Being an avid reader and lover of fabulous and interesting book covers, I decided to add some book cover designs to my portfolio for a class this semester (Spring 2014). Because how cool would it be to get to design one one day? Pretty F’in cool is the answer. My instructor put it simply, “Pick whatever you would be excited to spend a lot of time reading and researching on” and Mary Oliver was the number one gal who came to mind. A poet whom I had most recently became enthralled with, entering her world of sweet words through a poem titled “Wild Geese”. I won’t even get started.
To start my process, I chose the 6 books I was most excited to explore of Mary Oliver’s. I worked on this project for about three months so I’ll give you the nutshell version of my process. My research started by reading as many poems as I could, creating mood boards with visuals, notes, and themes as I saw in each. Below are the visuals from a few of my mood boards.
I wanted to play around with photography, arranging natural elements in patterns and interesting relationships. I also wanted to try scanning things in an experimental way, arranging images that had strong nature imagery (or were actual natural images). With all of my experiments, if the results didn’t evoke those themes mentioned above and didn’t feel light, I ditched it. I did a few test runs with both concepts, first experimenting with scanning.
Now these scans were interesting! Wow, I was so excited by what was happening! Ultimately though, this technique felt too risky to keep investing time in. It was by luck that I liked anything and I needed to control the outcome more. Also, since so much of my studio art is collage, I was feeling less excited about using collage as a visual again. I wanted to try something new. Meanwhile, I was also experimenting with styling photos of natural elements, this was new to me and offered some fun visual challenges. I just genuinely enjoy working with my hands, so this method was really fun for me. I decided to go with the photography concept and continued to explore relationships of objects to one another, creating compositions that evoked different themes I saw from the books. I wanted to use only natural elements, dead or alive. The only item that ended up being fake was some tiny little eggs I used on one cover.
I set up shop in the sunniest corner of my upstairs and went to town. Before I reveal the covers (yes, there is more process), a note on the hand-lettering style I wanted to use. As Mary Oliver is a writer, and wrote a lot of her notes while on her many walks, I really wanted the hand-writing to feel natural, uncomplicated, and quick, like a scribble.I landed on a version that had good variance in stroke, with thick and thin moments that added interest and texture to the title. Once I placed the title on the front and spine. The rest of my attention went to the back of the book. I kept it relatively clean with copy and because it was still feeling a little bare, I eventually added little moments of natural elements to play on the spine and in corners.