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Ten Years a Cover Designer, pt.3

2014 July 15
by Matt

In reviewing every book cover I’ve designed over the past 10 years, as part of selecting a top 10, I also pulled aside a few that didn’t make the top 10 but I feel like recalling anyway. Thus, an honorable mention category…

Edit: Also, this. I suppose I got working on this list and began to think of it as a professional list, but I didn’t specify that, so… I am reasonably proud of this, too, just for the record.

Front cover of 'The Dog,' by Linda Case


This is where it all began. My very first professional book design project, a full 10 years ago. It was two-color, as most were in those early years, though I don’t believe I’ve designed a two-color cover for quite a long time now. (I have the impression that two-color printing has been in a decline generally, really.) I’m still satisfied with it. There are criticisms one can make; obviously the tracking is really, really tight, e.g. But all in all, this still feels decent to me, today, let alone for a decade-old first-time-out.

Front cover of 'Online Newswriting'


I suspect this one may actually look more dated than the above, even though it isn’t quite as old. Nearly, but the content probably makes it seem even more archaic. Still, I have always been pleased with this one; it’s a cheerful, tidy design, but what I’m really proud of is that I created most of the illustration. Getting real news site images that we could use on the cover was impractical, so (on my own initiative) I made these up from scratch. I think they really succeed.

Front cover of ISU 150th Anniversary book

I finally sat down and read this just in the past year; should have done so sooner.

In some ways, this will probably always be the ultimate point-of-pride in my career as a cover designer. I don’t know how many alumni ISU has, but I’m sure it’s a lot, and I suspect that almost every graphic designer it has awarded a degree is still practicing. Out of all of them, I got the call (well, e-mail) to design the cover of the university’s 150th anniversary book. That meant a lot. Beyond that, I’m content with the design; in the end, after I slaved over various ideas of my own, the front cover was largely specified by the client. That as much as anything kept this out of the top 10. (It is interesting to recall how I had to kludge those drop shadows; this was still a version or two before InDesign introduced them as built-in options.) From a pure design standpoint, I feel more proud of the back cover. It’s no tour de force, I realize, but when I first got the content I was absolutely stumped. Lots of images with no obvious hierarchy, lots of quotes all about the same length… for a day or so I could not find any sound way to arrange them all. When I finally hit on the above, it was one of the biggest Eureka! moments in my career.

Front cover of a Case Study in Nursing

One of five or six…

I’m only including one example, because I’ve featured these on the blog before, but I mostly include this because coming up with the design for a series was a minor professional high point. Beyond that, there isn’t a ton to say; I think the individual covers are all okay, but given the constraints of developing for an ongoing series in advance, I think I did well. I was not best pleased when at least one of the books morphed into a different size and format… I’ve never even seen an actual copy of one of these books, but having my image of them lined up neatly on a shelf blown up like that annoyed me. The customer is always right, but… Yes, the customer is always right. 🙂

Front cover of Critical Care Nursing

…and omega.

This is where it ends, for now at least. The very last front cover design I turned in. It’s okay; it wouldn’t make a highlight list if not for the aforementioned significance, but at least things closed on a satisfactory note. Hopefully I’ll add new entries to my professional cover design portfolio at some point… I’m here to help, and welcome your inquiries

Meanwhile, I think the closing scene of Wimbledon Green may be appropriate: “As for the future… who knows? I have much yet to accomplish.”

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