garden of Earthly Delights” should be treated as a subtitle, in my opinion.
My design process:
1. Read the book. Tim’s poetry was impressive and wonderful!
2. Find images. I searched for stock illustrations of Icarus and men (angels) with wings. Another source was searching Google images for inspiration. Using my Thinkstock subscription, I downloaded many high-resolution files to start the layouts. One image in particular seemed right—a “man with wings”—but the photo was dark and drab. I had just purchased a Photoshop watercolor plug-in, and this was the perfect image to try it out. The outcome was dramatically different and greatly enhanced the image, making it an illustration. This was my favorite!
3. Create the cover design. Book designers combine images, typography, and color choices; then, strategically place the title, subtitle, and author’s name. I extended the front-cover image around the spine and onto the back cover, creating the impression of the wings encompassing the poetry. On the back cover, I used dummy text with suggested word count to ensure that the final text would fit in the available space. Tim wrote a perfect headline to intrigue the reader: “Poetry has many wings.”
4. Final result: Tim was completely satisfied with the designs I presented and selected my favorite—the watercolor effect. The publisher agreed with Tim’s decision. We made a few tweaks to the layout and finished the back cover with the book description and three testimonials.
At Tim’s book-launch party, his friends and readers were impressed with the cover. It was the “attention grabber” he had hoped to achieve.
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