The Fourth Wall

9.24.08 JUDGING A BOOK BY ITS COVER Part.2

It’s that time again for you to be the judge! But first, let us reveal the answer from the previous post for Contemporary Cases in U.S. Foreign Policy. THE CORRECT ANSWER IS: b

Concept of cover: Typography emphasizes the Case Study nature of the material, with a powerful 4-color image of a ball of tangled colored wire. Image suggests the complexity of the material and suggests that the course addresses Foreign Policy in all of it’s multi-faceted, intertwining dimensions.

ONTO THE NEXT COVER PROJECT FROM THIS ONGOING SERIES: Just in case you missed the first one, here is a recap on participation. Please pick the book cover that you think the client selected for publishing. . We are showing you six directions for a book cover design, including the one the client chose. We’ll include a short blurb on the project to help you contextualize and understand the problem and our solutions. Let us know which cover you like and why you think it is effective. In a few weeks we will reveal the answer! Want to think like a designer? Then yes, your visceral reaction counts… which cover do you simply like best? But while the winning solution must certainly look good (whatever that means), it must also be most effective in communicating content and (duh) selling books.

Here’s the info for the image pictured above:

Title: Engines of Democracy

Subtitle: Politics and Policymaking in State Legislatures

Publisher: CQ Press An independent publisher advancing democracy by informing citizens.

Synopsis: This is a book that could work as a supplement in both state politics and legislative process courses. We also plan on selling to state legislators for training and educational programs. Rosenthal describes state legislatures as the “engines of democracy” because they (and not the executive or the judiciary) tug and pull a heavy load, uphill much of the way. Like the children’s story of the little engine that could, the legislature usually delivers the goods—a mixed bag, depending largely on one’s tastes. The legislature, however, upon its arrival is far more likely to be greeted by jeers than by cheers. The cover should reflect Alan’s hands-on approach and it can be a bit whimsicaL

9.18.08 Manipulation 101

I took this amazing photo of NYC from my hotel room window the last time I was there. I printed it in my darkroom at home. I’ve got photography skills, don’t you think?

Oops, what is that… um, crease along the bottom? Well…. umm, uhh, I wasn’t showing you the whole lovely print I made in my darkroom at home, because, well, my 10-year-old folded it along the bottom so I cropped that part out. Yep, that’s what happened.

Oh no, I’m caught in the act. I didn’t take a photograph of New York City after all… and my 10-year-old is exonerated.

In fact, here’s the reality. The “photo of NYC” is actually just a super tight crop, a close-up of a part of a cute little gift bag that sits on my desk here at the office. The reason I love this bag and the reason it occupies valuable real estate on my desk, is because I can (mentally!) dive into the image, as shown at the very top of this post, and feel like I’m there… I can zoom in with my mind’s eye, eliminating the surrounding clutter… and travel. I heart NY.

I can also demonstrate what’s possible with cropping, a tool in every designer’s bag of tricks, and something we do by second nature after a certain number of years. A practicing designer begins to really see the world differently and can then manipulate your perception as well. Verrrrry powerful stuff.

Thankfully, most of us (your friends at designfarm, included) operate in service of good vs. evil.

9.18.08 The Power of Punk (Images)

Confession: I was never really a bona-fide punk rock grrl.

Not in the pure sense of earning the title. I was rebellious; in the cultural context of my early-70’s teen years suburban Columbus, Ohio ennui was such that my rebellions could have been considered fairly radical. A few years later, within my college culture (University of MD, fine arts dept), I might also have been considered a rebel, lugging massive art books and dressed in shades-of-black thriftstore clothes. Small things, yes, but in 1977, these affectations amounted to quite the statement in College Park, where sports and the Greek System defined campus life. I may have thought I was cool, and maybe I sort of was for a nerdy art-dork. But I’m pretty sure I knew even then that I wasn’t hard core. After all, my nice Jewish mother would have killed me and although I was in perpetual mourning for the sad state of the world, I wasn’t ready to die yet.

Regardless of my admission to being far too tied to my traditional upbringing to ever qualify as Punk with a capital P (see Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten, above), I can say with absolute certainty: The Sex Pistols, bursting onto the world scene with glorious brain-searing noise unlike anything ever heard, changed my life. The Pistols turned everything upside down; how I thought about popular culture, music, art, writing, fashion, graphic design, DIY, image and image-making, politics, the whole heady late-70’s mix of youthful life. So although I never pierced my face with a safety pin, part of me became and still is punk.

Oddly enough, today, a week past my 51st birthday, I may be having the truest, yet wholly unexpected experience of what it meant/means to be punk. And I am having it because 30 years after the fact I am sporting a t-shirt I picked up at Trash & Vaudeville in the East Village, NYC (above) this summer.

Pictured above, in screaming neon pink, there is Sid… as hideous and F-You as he could possibly make himself (or, as English impressario Malcolm McLaren could create him). And yes, I’m sporting a t-shirt of Sid, and Sid is sporting a t-shirt of a shattered image of Christ–unarguably sacreligious just for the context and color treatment, among other things.

On the elevator ride to the designfarm world HQ this morning I wasn’t really thinking about all of this–I just love this danged t-shirt–but the reaction was palpable. I could feel my usually friendly office-building mates stiffen with discomfort and I was taken aback. As people exited, they snuck final sideways glances. Then they scurried off. Quickly.

Attraction/repulsion… I think that’s at the heart of punk. You want to look, you must look. Simultaneously, you have a strong urge to run in the opposite direction. The fact that a t-shirt, so far removed from the people and events themselves… can still have this effect… is a testament to the undeniable power of images and of design, and of the enduring power of punk.

And yes, I probably should have known as much.