SO, One of my amazing authors submitted some of my work to a competition.
I was taken aback, and nervous as all hell. They actually liked my work enough to put it up for something that demands admiration.
I’ve never been good with competition, I don’t really think there is much out there.
The web page gives you quirky critiques, which is all fine and dandy but not always constructive.
And that placed one at risk for some scathing wounds if your not careful.
That’s fine too. Maybe I feel too much for my authors and their work. Maybe i’d take a bullet for them because they are fucking awesome.
Maybe i’ts in my contract that you’ll take a bullet if you disagree. It’s the standard AIGA contract, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an “hitman type” clause in there somewhere at an hourly rate (it covers everything else).
Crit, as its called is always a rough ride. Many tears have been shed in the little white rooms on design floors across the country. I’ve always tried to put some input on the strengths and weaknesses of a particular piece, and offer some advice to make it shine. It’s what I do.
I can take you back to a magazine spread that was made of shoes by a friend who had a thing for shoes. Its was glorious. It was well grided and decisioned. It broke the grid in the right places. it was sexy and about shoes. It had a line, that I skillfully avoided talking about. It was essentially a time line. I dig that.
The professor, a woman I adored, however dug into the designer. Harsh but true. Her argument was the line took something away, it was viewed as superfluous in a time when all things had meaning. Later on the line was left on the cutting room floor, as well as some shreds of hopes and fears. My friend was strong, and proud, and humbled.
I was reeling in terror as I had just seen someone intellectually mauled by a bear.
But you have to distance yourself from the work.
Speaking of the work.
The work was and is still intended not to be a tiny box on your screen. It’s a book to have and hold and admire.
And there is something about that works IRL, and not so well in a thumbnail.
Not to defend it, not to deflect criticism, yes, the type face was thin, delicate, and sharp around the edges. Those things anti-aliasing can take away.
Those Characters are vulnerable- just like the Protagonist in the namesake of the story. It gets lost in the distance. Just like the protagonist’s childhood. Its positive on the surface, but holds something dark underneath- a deeper meaning. Just like all the tales the author has spun.
Would I go with the old adage of “make it big, if that doesn’t work make it smaller, if you can’t make it small make it sexy, if you can’t make it sexy make it red.“?
I’ve held the book. It works. It’s on par with lovely bones, its trade worthy- not (thankfully) Danille Steel worthy- seeing as luckily does not have Fabio pre-or post seagull incident.
I’ve seen it on amazon. And it works. There is no denying that.
It’s as close to perfect as it could be for that tale at that time. The decision behind the placement of the text was tailored in respect to the image- as all good design should be.
It could be in 72pt Helvetica-or better Univers, it could be in bright Pantone red, it could be a little larger, but then it takes away something else. It would drown out the focus. It wold caress the wrong bits as it were.
I stand behind it. It’s just… right.
As a designer, and as most people are prone to do, not only is the grass greener in the next yard, the work can always be better by virtue of having a billion and one ideas.
In retrospect, the type could have been outlined in contrasting gray, or even, dare i say it, be bumped up a few pt.
I could have also used Comic Sans, and a nice glow filter, while making the life decision to Keep it Pleb and drink Bleach, But i didn’t.
I’ve seen some train-wrecks of book covers on the page, and thankfully none were mine. After all, one prefers to keep their train-wrecks to their personal not professional lives.
We should never judge a book by it’s cover. We should always be open to other’s suggestions and ideas. And always learn from what does not work.
The incumbent adjudicator certainly has.