Visual + Interaction Designer
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Recovered Bookcovers

Book Cover Design, Gallery Show

'Recovered' Book Covers

 
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Overview
I was given the Marilyn Meltzer Prize Award Grant to further my studies in color. I bought hardcover books with the grant money and printed redesigns that I recovered the spines with.

Color is powerful, complex, and intriguing. It has the ability take the viewer somewhere else, through prompting human responses such as wonder and nostalgia. I think this momentary time travel that book cover design allows is what captivated me at a young age and has continued to since. My goal for this project was to use color in a way that takes the viewer into the world of each book or genre. I also explored how color can relate to visual elements, such as typography and image, in order to communicate a different message and style for each cover. All imagery and photography in the covers was created by me.

Duration
The project lasted about 1 year.

Outcomes
The final product is 10 redesigned book covers recovering 10 books of 10 different genres. They were displayed all together in the Carnegie Mellon Ellis Gallery for one week.

 
 

Gallery Display

 

Designing the Space

I intentionally chose 10 which I thought were in need of new covers. I used color to try to better communicate the story of each one. In my gallery space, I displayed each recovered book on a pedestal. The walls of the gallery show the original cover above the new cover, so that viewers can compare them to the old design.

I chose to design for 10 different genres, so that I could have a greater depth of color strategies in the gallery. I wanted the space to feel immersive with color when the viewer stepped into the space.

 

The Redesigned Covers

Hopefully the descriptions below don't reveal too many spoilers!

 

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings: Memoir

For this cover, I chose warm colors inspired by the warm, Southern setting of Stamps, Arkansas. The original cover used similar colors plus a black and featured the silhouette of a bird.

I wanted to stick with the silhouette style but implement it in a way that could describe the childhood and vulnerability of the author, which is the main focus of the story. I used the silhouette of tree branches to create a visual tension that creates the feeling of being in a cage. I also wanted the nest to feel cage-like in its appearance. I show an "egg" rather than a fully grown bird because this is a coming-of-age story, unlike some of Maya Angelou's other stories which chronicle her older life.

 

 

 

Grit: Self-Help

Grit is about how the most important trait for success is not talent, but rather, passion and perseverance. It focuses primarily on educational growth and achievement in children. I chose colors that felt indicative of childhood.

This cover was inspired by a real home that I encountered in Over-the-Rhine, a neighborhood in Cincinnati, Ohio. On the front of this home, there was one door, located on the second story of the home, rather than the first. Doors are often used to represent opportunities. I thought it was very significant and symbolic how hard the door was to reach and enter through.

For the design, I created a climbing wall, something considered universally to be challenging. This perception is common with adults, who read the book. Climbing is also a common activity for children, who are a focus of the book. Climbing the wall leads to different doors of opportunity. It just requires grit to get to them. Since the book is also about achieving high, the doors also are representative of hierarchy; the doors/opportunities at the top are harder to get to than those that are below.

 

Hallucinations:  Psychology

Written by one of my favorite authors, this book is about a neurologists' observations of hallucinations, both of patients and personal experiences.

I chose colors that vibrate, because my goal was to create an uncomfortable visual effect that was similar to a hallucination.

 

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Science Fiction

One moment I was inspired by in the book was a ship crashing. In this disastrous moment, eggs are floating in outer space. I thought this was pretty representative of a lot of the book: A crazy science fiction story depicting the "end of the earth" with a silly, comedic tone. I photographed eggs that I made into a pattern for the cover of this book to represent this moment in the story.

The actual "hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy" is a digital handheld interface in the book, which inspired the typography and colors of the cover.

 

Infinite Jest: Realistic Fiction

Classified as an "encyclopedic novel," Infinite Jest is over a thousand pages of hard-to-follow plot-lines and character development. For the design, the composition is inspired by the overwhelming feeling created by the amount of interwoven narratives in the book.

The main setting of the book is a tennis camp for exceptional young players, located near a substance abuse recovery center. Additionally, most of the boys at the camp struggle with drug addiction. Aside from drug addiction, the book focuses on other themes, including entertainment. I used the setting plus these two themes as the main inspiration for the cover. 

 

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto: Historical Fiction

This is the fictional story of Frankie Presto, described to be of the likes of Elvis Presto and the greatest guitar player ever. "His amazing journey weaves him through the musical landscape of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, with his stunning playing and singing talent affecting numerous stars" (Goodreads). Frankie has 6 magical guitar strings that turn blue every time he affects or alters someone's life.

I knew blue had to be the primary cover for this cover since it is the cover used to represent the magical power of music in the book. For imagery on the cover, I played around with how to create movement using actual guitar strings that I photographed.

 

The Metamorphosis: Classic

An absurd and frightening story about a young man who wakes up to find he's become a giant insect, The Metamorphosis follows the main character's retreat into fearful isolation from his family. They are terrified and disgusted by his changed form and begin to feel burdened by his existence.

Through the color and illustration on this cover, I represent the feelings of horror and disgust that the family has for Gregor following his metamorphosis. The lettering and illustration were hand-painted and digitally altered.

 

Neverwhere: Fantasy

This book follows a normal man's descent from London into the mystical "London Below" located in the sewers of the streets. Unable to return to his former life, he is stuck in this world.He embarks on a quest with strange new acquaintances, including a mysterious girl named Door, who dresses in clothes blending many different time periods and has the ability to transport to different locations.

For the cover, I blended the dark and eerie setting of London Below with the characteristics of the character of Door. The colors represent the dark tone of the fantasy book.

 

The Unseen World: Mystery

Set in the 80s, the main character, Ada, is raised by her eccentric father. Ada spends her days in the computer science lab that he works in. Due to Alzheimer's, he becomes unable to finish his life's work of creating a digital universe. Following his death, Ada lives in uncertainty, trying to both understand who her father was and what he was actually living.

For the cover, I used colors and shape to represent the technology world of the 80s. The warps and blurs are inspired both by the father's Alzheimer's, Ada's confusion and uncertainty, and the mystery nature of the story.

 

Walden: Philosophy

I chose to read this book because Walden Pond is one of my favorite places to visit. The book is about personal introspection in a natural setting. His time at the pond had that effect on him. Now, because of his book, you will often find people visiting Walden Pond hoping to gain that same level of transcendence from the beautiful nature around them.

The palette for this cover includes pure green and blue tones, both being shades found in the pond. To create the cover, I collaged together images I had taken of plants, and then digitally painted over them.