Thursday, August 09, 2012

Rawhide Down: The Near Assassination of Ronald Reagan (Outtakes)

by Del Quentin Wilber / Picador

A minute-by-minute account of the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan

I worked with Ron Edmonds's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of President Ronald Reagan at the moment of the shooting. I thought that the image was recognizable enough for me to abstract. To suggest the book’s close-up, in-depth exploration on this event, I cropped tightly into the expression on his face. I wanted the immediacy of a news event unfolding, so I converted the image into newspaper printing, halftone-dots. I chose a large dot pattern to further abstract the image and get you even closer. All of the type elements were placed in the repeated dot shapes that suggested gunshots. In the end, this was probably too sensational of an approach for this book.


Read photographer Ron Edmonds/AP Behind-the-Photo account of his Pulitzer Prize-Winning photograph.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

SMUT: stories

by Alan Bennett / A Picador Paperback Original

Cover illustration by Christopher Silas Neal

One of England’s finest and most loved writers explores the uncomfortable and tragicomic gap between people’s public appearance and their private desires in two tender and surprising stories.
In The Greening of Mrs. Donaldson, a recently bereaved widow finds interesting ways to supplement her income by performing as a patient for medical students, and renting out her spare room. Quiet, middle-class, and middle-aged, Mrs. Donaldson will soon discover that she rather enjoys role-play at the hospital, and the irregular and startling entertainment provided by her tenants.
In The Shielding of Mrs. Forbes, a disappointed middle-aged mother dotes on her only son, Graham, who believes he must shield her from the truth. As Graham’s double life becomes increasingly complicated, we realize how little he understands, not only of his own desires but also those of his mother.
A master storyteller dissects a very English form of secrecy with two stories of the unexpected in otherwise apparently ordinary lives.

My idea? SMUT = British Reserve + Sex

I liked the approach of taking proper teacups to represent British stiff upper lip reserve and arranging them in a sexually suggestive but subtle way. My initial approach was photographic.

Earlier comps:

But it was looking too stiff and needed more whimsy. I thought the wonderfully talented illustrator Christopher Silas Neal was the perfect person to render this concept without making it look too trashy.
Originally I wanted him to depict just one set of teacups caught in a sexual position rendered with plenty of details, as in the photographic approach. But when I saw all of Christopher's great "cupping" sketch ideas I laughed. I couldn't choose just one. So I decided to include several of them in the design and kept them as simply drawn silhouettes. I'm surprised we didn't try any ideas with a tea bag. Next time.

Christopher's sketches:

An alternate comp using a hand-lettered title but decided to keep it austere:

Tiffany Gibert of Books Matter Blog used our cover to pick out her outfit.

Alan Bennett reads 'The Greening of Mrs Donaldson' from his new book SMUT:

Alan Bennett Defies Expectations With 'Smut'
by NPR Staff / All Things Considered, January 12, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Words Like Loaded Pistols

by Sam Leith

Art Director: Nicole Caputo // Basic Books

A hilariously entertaining exploration of how people have taught, practiced and thought about rhetoric—the art of persuasion—from Aristotle to Obama.

Rhetoric is all around us. It’s what inspires armies, convicts criminals, and makes or breaks presidential candidates. And it isn’t just the preserve of politicians. It’s in the presentation to a key client, the half-time talk in the locker room, and the plea to your children to eat their vegetables. Rhetoric gives words power: it persuades and cajoles, inspires and bamboozles, thrills and misdirects. You have been using rhetoric yourself, all your life. After all, you know what a rhetorical question is, don’t you?
In Words Like Loaded Pistols, Sam Leith traces the art of persuasion, beginning in ancient Syracuse and taking us on detours as varied and fascinating as Elizabethan England, Milton’s Satanic realm, the Springfield of Abraham Lincoln and the Springfield of Homer Simpson. He explains how language has been used by the great heroes of rhetoric (such as Cicero and Martin Luther King Jr.), as well as some villains (like Adolf Hitler and Richard Nixon.)
Leith provides a primer to rhetoric’s key techniques. Words Like Loaded Pistols, you’ll find out how to build your own memory-palace; you’ll be introduced to the Three Musketeers: Ethos, Pathos and Logos; and you’ll learn how to use chiasmus with confidence and occultatio without thinking about it. Most importantly of all, you will discover that rhetoric is useful, relevant – and absolutely nothing to be afraid of.

Alternate color palette: