by sketches from the process

The Exquisite Book: Making the Cover

If you missed the first two posts about The Exquisite Book, check them out here and here.

Chronicle and Amazon now have our book ready for pre-order on their sites- so exciting! I wanted to share with you, finally, the cover of The Exquisite Book and our process of making the cover.

When we first set out to actually design the book, we had a really hard time. We had all the artwork from all of the artists for the book. Our next step was to create 10 chapter opener spreads that go in between the artwork, design introduction pages, bios and, of course, the cover. We wanted the “look” to be somewhat illustrative but still different enough to distinguish these pages from the artwork in the book. We decided to keep our interior designs monochromatic since that would help separate it from the artwork. After a lot of deliberation, we decided to use 3-D letters as the main design component. The letters spell out the chapter openers, “in the snow”, “in the village” etc, but also exist in illustrated landscapes they describe. It sounds complicated but I will share more about designing the interior at another time. I want to focus on our thoughts on the cover.

For the cover we wanted to incorporate the 3-D letters again to keep the whole book consistent. As part of the contract with Chronicle we needed to come up with at least three to five different cover designs to choose from. With the help of Brooke Johnson, the designer at Chronicle we have been working with, we came up with a list of the four things that were most important to think about for the cover:

1. The cover needs to reflect the artwork you will find inside the book.

2. The cover should be intriguing and striking. It should be something that stands out on a table among other books.

3. The cover needs to have a horizon line. The horizon line connects it to the interior pages and runs completely through every artists page, to the back cover.

4. The cover could convey the “exquisite” game we had the artist’s play.

We came up with four sketches for the cover. Here they are in the order that we liked them:


This first design was our favorite. We felt it was both playful and sophisticated and very striking. It’s also colorful which hints at the inside. We sort of envisioned this cover as a planet or globe and since each chapter opener was a landscape, we felt this embodied all of them.


This design is a visual map of the artists names in sequential order as they appear in the book. It starts with the authors and then a cloud to represent “in the clouds” and then each artist in the group is connected by a line. The next group is connected with the last via the next icon for the chapter opener. We liked this design because it shows the participating artists in a long winding strand. The map would continue to the back cover for the rest of the artists in their sequence. This cover is also interesting because you don’t realize what it means exactly until you see the inside of the book. So later a reader might go back to the cover and be excited to realize this was a map of the inside. We also like that the cover creates a graphic image from far away, but leaves more to discover when you get up close.


This cover was the most representational of what you will find on the inside of the book and explains the game in a direct, visual way. It shows a transition from page to page, similar to the transitions between the artists pages. We also added graphics that were used in the chapter openers as hints of what’s inside.


For this cover we wanted to experiment with using some of the artwork from inside of the book. Using a rectangular shape, we collaged pieces from different artists pages making connections in line and color to mimic the game you find inside.

Chronicle liked both option 1 and option 3. We were sold on the first cover but thought maybe we could improve the third cover so that we liked it more. We came up with a new sketch of the third cover. We added color and a little bit more of an interesting visual:

SKETCH 3 revised

Still, we felt this cover lacked the intrigue that the first cover had. We made our case to Chronicle and they agreed. We would go with sketch #1. We were so happy to have nailed down the cover! I remember getting the approval email as I was walking down the street and yelling out a big “YES!”

We had some minor type revisions and re-drew the design by hand to get to the final version. Here is our final cover (from our book proof):


An here is the whole wrap:


What do you think?


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