Content Tagged ‘book cover design’

Seven Questions for Rachel Z. Arndt

In Seven Questions, we interview writers, editors, designers, and others in publishing. Today, we interview Rachel Z. Arndt, whose essay “Wind” is forthcoming in Ecotone 25. She received MFAs in nonfiction and poetry from the University of Iowa, where she was an Iowa Arts Fellow and nonfiction editor of the Iowa Review. Her writing appears in Popular Mechanics, Quartz, Pank, Fast Company, and elsewhere. She lives in Chicago. Her essay collection Beyond Measure, comes out this week from Sarabande.

Your book, Beyond Measure, is an exploration of the rituals, routines, metrics, and expectations through which we attempt to quantify and ascribe value to our lives. Do you practice any rituals when it comes to your writing, and if so, what can you share with us about them? 

I’m militant about the pens I write with: Uni-ball Vision Exact micro (in black). The problem is these pens were discontinued years ago, which I started to realize—and deny—the last year I lived in New York. Toward the tail end of that year, after I decided to move halfway across the country for grad school, I checked my Ziploc-bagged stash, saw I was running low, and went online. I scoured office supply stores, specialty writing utensil stores, and school supply stores. No dice. So I went to eBay and ordered maybe thirty of them. As long as they got me through school, I told myself, I’d be fine. They did.

I’m also pretty militant about my notebooks: blank 5-inch by 8.25-inch Moleskines. Lines distract me. Plus, I pride myself on being able to write in straight lines, a skill I’ve been perfecting since middle school math class. If the writing’s no good, at least it looks good.

These are, I realize, coping mechanisms for dealing with writers’ block and crankiness and off days when everything comes out clunky and abstract. They are coping mechanisms, that is, for the loss of control that’s inherently part of writing—a loss that’s strange, given nonfiction’s adherence to hard and fast facts, but a loss that makes sense when you think of writing less as translating the world to text and more as translating one’s experience of the world to text.

Where did you get the idea for your forthcoming Ecotone essay “Wind”? 

I tend toward the abstract. So I made myself think of something tangible and, one afternoon after getting back from a windy Iowa bike-ride, stared out the window until a memory bubbled up that had a distinct beginning, middle, and end.

The stuff about the weather came later. As I was writing—because I usually don’t know what I’m actually writing about until I see it on the page—I realized people who lived far away asked me about the weather either because they refused to ask what they really wanted to know—how I was doing—or because they refused to actually care. I suppose the essay idea came from my belligerent take on meteorological small talk; I was sick of talking about the weather. So I wrote a few thousand words about the weather.

Name a book you bought for its cover.

I wish I could say Future Sex, by Emily Witt, but that cover was just a bonus. More honestly, R.L. Stine’s Night in Werewolf Woods, which is one of those choose-your-own-adventure Goosebumps books. Since coloring in Pharaoh’s dog in my coloring-book Haggadah, I’ve had a soft spot for dogs with big teeth (I’ll ignore that I didn’t realize, apparently, that that Goosebumps “dog” is actually a werewolf).

You have a superpower: you can immediately give to every person on earth one piece of information. What is it?

As my dad says: Everything is mostly space.

What emerging author are you most excited about? 

A friend of mine from grad school, Chloe Livaudais, writes beautifully about motherhood and being a daughter. Her metaphors and similes are shockingly astute and make me see the world—and the women in it—in new ways.

When do you feel most confident as a writer? 

After emerging from the fugue of feverishly writing by hand nonstop for an hour or two, while flipping back through the ink-soggy pages, looking at what I’ve done but not actually reading it. (Later, when I type those pages, that confidence will slither away.)

Lightning Round:

Highlight or underline? Underline.
Ocean or mountains? Lake.
Hardcover or paperback? Hardcover.
Morning or night? Morning.
Dogs or cats? Dogs.
Text or call? Text.
Future or nostalgia? Nostalgia for the time that doesn’t exist when I wasn’t so worried about the future.

Thank you to Ecotone staffer Alexis Olson for her contributions to this interview.

C.R.A.P.tastic

cover_1101_fullMuch of the attention of students in the Publishing Laboratory is focused on designing digital and print media for both Ecotone and Lookout. The bones of our insight into design start with one acronym that’s as useful as it is fun to say: C.R.A.P. It stands for contrast, repetition, alignment, and proximity.

Our newest department—From the Drafting Table—aims to look at design in the world of publishing. For this debut post, I’ve decided to look at five cover designs from the literary journal Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies and talk about what makes them so compelling through the lens of C.R.A.P.

t_1336256674These first two covers take advantage of one very basic thing—color. If our courses in publishing have taught us anything about the business of the industry, it’s that a book or magazine cover needs to give a good first impression, even from far away. The vibrant background colors here catch our eye and hook us in visually. The white of the egg, in contrast to the rest of the cover, highlights the organic shape of the outline. Since blue and yellow are complementary colors, the yolk of the egg seems richer and tied to what’s behind it. The repetition of white tells our eyes where to make a connection, guiding our eye from the title of the journal to the food on display.

5c80859dc9b455da845e4eb924009b54This next one does a great job expressing the journal’s mission in a subtle yet evocative way. While we might expect to find images of food on the cover of a food publication, a bottle of perfume or a hamburger made of wood might cause us to glance twice. Gastronomica’s goal of using “food as a starting point to probe timely and necessary questions about the role of food in everyday life,” shines through here. It’s not just food we’re looking at, but images that summon the idea of food while blending in other dynamics of life, connecting eating to being. This is a more conceptual take on repetition that allows the theme of food to reverberate through images and associations.

1336256744Another pigment match made in heaven can be seen in the red hues of the heart and the green background. These colors, aside from being the stars of that wintery holiday, are complementary. A contrast in texture is also at work here, the silky shadows in the fabric connect our eye to the fatty components in the salami and those hallowed-out dots in the meat bring us back to the cloth. Repetition hard at work.

The food is hanging on a little less in this one, but let’s face it, it’s cool. And there are some neat tricks at play here. The gradient of the background mimics the pixelated gradient of the sprinkles. They both have a gradual fade that makes the more consistent colors pop, like the sockets of the eyes and the shadow behind the jaw bone. It brings us to alignment, to that that nice horizon line where the colors start to part.The blue gradient in the background adds dimension to the cover by transitioning to white where the bottom of 1356524289the skull begins. The image’s alignment with the backdrop, as well as its proximity to the horizon line, creates a bend that lets our eyes perceive the skull as sitting on a shelf rather than on a two-dimensional surface.

Gastronomica said good-bye to the glitzy and provocative stylings on display here and transitioned to a consistent patterned background. The change remains a mystery to me, I confess, but at least we still have these, and the new designs still provide clear instances of C.R.AP. Another pigment match made in heaven can be seen in the red hues of the heart and the green background. These colors, aside from being the stars of that wintery holiday, are P. Though the patterns vary, their size, rate of repetition, and proximity to one another reminds viewers of previous issues, telling them what they can expect and helping them to create an identity for the magazine.

That concludes our first edition of From the Drafting Table. Stay tuned for more thoughts about and examples of great design. And remember to keep C.R.A.P. in mind when looking at the world. There’s plenty to see.

–Jane Molinary, MFA Candidate, Pub Lab TA

Lit News Roundup

Winter Institute kicks off in Asheville this weekend, and we’re proud to be hosting the NC Speakeasy on Sunday evening with fellow Tar Heelians Algonquin Books and John F. Blair, both of which are also featured in “North Carolina Indies Build Lists, Community” from Publishers Weekly. Booksellers, please look for Matthew Neill Null’s debut novel, Honey from the Lion, in the galley room. Can’t make it to Asheville? E-mail us for a copy.

You can get a sneak peek at the galley, and maybe even a few photos of Winter Institute, by following us on our newly launched Instagram.

Our news feeds were abuzz with week with reports that Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, is publishing a new novel, which follows Scout twenty years after the classic. Titled Go Set a Watchman, it was written first but presumed lost until Lee’s lawyer discovered it in the secure archive near the author’s Alabama home last fall.

Just this morning, Electric Literature and Grove Atlantic announced the launch of Literary Hub, “a new home for book lovers” (Wall Street Journal). Literary Hub will feature a mix of content contributed by partners and original material, including author interviews, features, excerpts, and essays. Sign us up, please!

We’ve all heard the phrase don’t judge a book by its cover, but this Guardian article presents an unusual counterpoint to that adage: this book cover judges you! In fact, it won’t open unless the reader has a neutral expression on her face.

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