Quill and Quire, which is our version of Publishers Weekly, does a regular feature on the process of developing a cover. They asked me to do this for a recent poetry cover - Pure Product by Jason Guriel.
When I am designing a poetry cover I try and find images in the poems that lend themselves to visual expression. Pure product is a line in Guriel’s poem “Thinigness.” It is not always easy for me to describe the process I go through to create an image but there was just something about these old fashioned sprinklers I found in a hardware catalogue that seemed to fit for the notion of thinginess. Unfortunately it made for an unintended connection with the word “product” in the title – as if the sprinklers were the product. If the title had been “Thinginess” it might have worked.
This is an evolution of the previous direction. I thought that maybe the placement of the type could remove the connection between product and sprinkler but it just created another issue. Water could be interpreted as the “Pure Product”.
This image comes from another poem in the book “Shopping Cart, Abandoned on Front Lawn”. The shadows cast by the cart on the lawn create “subdivisions the ants won’t obey” I don’t think I ever presented this one because it still made an unintended connection with the title – shopping, consumerism.
I thought the idea of using a bell jar might be interesting – isolating the pure product. The press liked the image but felt something was missing - no “ahh” moment.
From the poem Thinginess
“the necessary tubing
the nothing blowing
The image is an allusion to Magritte's “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”. By opening the straw it solves the problem I encountered with (A) and (B). The straw is not the product. It just defines the nothing blowing thru it.
I worked on the shadows of the shopping cart option (C) for almost an entire day but couldn't get it to work. It reminded me of a point earlier in my career when I was working in Montreal for a design company. I was leaving the office at the end of the day and noticed another designer was hard at work on a logo - it wasn't working and the deadline was the next day. When I came back to work the next morning she was still at work and had been there all night struggling with the same version. It made me realize that you have to listen to your inner designer voice that tells you to put it aside and try something else. It doesn't matter how much effort you have put into any given solution, if it isn't working clear your desk and start again.
This raises another issue that we as designers are always asking ourselves - is it any good? If you work alone you can't bounce ideas off your fellow designers. It sounds a little silly but I work on a solution until I like it and then I present it. You almost have to be your own audience and trust your own reaction to the work.