Anatomy of a Book Cover: The Vigilant Investor

The following is a guest post by Creative Director Cathleen Ouderkirk on the long process of creating the perfect book cover.

Sometimes jacket designs arrive fully-formed, like what’s-her-name popping out of of Zeus’ head. Our recent book, Harvesting Intangible Assets was exactly this kind of easy job. We asked Faceout Studio for something “dignified and serious, but with an intriguing element that combines farming and intellectual property.” Exactly the kind of assignment that thinking designers love, and voila, check out the response: plenty dignified, but with a touch of intrigue.

Other times (most other times), jacket design creation is more like childbirth—long and on the painful side. We love the jacket design for our new book, The Vigilant Investor because it exactly presents what we wanted… well, what we eventually realized we wanted. For this one we put our talented, long-time designer, Cynthia Wessendorf, through the wringer — but she survived.
First draft of cover of the Vigilant Investor where an umbrella covers a golden egg
First we told her: “Cynthia, we want something that looks serious (because we’re talking about people’s savings, after all) but still conveys a sense of security. So she came with a series of designs, including this one, which says “your money” and “protection.”

Maybe too much protection, we decided. We instructed Cynthia, “this one is beautiful, but we realize we need something a bit more threatening, to scare potential readers into needing the book.” Cynthia gamely jumped in and came with a second round, which certainly achieved threatening (note swooping eagle design).
Second draft of Vigilant Investor Cover where eagle swoops on golden egg
Hmm, maybe too threatening. So we went back to poor Cynthia and said: “We love the idea of the golden nest egg being under threat or in distress, but the eagle seems too extreme. Is there something else you can do with the egg?”

And that’s when long-suffering Cynthia came up with what became the final design: a big gorgeous golden nest egg — but the egg is developing cracks… whoa… get it? Is your nest egg as secure as you think it is?

So thank you, Pat Huddleston, for writing such an eye-opening book, and thank you, Ms. Wessendorf for not giving up on us and creating an equally eye-opening book cover.

Creativity. Don’t you love it?

Cathleen Ouderkirk is Creative Director here at AMACOM. With us for over 20 years, she started as a copywriter and then moved to producing catalogs, sales sheets, and direct mail pieces, before moving on to design. After secretly designing on her own book jackets and showing them to the acquisition editors, her work evolved into overseeing all of our jackets today. Visit our website for freelance design inquiries.

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One response to “Anatomy of a Book Cover: The Vigilant Investor

  1. Interesting behind-the-scenes look at the creative design process.
    And I think I need to buy that book!

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