Farm Anatomy: The Evolution of the Cover Design

It’s always fun to share the process behind my work. I shared the process of making the interior painted pages on Design Sponge. You can check out that post right here. Today I want to share the process of making the cover art. It went through a lot of transformations so there is a lot to see here. Before I do that there’s something I just want to say:

Once you put out a book, it is hard to step back and look at it objectively. Recently a blogger friend saw the preview of the book and felt that the pictures of the cuts of meat were quite disturbing and it made her feel negatively about the book. She is a vegetarian and doesn’t believe in eating animals. I was a bit taken aback by her reaction and felt terrible for a few days about it, as this book is in no way supposed to promote killing animals or eating meat, but more show the appreciation of the small farm and living off the land. I haven’t eaten meat in a couple years myself for similar reasons but understand that this is a part of farm culture which is why it is included in this book.

Ok, whew, now that I explained that let’s move on to the cover designs.

First, I just want to say I had a wonderful time working with Storey’s creative director Alethea Morrison on the process. Her thoughts and ideas were always so helpful and I really appreciated her feedback on everything throughout the long process.

My first thoughts for the cover were that I wanted to make something striking and bold that referenced “anatomy” in some way. I liked the idea of having a big strong silhouette of a recognizable farm object with everything contained inside. The first two use a barn shape and an egg in that way. The third was a different, more general looking cover.

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Storey really liked the barn silhouette but wanted to add more of the curiosity element. They suggested adding captions to the imagery. They also had me change the sizes and placement of some of the text for legibility and heirarchy reasons. Here was the final version.

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A month and a half went by and Storey brings my cover to New York to present the seasons books to Workman Publishing which they are a subsidiary of. Peter Workman did not like my cover as much as we did. He felt it wasn’t conveying the breadth of the book and that it looked like a straight-up art book. The cover needed to show it was also an informational book. They also decided to change the book from hardcover to softcover due to the amount of stores that carry softcover versus hardcover. Needless to say I was extremely disappointed.

I went back to the drawing board and worked with Alethea on a new idea. Since it was going to now be a softcover book I wanted to figure out something that still felt thick and special. We talked about getting thicker textured stock for the cover and I came up with the idea of using a chipboard and printing one color on it. I tried two new versions. The first was more of a scene that had callouts all over it. The second was using the chipboard and printing two colors – brown and white and using a tape binding. Here’s what those versions looked like:

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We really liked the idea of the chipboard cover and Alethea presented that to the Storey team. As you know, this was not the end. Everyone seemed to miss color on this cover. Since the book has so much color inside, why not show that on the outside. I agreed that this was something we needed to address. I re did the cover again, going back to the look of the third cover in the very first round of designs. I added as many callouts and titles as possible showing the breadth of information. Alethea sent me a variety of paper samples that had texture in them so we would be able to keep that tactile quality and we decided to make the book have flaps so that the cover would feel heavier. I decided to keep the palette limited to reds and pinks and oranges on green. Once the cover was done, I continued the same design style to the back and made a fun chicken patterns in bright yellows for inside cover. As you might have noticed, the cover copy changed quite a bit through the process as well but ultimately I think adding the words “curious” and “country” were great choices.

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In the end, I think this was the best cover of them all. I did love that first barn silhouette version but I do think the clutter of the final cover is more intriguing. What do you think?

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Pick up a copy right here.

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