Category Archives: Book Design

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.


An early concept using abstracted musical notation.

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Behind the Covers: Radical Theatrics

Final cover design

Final cover design

As part of a series of guest posts, UW Press Designer Dustin Kilgore walks us through the various design concepts that eventually brought him to a book’s final cover:

Craig Peariso’s Radical Theatrics: Put-ons, Politics, and the Sixties analyzes the theatrical actions of the 1960s counterculture movement and finds that, contrary to popular belief, their over-the-top antics were more than attention-seeking displays. From Occupy Wall Street and Flood Wall Street to the creative Keystone XL pipeline protests, such theatrics are still considered effective by the diverse groups within American society expressing political dissent.

To mirror the book’s approach of using contemporary 1960s source materials in its analysis, I thought the book’s overall design should feel as much from that time period as possible without being nostalgic or resorting to tired stock protest imagery.

The image research included print ephemera  and documentary photography of protests as diverse as the October 21st March to “Levitate the Pentagon” to humble Quaker pray-ins in front of the White House.

Selected image research.

Selected image research.

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Behind the Covers: Bike Battles

In Bike Battles: A History of Sharing the American Road, James Longhurst, a historian and avid cyclist, traces contentious debates between American bicyclists, motorists, and pedestrians over the shared road, from the nineteenth century to the current day. Here, designer Dustin Kilgore walks (or pedals?) us through the various design concepts that eventually brought him to the book’s final cover.

Bike Battles is such an evocative book title and it hits close to home for me. As a daily bike commuter, I felt added pressure to do this book justice. Since everyone uses street signs, the “sharing the road” reference seemed like a natural way to speak to the cultural history the book investigates, as well as both sides of the bike/car divide.

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Image research for the cover of “Bike Battles”

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Behind the Covers: Six Classics of Asian American Literature, Then and Now

For our Throwback Thursday contribution to the University Press Week blog tour, we’re taking a look at how cover designs for our Classics of Asian American Literature series have evolved over time. Below, we feature the original book covers alongside their new designs and comments from University of Washington Press designers Thomas Eykemans and Dustin Kilgore. Their comments illuminate some of the challenges and opportunities that  arise in reimagining book covers to better fit contemporary trends while also highlighting the historic significance of the books and their authors.

1. America Is in the Heart by Carlos Bulosan

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The cover of the 1973 edition (left) and the 2014 edition (right).

Designer: Dustin Kilgore
Design statement: Prior to the 2014 reissue, the most recent edition of America Is in the Heart was published by the University of Washington Press in 1973 and featured a 1946 illustration by Frances O’Brien from the cover of the Saturday Review of Literature. When the design was reduced in size for the 1973 book cover, the shadows on Bulosan’s face appeared heavier than in the original illustration. The determined look in Bulosan’s eyes in the original O’Brien illustration became almost glowering as the quality of the illustration was degraded over time.

For the new cover, we wanted a more upbeat tone that highlighted Bulosan’s unerring hope for America even in the face of hardship. Urban Artworks—a local organization that uses public art to empower youth—had recently installed a Carlos Bulosan mural in Seattle’s International District. That image showed more optimism and nuance, so it fit perfectly with the direction I was hoping to take the new cover design. I switched the image’s color palette to warmer tones, rather than staying with the cool color palette the mural uses. The cool tones work well for the place the mural is installed, but I was concerned it would make the book less inviting and unintentionally repeat the somewhat sinister effect of the shadows we saw in the reprints of the 1973 edition.

Read more about the new America Is in the Heart cover design here. Continue reading

University Press Week and AAUP Book Design Tour

This week, we join with fellow members of the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) in celebrating the third annual University Press Week. This year’s theme, “Great Minds Don’t Think Alike,” celebrates the incredible range of contributions university presses from around the world make to stimulating ideas and conversations.

Don’t miss the University Press Blog Tour, a virtual journey through the innovative contributions university presses make to scholarly communities, regional knowledge, and awareness of global issues. The UW Press blog will be participating in this tour on Thursday, November 13 and will feature contributions from other university presses on our Twitter feed.

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Behind the Covers: “No-No Boy”

NoNo-OkadaJohn Okada‘s classic novel, No-No Boy, tells the story of Ichiro Yamada, a fictional version of a real-life “no-no boy.” During World War II, Yamada answered “no” twice in a compulsory government questionnaire as to whether he would serve in the armed forces and swear loyalty to the United States. Unwilling to pledge himself to the country that interned him and his family, Ichiro earned two years in prison and the hostility of his family and community when he returns home to Seattle. As Ruth Ozeki writes in her introduction to the new edition of the book, Ichiro’s “obsessive, tormented” voice subverts Japanese postwar “model-minority” stereotypes, showing a fractured community and one man’s “threnody of guilt, rage, and blame as he tries to negotiate his reentry into a shattered world.”

First published in 1956, No-No Boy was virtually ignored by a public eager to put World War II and the Japanese internment behind them. It was not until the mid-1970s that a new generation of Japanese American writers and scholars recognized the novel’s importance and popularized it as one of literature’s most powerful testaments to the Asian American experience. In 2014, the University of Washington Press brought out a new edition of the book, with hopes of introducing it to yet another generation of readers. In this guest post, designer Thomas Eykemans discusses his process of creating the cover for this new edition of the book.

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Behind the Covers: Joshua Howe’s “Behind the Curve”

In 1958, Charles David Keeling began measuring the concentration of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. His project launched a half century of research that has expanded our knowledge of climate change but done little to curb its effects. In Behind the Curve: Climate Science and the Politics of Global Warming, Joshua Howe explores the history of global warming from its roots as a scientific curiosity to its place at the center of international environmental debates. The book follows the story of rising CO2—illustrated by the now famous Keeling Curve—while highlighting the relationships between scientists, environmentalists, and politicians as climate science evolved and as policy debates unfolded. In today’s guest post, UW Press senior designer Thomas Eykemans recounts his efforts to create a book cover that incorporated an iconic graphic while also reflecting the human and environmental components of climate change.

The Keeling Curve measures the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere at Mauna Loa from 1960–2013.

The Keeling Curve measures the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere at Mauna Loa from 1960–2013.

Howe writes that “the Keeling Curve [is] one of the simplest and most powerful images in the iconography of anthropogenic climate change.” It is central to the argument of the book and appears again and again throughout, even inspiring the title. It became obvious that it had to play some role in the design of the cover. My challenge lay in how to present it in an engaging and appealing way.

My initial concepts were purely graphical, exploring an interplay of typography, color, and the curve. I liked the idea of warm and cool colors defining the foreground and background. The placement of the title could also play with being in front or behind. A flowchart of a complex governmental report provided an interesting contrast to the simplicity of the curve.


Early concepts paired the Keeling Curve with various typographic and color combinations.

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