What do you do when you don’t know what you want?
We had this problem a few months back with our book High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service. An intriguing read by our hipper-than-hip author, Micah Solomon, we knew we had a very now topic and an image-rich title, but we couldn’t picture what we wanted for the cover. We knew it needed to portray the intersection of technology and good old human contact, but we couldn’t picture how.
Since Micah was already a success in our book (he wrote our bestselling Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit), we knew we could spend a few extra bucks (don’t worry, Hank, only a few) on this project. As creative director, I’d long had a design dream simmering in the back of my mind…a way to get LOTS of creative ideas…from LOTS of different designers. Could this be our chance — to run a design contest?
YES! Got approved and so I wrote to six of our designers and offered this deal:
- Turn in at least ONE design
- I’ll give you a modest fee
- If we pick your design, you get the usual full fee.
Unsurprisingly I got a 100% response. Everyone wanted to do it. They were only given a week and we received a total of 20 or so designs. One designer turned in 9 designs, another turned in just one.
So what did we get? A lot of fingers/hands combined with high tech stuff—and several really great designs among them. They all have pretty much the AMACOM look (modern feel and fairly spare), but what’s interesting is the different ways the designers came up with the technology images.
We had two very different versions of a finger touching a “techno-heart.” The heart-in-an-icon on an iPad by Cynthia Wesendorf, and the QR-code-as heart design by Toprotype (which ended up in second place.)
Social media was not left out, of course — we had a twitter-like icon being “served up,” and we had a monochromatic, very visual “like” hand and thumb filled with social media terminology from The Book Designers.
We also had humorous. Fingers as people. Really adorable and fun (too much so, in the end).
And finally what we thought was the most powerful fusion of hands and high-tech, Sam Tallo’s hands shaking across two iPhones. The simple, yet strong choice of breaking up the image over the two phones seemed to us an unexpected way to show human encounters in a high-tech world. I think what really made it work, though, was the style of the hands image. By using a old-time, wood-block style of illustration, Sam instantly brought a sense of old-fashioned values to the handshake in sharp contrast to the oh-so-contemporary iPhones.
So Sam won — anybody want to fight for another design?
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.