a good cover

Sunday, January 10, 2010

HOW magazine cover illustration sketch No.1

a good cover
subtitled - and/or the fine art (& craft) of knowing when to stop.

Oh my, I've been doing a bit of stewin' and you know how I love to stew.

The current issue of HOW magazine not only has me featured in an article on hand lettering but it's also the issue of my failed, potential big deal, cover assignment (more info here). The big double issue, the 25th anniversary ... and an opportunity presented to the 29 Black Street CE* like none other (to date).

In my home office I have a large bulletin board and said failed cover collage illustration has been pinned to this bulletin board since the failure occurred (early November). In other words I am looking at this failed assignment daily and many, many times daily and like those V-8 commercials I have recently thunked my own self on the noggin', the big geezly light bulb has gone off in my head and I've just today come to terms with the fact that what I produced might have been a beautiful collage of texture and pattern but was ultimately, not at all - a good cover.

I've been a designer for nearly 25 years and I should have known better. The top image was my original sketch/mock up to which the art director requested that I make sure that my final was tres rich with pattern & texture. Can you say Go Wild Girlfriend !?! an out of control, speeding collage train. I took it too far, way too far. I did not know when to stop. There are some simple basic rules when designing covers (of any variety - album, CD, book) like miniature posters they must grab for attention. Clarity and hierarchy are two essential qualities that leap insistently to mind.

The message intended to be communicated must be clear - easy to read and to understand and also the hierarchy of information must be well communicated. In this case HOW (the magazine's masthead/logo) should jump out at you first , then the 25th issue tag line and then finally a few equally weighted bits of info. Plus this message should be able to be communicated as someone is hurrying by the new stand. Oh hey look ! it's HOW's 25th issue, the design annual. Thunk !!

Thunk ! Thunk !

Pas de clarity, pas de hierarchy = failed magazine cover assignment. In other words I blew it !

I don't think that I'm trying to beat myself up about this one but I am very glad that I'm finally getting around to a proper critique (or post mortem) of this CE* flop. It is all part of the process of moving forward and becoming better ... and better. And just like some other things in my life that cause me to get a stewin' it helps tremendously to talk about those things here, on my blog.

Inset photo is of the final published cover design.

Ah yes, tres rich in texture and pattern but pas de clarity or hierarchy

*CE - Creative Empire


  1. I agree your HOW didn't pop enough but I still like it more than the eventual cover. But I'm massively biased when it comes to your work.

  2. Merci buckets sweet thing ! xo S.

  3. Knowing when to stop is the hardest part. It's still a charming piece and boy, what a lesson you got along the way. The fact that you can be critical of your work and can grow from that is what makes your work evolve.

  4. Funny thing is Susan, although of course i understand nd agree about visual heirachy and such, as well as leading the eye round the page I still infinitely prefer your cover to the one chose than I find actually rather dull -design wise.

  5. I don't know nuthin' about design but I get the feeling of finally being able to say good-bye to a project and move ON. Phew.

  6. Just saw your clip in HOW and became an instant fan. Amazing work -- thanks for the inspiration!


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