by Dave Cullen
Art Director: Flamur "Flag" Tonuzi // Twelve Books - Grand Central Publishing
Photograph by: Steve Peterson / ZUMA Press
• An AIGA's 50 Books // 50 Covers Best Cover Selection
• An Art Directors Club GOLD Winner
• A Type Directors Club Winner
• An EYE Magazine / JUST ADD STOCK Winner
• A Communication Arts Design Annual Winner
• A readerville.com Most Coveted Covers Selection, No. 215
• Appeared in The Financial Times section, "How to judge a book by its cover" by David Shaftel. November 13 2009
• A Shortlist.com 50 Coolest Book Covers Selection
The Original News photo:
Apr 24, 1999 - Littleton, Colorado, USA - Columbine High School Shooting: Columbine High School southwest corner shortly after shooting. Windows are boarded up from the gun fire at The Columbine High School shooting where two teenage gunmen fatally shot 12 classmates and a teacher before killing themselves, on April 20, 1999. Front area of Columbine High School where Harris and Kledblod opened fire on students and teachers.
I thought that like 9/11, this was a regular day in the life of a regular high school. I wanted to depict the banality of school life. Lockers, linoleum floor tiles, classrooms, students shuffling between classes.
At first I used stock images of school hallway:
They were looking too pretty, too much poetry. Is that possible? And I thought if I continued this approach, it wouldn't make sense if I didn't use an image from the actual Columbine high school. These comps used photos of the school's actual hallway and library:
I also had to explore using the classroom video feed taken during the shooting. But I already knew it would have been too exploitative and painful to use on the final jacket:
In the end, I didn't want to say anything or felt the need to frame the book in any Point-of-View. What really needs to be said? The Publisher had already set the tone for me. As far as the cover copy, there was no author's name, no descriptive subtitle, no high school, just the word COLUMBINE on the front cover. That said it all. So I pulled all the way out of the school's interior and used an exterior news photo of the high school that photo-researcher Laura Wyss found for me. I made it as small as I could and cropped out any distracting elements and set it low on the page. I extended the gray skies heavenward and set the title small and floating in knock out white from a light sky. The contrast was subtle. K.I.S.S. Keep It Subtle Stupid. Hopefully the dramatically haunting spareness will draw you in. The final has a matte lamination with the title in spot gloss to punch it out a little. Because you still gotta read it from across the room.
I was told that the Sales department wanted to change the type solution to make it more legible because they were worried that the cover wouldn't reproduce well in Amazon. So we just made a darker JPEG version for the web. Talk about the tail wagging the dog. But thankfully the Publishers loved it just the way it was. Me too.
This is the second book cover I designed for Grand Central Publisher's new TWELVE imprint. The first being The Man Who Wanted Everything: Michael Ovitz and the Dark Dreams of Hollywood. And BOTH have won the Type Directors' Club Award for typographic excellence. How suh-WEET is that? Big thanks goes to the Creative Director Anne Twomey and my Art Director Flamur "Flag" Tonuzi. Although I've known Flag for years since we went to NYC's School of Visual Arts/SVA together, this was the first time we've worked together.
Here's Flag with a head of hair during Senior Year in the Design Workshop of SVA showing off some kind of big conceptual thingy design:
My Art Directors Club Winner GOLD Cube:
Photographed by Keith Hayes