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Hancher vs. Hilton: cover design

2016 December 3

The cover design process for Hancher vs. Hilton was less trying than the interior design. I mocked up several ideas, worked on a few, then sent two or three refined designs to a small “committee” for feedback, and ended up getting enough positive responses to my own emerging preference to go with it:

Front cover of Hancher vs. Hilton

Front cover of Hancher vs. Hilton

In some ways, I had a number of effective “givens” this time out. I had two protagonists, and wanted to include a photo of each. I also had a very strong argument for one particular color scheme: since Iowa State’s colors are cardinal and gold, and the University of Iowa’s are gold and black, I never really found a compelling reason to go someplace other than cardinal, gold and black.

I suppose that this turned out simple in theory and somewhat more complicated in practice. As I often do, I prepared my designs in monochrome, and then tried to “colorize” them. Having a strongly preferred color palette might have made things more difficult, here, vs. just fumbling around for whatever seemed to best complement each design.

In the end, though, I’m very happy with what I came up with. I think the strong diagonal “slash” communicates the element of conflict. All three colors are present, yet essentially divide up the cover between the top half (Hancher’s photo, his name, and Hawkeye colors) and the bottom half (Hilton’s photo, his name, and Cyclone colors).

I like these photos, too. President Hilton looks slightly miffed; photos with a broad grin are probably more representative of the man, but this expression works here. Hancher has a more mild expression, and I could have chosen one or two other photos in which he looked more mean. But the Hilton photo was perfect, and I think this Hancher photo is a good complement within this layout. Hilton faces right, and his head leans that way while his eyes peer back to the left; Hancher’s photo is just the opposite.

One other argument which emerged in favor of this cover was that the layout seemed to demand something in the upper, black bar… which is what prompted me to include the quote from the junior Dr. Hilton. I didn’t factor it in on any of my other designs. But, after seeing it there, I did begin to like it quite a bit.

This is kind of another topic, but it was an honor and a thrill to speak with that wonderfully courteous gentleman… as direct a link as exists to one of the greatest figures in the history of my alma mater. Getting this praise from his son, well… it does feel like sufficiently rare an experience that I might as well make the most of it.

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