Freestylin'

Hip-Hop, Inc., cover This book was a bit challenging because the cover, er, didn’t give me much to go on. None of the typefaces used there was suitable for text, and only one was even versatile enough for use in heads. I also worried (hoped) that the cover comp I received was not final (it was), so I didn’t want to follow its lead too closely and then get left looking like I was the one with questionable taste, as has happened before. I wanted the book to look businesslike but accessible, so I used utilitarian type (Warnock Pro and Akzidenz Grotesk) but added a large image to the chapter openers to make them stand out. The book also contains some diagrams that match the aesthetic of the cover—lots of 3-D effects and shading—so I needed an interior design into which those could blend.

For the first design round, I used an image of an LP on the chapter openers; the client asked to have it changed to a CD. I needed to use a free image, as usual, but didn’t want it to look like unadulterated stock art. I also didn’t want the image to be too overwhelming. So I opened up the Filter Gallery in Photoshop and played around until I got a glowy effect that would make the photo less obtrusive. When I placed the art in the master pages, I screened it back. Really, I was trying to go for a reserved, quiet look.

Hip-Hop, Inc., page vii Hip-Hop, Inc., pp. 38-39

But then, when the complete manuscript arrived and I was halfway through coding it, I was surprised to find that the book contained a lot of sidebars, all different lengths and with many containing subelements. Woo! It spices things up when clients send utterly nonrepresentative sample text for design; it’s even better when the manuscript arrives late and first pass has to be out the door yesterday. So I had to do something with all these sidebars, and fast.

Hip-Hop, Inc., page 66 Hip-Hop, Inc., page 76

I inverted the CD image to make a dark bullet and dropped a round-cornered box behind the sidebar text. It’s not the most inspired solution, but it gets the job done without hogging up a lot of space (or typesetting time).

This book was spotted the other day at McNally and Robinson, face-out in the independent publishers section. Verrie fancie!

3 thoughts on “Freestylin'

  1. Now that I don’t do work for these folks anymore, I can say it: This cover is an abomination.

    And yet I can’t believe that it was done without some good reason. Maybe the author designed it himself? Maybe somebody did research that showed that this style would attract the target market for the book? Maybe it’s a riff on some classic hip-hop album cover that I’ve never seen? Because surely, anything else would have been better, speaking purely of aesthetics. Even I could design a better cover, and that’s saying something.

    Hmm. Maybe we should have a redesign contest . . .

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