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Ten Years a Cover Designer, pt. 2*

2014 July 11
by Matt

Continuing the top 10 cover designs from 10 years making them…

Front cover of Equine Neurology

aka ‘Dreams of Horses’

This one has been a favorite for a long time. Still is. Perhaps one reason I like it is that isn’t boxy. If you look back at numbers one through five, you’ll recognize that most of the images shown fit in neat frames into which other images could (and in many cases have been) swapped at the whim of various of the effective committee of decision-makers. That was largely a conscious, practical compromise, which I suppose to some extent I eventually internalized so much that it became unconscious reflex… one makes do.

I made (or at least attempted) occasional exceptions, but this one may have predated the rule anyway. At all events I think it it has advantages of motion, and simple artistry. To some extent this is probably a late echo of that “Photoshoppy” look that was ubiquitous during my 1990s adolescence, but at this late date I think it stands effectively by itself. Everything just seemed to work, here. From details of texture to overall concept; this definitely has a dreamlike quality that I believe complements the subject reasonably. In retrospect, it reminds me a bit of this, though I don’t specifically recall having seen it before my visit to Detroit last year…

Mondrian… or, MANUAL of Temporomandibular Disorders

No, not my most subtle idea

Now, this cover is obviously boxy in terms of image treatment, yet also a bit of a departure in its own way. I’m not sure how much to say about it; realistically, either you get this or I’m not even going to bother. And I suspect that even if you don’t “get” what I was doing here, it still works perfectly well as a design. Possibly better given that the concept was pretty much completely arbitrary, and apropos of nothing more than me having designed a zillion covers and casting about a bit for some kind of visual inspiration… Which, I would point out, was probably somewhat more justified in this instance if only because trying to deal with the word “temporomandibular” felt like it was significantly cramping my design possibilities by itself…

Front cover of Avian Influenza

Less is more.

I was hugely proud of this one at the time. It feels like it has lost a bit of its sparkle in the intervening years; for one thing it isn’t really genuinely brilliant, for another looking at it now I’m not sure that teal frame isn’t doing more harm than good… (For a third, it’s difficult to avoid making some degree of association with the whole bird flu panic, and its own corresponding sharp reduction as a thing.) Still, it was simple, and effective. It says “birds” and “institutionally recognized danger to health” and nothing else. Except perhaps, by implication and in retrospect, “phantom threat…” But I can’t claim anything other than an accident there.

Environmental Physiology of Livestock

Blue phase revisited

So far, part two has been exceptions to what sort of became my standard MO, whereas this is  very much a pure distillation thereof. But I like it, too. This one seems to hold together so perfectly. I suppose the photo selection helps; familiar barnyard animals plus a generic outdoor scene don’t really pull in different directions much. I think it was a good choice with the thermometer image, though, since it looks like it would belong in the same scene. I just like everything here, basically. I was very happy with the subtle colored layering. I even broke a cardinal rule (l e t t e r s p a c i n g lower case, the horror) but I think the airy feeling seems right, here, perhaps complementing the blue-sky-puffy-clouds image above it.

Front cover of Orofacial Pain

Number ten.

We finish by returning to outliers, as well as a particular contrast to the preceding. The Collier cover was orderly, familiar, even cheery and calming. It was also rather blue; this one, probably not by complete coincidence, is almost entirely the color-wheel opposite of blue. It’s also very abstract and, if still fairly neat, probably about as far as I ever go in terms of intentionally unsettling design. Certainly about as far as my paying clients are ever likely to want me to go. Maybe it’s just me, but I intended that this design almost hurt, a little, and I think it does. There’s an explosive quality, and I think something a bit like the effect you get if you look at a too-bright light and then close your eyes… this feels like a headache. While still being a fairly tidy and stylish design; it isn’t often I try getting away with both black and white type on the same ground, but it works here. I’m also pleased with this one as another instance of me being sneaky… I think that may even be one of my own photos in the background.

I think that does it for now. No overall observations, beyond those I’ve already made, leap to mind just now. I feel like this is an entirely respectable highlight reel. It also excludes a number of items that, I think, deserve at least a mention, and such an “honorable mention” post will probably follow along soonish.

* Electric BOOGALOO. 🙂

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