Category Archives: Behind the Covers

Behind the Covers: “Looking for Betty MacDonald” and Three New Editions . . .

macdonald-book-3dPaula Becker‘s Looking for Betty MacDonald, the first comprehensive biography of this endearing Northwest storyteller, reveals the story behind the memoirs and the difference between the real Betty MacDonald and her literary persona. In this guest post, designer Thomas Eykemans discusses the process of creating the cover in collaboration with the author and Seattle artist Tom DesLongchamp. He also shares the creation of the covers of three new editions of Betty’s memoirs, Anybody Can Do Anything, The Plague and I, and Onions in the Stew.

There are a million photographs of Betty MacDonald and any one of them could have made a great book cover. The portrait of a beaming bang-free Betty (below, lower left) was inset on many of the covers of her books when they were first published, and Paula describes how this particular image of her was perhaps the most familiar. Regarding The Egg and I:

After only a few months, Lippincott moved Betty’s appealing head shot from the back cover to the front, ditching Bennett’s art. For her readers, the merry pinup-girl author and the yarn she spun were indivisible. From this point on, Egg branded Betty, and Betty branded Egg.

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Various photographs of Betty MacDonald.

Despite their prevalence, a photo of Betty seemed too static for a biography about her, and definitely too black and white. Her rich life, warm personality, and merrily snarky attitude required something more energetic and colorful. Tom DesLongchamp is a Seattle-based artist and illustrator whose imaginative style is perfect for the challenge.

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Behind the Covers: Make Books, Not War!

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“If you can remember the Sixties, you weren’t really there.”

So say many people who were in fact there and must have had a pretty interesting time. Fortunately, actual evidence exists in the form of archived book covers published by the University of Washington Press throughout that era. The decade saw an enormous output of lushly artistic and unabashedly hand-made designs that have not been documented before.

By the end of the 1950s, the press had begun defining itself as a modern publisher with a range beyond purely academic monographs. Forays into regional and trade books were made, and the need for visually striking covers converged with a burgeoning creativity and new production methods that facilitated expression. Reliable budgets and an atmosphere of growth contributed to a fertile environment for these explorations. The prolific work of Dianne Weiss and Audrey Meyer exemplify this, though contributions by Veronica Seyd, Roz Pape, Diana Bower, and uncredited others also enriched the output of the era.

The documentary Graphic Means explores graphic design production of the 1950s through the 1990s:

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Behind the Covers: “The Holding Hours”

Join us for a reading at Elliott Bay Book
Company with Christianne Balk and Judith Skillman (House of Burnt Offerings):

Sunday, April 24, 3:00 p.m. //
Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 Tenth Avenue, Seattle, WA, 98122

For this 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month, we look at the latest title in the Pacific Northwest Poetry Series, The Holding Hours by Christianne Balk. In this exquisite and moving collection, Balk explores the subtle and surprising transformations that come from caring for her young, neurologically injured daughter within the landscape of the Pacific Northwest. Series editor Linda Bierds writes, “Page by page, we’re pulled into ecosystems of the heart more deeply than the clear surface of these poems leads us to expect. And that’s the triumph of this book, for me: how clarity and restraint and the poet/biologist’s precise vision can hold so much.” In this guest post, UW Press senior designer Thomas Eykemans walks us through the creative process in designing the book’s cover.

HoldingHours-FrontThis book of poetry is a celebration of life that weaves challenging topics such as parenthood and disability with descriptions of the organic richness of the Pacific Northwest environment. I connected these disparate themes by working with Seattle artist Christine Smith to form the letters out of sword ferns while keeping the background clinically empty. As an added bonus, the endpapers burst with foliage before settling into the rhythm of the poetry.

The title is set sideways to allow it to have the greatest visual impact. The text is set in Andada, an organic slab-serif typeface designed by Carolina Giovagnoli for Huerta Tipográfica.

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Preliminary test shots of fern letters.

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Behind the Covers: ‘Scent of Apples’

5-santosDistinguished Filipino writer Bienvenido N. Santos was born on this day 105 years ago (March 22, 1911). University of Washington Press recently reissued his Scent of Apples: A Collection of Stories in the Classics of Asian American Literature series. This timely new edition includes sixteen stories Santos wrote between the 1940s and the 1970s and features a new foreword by Jessica Hagedorn and an introduction by Allan Punzalan Isaac. In this guest post, UW Press designer Dustin Kilgore walks us through his creative process in designing the book’s cover.

After reading the first-person story from which the collection draws its name, Scent of Apples, I was impressed by Santos’s ability to gracefully navigate race and class outside of his native Philippines. The title is also so evocative: smell conjures memories instantly, yet it’s fleeting, ephemeral, and difficult to define except by comparison. Continue reading

Behind the Covers: ‘Black Women in Sequence’

BehindCovers-BlackWomen-00As we head into the 40th Black History Month (AKA African American History Month and #BlackFutureMonth), we feature a guest post from UW Press Senior Designer Thomas Eykemans on the creative process behind Black Women in Sequence: Re-inking Comics, Graphic Novels, and Anime by Deborah Elizabeth Whaley. The book won an award in the Scholarly Illustrated category of the 2016 AAUP Book, Jacket and Journal Show.

As the first detailed investigation of Black women’s participation in comic art, Black Women in Sequence examines the representation, production, and transnational circulation of women of African descent in the sequential art world. In this groundbreaking study, which includes interviews with artists and writers, Whaley suggests that the treatment of the Black female subject in sequential art says much about the place of people of African descent in national ideology in the United States and abroad. Below, Eykemans walks us through the collaborative design.

Comics are one of my favorite visual mediums, so it was a pleasant surprise to learn that I would have the opportunity to work on this book. With a diverse range of imagery to draw from and challenging themes to approach, I reached out to the author to help clarify the intention of her book and how I might best represent that in the cover design. Deborah identified the comic strip Friday Foster as the ideal source for a striking cover image. Friday Foster was the first black female comic strip character in a mainstream publication.

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“Friday Foster,” Chicago Tribune, May 5, 1972.

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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.

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Behind the Covers: ‘Classical Seattle’

BehindCover-ClassicalSeattle-3dThe past 50 years have seen a tremendous arts boom in Seattle, which has given the city not only internationally recognized classical music institutions but also great performance halls to showcase their work and that of visiting artists. In Classical Seattle: Maestros, Impresarios, Virtuosi, and Other Music Makers, Melinda Bargreen documents the lives of prominent figures in the local classical music world. In this guest post, UW Press Senior Designer Thomas Eykemans walks us through his creative process in designing the book’s cover.

This cover design presented a challenge that we frequently encounter: how to visually capture the essence of a rich book full of varied stories, photographs, and personalities in a singular and striking image. Though a collage approach is often tempting, it tends to dilute the composition and lessen the impact of any one image.

I looked to musical notation for inspiration in my early concepts. A musical staff with its clefs, notes, and other symbols provided a rich collection of shapes and forms from which to draw. Upon reflection, however, this direction felt a little cold and detached from the warmth of the people and stories contained within.

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An early concept using abstracted musical notation.

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