Author: Padgett Powell
Designer: Alison Forner
Retoucher: Tal Goretsky
Typefaces: Bank Gothic, Knockout
Image: courtesy of the University of Iowa Libraries; found on the Library of Congress website
Jacket specs: Printed 4/c with matte lam...and no title on the front!
Alison Forner recently posted new work on her design:related portfolio. I took a look, and after getting over my initial rage of having not designed these fine covers, I humbled myself and asked if she would talk about one of her great designs. Alison chose to talk about The Interrogative Mood, to my delight. Thanks Alison! I would have taken pictures of the actual book, but it's not
The Interrogative Mood will attract a literary audience, readers who aren't afraid of experimental fiction. There's no linear narrative here—it's a book comprised entirely of questions. Sounds daunting, but it works its magic on you if you let it. Once you read a few pages, you can't put it down. The book is funny, serious, thoughtful—and it stays with you long after you're finished reading it.
Because I loved the manuscript so much, I really wanted to find a perfect idea for the jacket (aka rule #1: never try to design something with perfection in mind). I thought it might be cool to cut question marks out of printed books (sampling books with different paper shades and typefaces) and create a collage out of them. In my mind, it would have a dynamic energy, the question marks would become abstract forms the longer you looked at them, and the jacket would have a toothy, tactile feel. Once I exacto'd the questions marks, pasted them together, and finessed them in photoshop, it was clear this idea was, in a word, hideous. I actually showed it to the editor, Matt Weiland, but he was less than enthused (and rightly so). Thankfully, I was able to take another stab at it, which allowed me to think about the book in a completely different way. I loved how the narrator seemed to be "wrestling" with questions, which is when I remembered an old pamphlet I downloaded years ago from the Library of Congress site. (I collect all sorts of ephemera from various places, and sometimes when I'm out of ideas, I'll look to them
for inspiration.) The pamphlet featured a guy, in a suit, wrestling a gyroscope, and I thought, wouldn't it be amazing if he was wrestling a big red
I was thrilled when Matt and our publisher, Dan Halpern, were on board with leaving the title off the front. I basically showed the title-less comp to our publisher and editor, they thought it worked, then they ran it by Sales and they thought it worked too. It's never that easy, but for some reason, everyone was in agreement on this one. The image really speaks for itself and I think it suits the book pretty well. Padgett Powell was even pleased, so the approval process went very smoothly.
I originally had a different design on the back—a giant red question mark with little guys grabbing at parts of it—but it overshadowed the amazing quotes from Jonathan Safran Foer, Richard Ford, Luc Sante, etc., so I redesigned the back to make the quotes the main focus. My friend Tal Goretsky handled the final retouch work on the images; I love the way they ended up.
08.24.09 // Ian Shimkoviak said:
It's just to good to be true, cant take my eyes off of you...
Really great cover—can't wait to read this. But most of all I enjoyed the source art.