Assignment: Design and produce a book cover and interiors for Lauri Wolf, author of The BS of My MS, a memoir about Lauri’s struggle with primary progressive multiple sclerosis.
Creative challenge: Lauri had sent me a piece of artwork she wanted to use for the cover. Her daughter has created a linoleum print of an MRI image that depicted the effects of MS on the spine. Although the graphic was visually interesting, I did not think it would make a good cover. For one thing, most people wouldn’t realize that this abstract piece of art was a spine. (When I first saw it, I had to ask my partner what he thought it was.) The other problem was that there was no room for a title, a subhead, or the author’s name. Lauri had strong feelings about the artwork, though, so I proposed that we use it on the blank page facing the preface as part of the front matter.
Design strategies: My first suggestion was to use a photo of the author on the cover, since this was her story. Lauri quashed that idea; she did not want her picture on the cover. Next, I began researching MS images—myelin, synapses, and neurons—which led me to electrical-spark images. I presented layout ideas to Lauri; she did not like them.
The “ah-ha” moment came when we had a conference call with her editor, Bobbi Linkemer. Lauri used the phrases “trapped inside” and “couldn’t get out” to describe her condition. Three heads are definitely better than one! An image of hands behind matte glass popped into my head. I had obtained it from Shutterstock for a previous project. I knew there were several other similar images on the Shutterstock site, including some silhouettes of women.
Execution: I presented new layouts to Lauri. To reach a final decision, a little bit of Chinese menu occurred. Lauri preferred the title typography from an early layout: a combination of Century Franklin Gothic, vertically stacked; large BS and MS; and smaller words. This type solution fit with only one of the layouts—the one with the woman’s arms raised on a diagonal.
Conclusion: happy client, happy editor, satisfied designer, and dynamic cover. Best of all, Lauri’s book scored big with the 21st Annual Writer’s Digest Annual Self-Published Book Awards, including “Production Quality and Cover Design: 4 out of 5.”
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