Behind the Covers: ‘Building the Golden Gate Bridge’

BehindCovers-GoldenGate-00On January 5, 1933, workers began construction on the Golden Gate Bridge. Moving beyond the familiar accounts of politics and the achievements of celebrity engineers and designers, Building the Golden Gate Bridge by Harvey Schwartz is the first book to primarily feature the voices of the workers themselves. This is the story of survivors who vividly recall the hardships, hazards, and victories of constructing the landmark span during the Great Depression. In this guest post, UW Press Senior Designer Thomas Eykemans walks us through his creative process in designing the book’s cover.

In considering ways to find a unique approach to the design of a book about an overly familiar subject that has already been portrayed in countless photographs and films, I came across a pair of commemorative plaques that had been attached to the bridge when it was completed in 1937. They featured spectacular Art Deco typography, iconic of that era, which proved to be an irresistible starting point for the cover design.


I captured an image of the plaque and scaled it to fit a grid. This allowed me to trace the letterforms and build new characters to complete the full title. I also used this opportunity to develop a set of numerals based on the Deco style that I later applied as chapter numbers within the book.


Tracing the letterforms.


Experimenting with title arrangements.


A selection of preliminary cover concepts.

The title color is derived from the unique international orange specifications used to paint the bridge. The cool tone applied to the dramatic photograph helps it stand out.


The full cover wrap.


The Deco motif applied to the title page spread. . .


. . . and chapter openings.