Anatomy of a Book Cover: The Trouble with HR

Our Creative Director, Cathleen Ouderkirk, has a new edition of our wildly inconsistent series “Anatomy of a Book Cover.” Still a Family was our previous anatomy subject.


Coming out this month, we’ve got a serious book with a pretty funny cover. The Trouble with HR by Johnny C. Taylor, Jr. and Gary M. Stern explains why big corporate HR departments don’t always do a great job of finding great employees. Our designer, Cynthia Wessendorf, gave us this cover that made us all laugh — it’s a pretty graphic portrayal of NOT thinking “outside the box”!

CATHLEEN: How did you come up with the concept?

CYNTHIA: The box concept works for both sides of the hiring equation. For HR people who might read the book, it speaks to their feeling of being stuck in a box. They rarely get the respect they deserve, and their expertise is often denigrated by managers. For management, the box describes what they sometimes see as the HR mentality of excessive rules and a limited perspective.

CATHLEEN: Did it come from any personal experience?

CYNTHIA: Hey, I worked in corporate America for many years before moving to Honolulu, so I know the disconnect between the kind of rule-bound, nebulous concerns of HR and the super-harried lives of staff people trying desperately to get warm, reasonably talented bodies in the office for just a little bit of money.

CATHLEEN: How did you come up with the image of the box?

CYNTHIA: It was just the opposite of the cliche of thinking “outside the box.” We mostly just live our lives and think our thoughts inside the box, don’t we?

CATHLEEN: Did the idea come quickly or sloooooowly?

CYNTHIA: Concepts always come slowly to me. I’m definitely an “in the box” person who excels at incredibly tedious tasks like copyediting and typesetting.

CATHLEEN: What’s your favorite kind of book to design?

CYNTHIA: I like strong and simple designs. They can be elegant or kind of garish, but they are always eye-catching and powerful–never over-Photoshopped.

CATHLEEN: Any other current book jacket designs you think are cool/beautiful/intriguing?

CYNTHIA: The new short story collection Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower has a fabulous jacket. Stark, arresting, powerful, with a bit of carnival thrown in.

CATHLEEN: Any books you’ve read recently that you’d recommend (and why?)

CYNTHIA: Sadly, I read precious little in the way of book-length anything, but I HAVE been reading the Harry Potter series out loud to my seven year old and, wow, they are terrific! Not really suitable for silent adult reading (though I know many have gobbled them up, I assume guiltily), but they’re absolutely wonderful for kids. There’s adventure, suspense, magic, and enough complexity in the characters and story lines to keep you moving briskly along. I am in awe of the author, who has single-handedly gotten millions of children to read, or sit still through, literally thousands of pages.


One response to “Anatomy of a Book Cover: The Trouble with HR

  1. Great post and hysterical cover. Hey, did you design my book cover, Smart Selling on the Phone and Online? I just got it last week and I like how bright the cover looks.

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