Thursday, March 26, 2009


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 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 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

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

2009 New York Book Show Winner

I am pleased to announce that the Picador Art Department had some winning entries in the 2009 New York Book Show in the category of

General Trade / Quality Paperback for Individual Book Cover Design:

John Lydon's ROTTEN // Picador

Yoko Ogawa's THE DIVING POOL // Picador

Slavoj Zizek's VIOLENCE // Picador

And one of my freelance jobs for Twelve / Grand Central Publishers, Art Directed by Flamur Tonuzi.
In the category of General Trade / Hardcover Nonfiction for Individual Book Jacket Design:

Dave Cullen's COLUMBINE // Twelve / Grand Central Publishers

I'll post more about this cover soon.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Atmospheric Disturbances

by Rivka Galchen / Picador
A man's wife disappears. In her place a woman who looks, talks, and behaves exactly like her. A simulacrum. He loves her but he won't be fooled. He knows better than to trust his senses in matters of the heart. Certain that his real wife is alive and in hiding, he embarks on a idealistic journey to reclaim her. With the help of a man who believes himself to be a secret agent and is able to control the weather. He discovers that this man has developed a meteorological technique to verify that this woman is an impostor by using Doppler Radar technology. To prove once and for all that she's the "Dopplerganger" that he believes she is.

My original concept was to create a portrait of the woman out of Doppler Radar images. But it wasn't resonating with anyone. It was told that it was important to put across the idea of a duplicated person on the cover and to not make it too colorful. Back to the keyboard with the mechanical late for the printers.
The final design was born out of restrictions and deadlines. The character in the book is described as having blonde hair with bangs. Most of the woman images I found in stock were too posed. I photographed some of my co-workers faces. But the author liked the eyes on my original image. But everything else about her was incorrect. Her hair was the wrong color. So the only portion of her entire face that I could really use was just her eye. The author also liked this Doppler effect. WIth no time to see if I could retouch her dark hair into a blond, I instead cropped tight into the eye, placed it in the center of the circular rings (And NO, it wasn't die-cut. Limited budget. But I don't think it needed it). It was interesting but I still needed to convey the twin aspect so I duplicated it, flopped it, colored it and overlaid it to create tension between the two. So out of desperation with limitations and time came this solution.
I liked that I was able to keep it clean and work with basically two simple objects.

P.S. This is my very first design created and printed entirely from an Adobe InDesign mechanical. It's amazing. It looks exactly like Quark.

Doppler Effect:

Other Concepts:

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Hitler Salute: On the Meaning of a Gesture

by Tilman Allert // Picador
Sometimes the smallest detail reveals the most about a culture. In The Hitler Salute, sociologist Tilman Allert uses the Nazi transformation of a simple human interaction--the greeting--to show how a shared gesture can usher in the conformity of an entire society. Made compulsory in 1933, the Hitler salute developed into a daily reflex in a matter of months, and became the norm in schools, at work, among friends, and even at home. Adults denounced neighbors who refused to raise their arms, and children were given tiny Hitler dolls with movable right arms so they could practice the salute. And, of course, each use the greeting invested Hitler and his regime with a divine aura.

The first examination of a phenomenon whose significance has long been underestimated, The Hitler Salute offers new insight into how the Third Reich's rituals of consent paved the way for the wholesale erosion of social morality.

I wanted to avoid obvious Nazi imagery on the cover. I was able to find this crowd of smiling grandpas, babies, and citizens that almost looks like they're waving. The type treatment suggest the Nazi armband with the type following the tilt of the swastika.