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Originally published in the May 2009 issue of Quill & Quire

Where We Have to Go by Lauren Kirshner is a genuine coming-of-age story of a very likeable character,

Lucy Bloom and Lucy's often humorous and agonizing experiences of growing up different.

The publishing trade magazine Quill & Quire runs a fun feature called, Cover-to-Cover. They select book designers to outline their creative thinking from concept to final cover. I was asked by Q&Q to show my thinking when I worked on Lauren's cover.

Note that as a book designer, for better or worse, you are not alone. There is a large committee of people involved in the cover approval process. From editors to publishers, sales to marketing people, the authors (sometimes their loved ones and sometimes their poker buddies). The book buyers and agents and the online department get a say too. Apologies to anyone I missed mentioning here. It takes a village to raise a book.

The mannequins found in the novel make for a striking cover image. In this comp, the legs of a mannequin sticking awkwardly out of a box labeled “fragile” was an effort to capture the young narrator’s awkward journey of self-discovery. The feedback was, conceptually strong, but missed the energy found in the writing—others just found the image too disturbing . . .

The next attempt was to only use small details of a mannequin (hopefully less disturbing). The geometric shapes and colors are meant to add a youthful energy. The concept met with editorial approval. Sales felt the design was too busy for store shelves.

Here, simplified by removing the geometric pattern and keeping to a single image. The image close-cropped for maximum impact and to exaggerate the idea of the "flawlessness" the protagonist finds in one of the mannequins. The approach was judged a little too bold and lacked the playful tone of the novel.

Through further discussions with the book’s editor, the decision was made to refocus on the idea of the “journey”. An orange suitcase that appears in the book seemed interesting and a fitting metaphor. Later it was decided the cover would benefit with more of a "human element". The suitcase was kept as a design element for the interior page design instead.

FINAL: A retro stock illustration was used to suggest the “ideal” family. In hopes of adding some realistic depth, armed with scissors and masking tape, the illustration was cut out and taped to a blank sheet of paper then scanned. The hope was to achieve a less digital, more hand-made execution to reflect the novel’s theme of human faults and the acceptance of self from Lucy’s point of view.