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A new client and small ironies

2011 March 15

Blackwell Publishing, and subsequently John Wiley & Sons following its purchase of Blackwell, has been a mainstay of my design work since before I even formed Modern Alchemy. From one book cover design for the office in Ames, Iowa, this relationship has expanded to encompass ongoing work for several editors in Iowa as well as a number of editors in Britain.

Last week I began a project for an editor in Hoboken, New Jersey; though still within the sprawling Wiley empire, Hoboken is not only a “new market” for me, but essentially as much a part of New York City, for practical purposes, as Lakewood is a part of Cleveland. New York being arguably the most significant center for publishing in the entire world, this is naturally a very welcome new relationship.

It didn’t come off without a good deal of work and stress, however, and I don’t just mean several years of projects for other editors in the industry.

No, I mean figuring out a way to communicate effectively with my new client.

This, then, is the first of two small ironies. It seems like, in our 21st century world of always-on, super-fast and near ubiquitous communication technologies, exchanging some text between New York and Cleveland should be relatively easy. Well, it should be, but last week it was not.

The first communication I received from my newest client was a week ago, Friday, when I read an e-mail asking if I was interested in working on the cover design project she had e-mailed me about several days before. I was interested, once I read the appended earlier message, which was new to me. I quickly dashed off a reply asking for project details.

What followed was basically a week-long high-tension farce offering the perfect illustration to my favorite line from Mel Brooks’ film Spaceballs: “[Expletive]! Even in the future nothing works!” At one point I was just about ready to propose resorting to snail mail.

Most of my e-mails apparently reached my client, but, as I learned once we finally connected by phone in the middle of last week, none of her replies had reached me. I gave her alternative e-mail accounts to try; still nothing showed up. I have a little-used fax number, which worked when I tested it, but failed when the new client tried that route.

Eventually we got on the phone again, on Friday, and having racked my brains for some sort of solution, even as a temporary measure, I arranged to have the client place the necessary project documents and images on an ftp server. And, amazingly, the login information worked and I finally had the project.


I still have no idea what monstrous cyber black hole has been swallowing all of those messages. (No, they aren’t caught in spam filters.) As of today, we seem to be able to exchange e-mail with a freshly-created account I set up at over the weekend, specifically for this purpose; fingers crossed that this continues to work.

In the meantime, I have made what feels like a very good start on this first “New York” project. Which brings me to the second irony.

After years of working on book designs for editors in my home state of Iowa, whose projects typically involve subjects like plant breeding, food processing or veterinary medicine, I have a new client based in the ultimate cosmopolitan market of New York. And my first project, which I sweated and fretted all week to arrange?

“The Molecular Basis of Nutrient Use Efficiency in Crops.” The primary image is an aerial photo of farm fields, with most of the other photos being similarly familiar agricultural subjects.

I’m reminded of lines from a folk song by Andrew Kerr:

…maybe, this was meant to be
maybe empty corn-fields are what I’m meant to see?


2 Responses
  1. March 16, 2011

    Congrats on landing the NY account. (OK, not technically NY, but it sounds better than the “Hoboken account.”)

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