Jackie Littman on Designing the Cover of Staying Composed
Dale Trumbore: What inspired your earliest concepts for the cover of Staying Composed? We started with several ideas for the cover, and I really enjoyed those early stages of sketching and exploration.
Jackie Littman: When you first sent over an early draft of the manuscript, I started by jotting down themes, metaphors, and evocative phrases as I read through. I did a word mapping exercise to draw connections between ideas. These coalesced into some visual concepts I wanted to try out, like creating a zen garden where the lines of sand looked like the lines of a musical staff. Sometimes you have to get through the obvious ideas before the more interesting and subtle ones surface.
DT: Can you talk a little bit about how we arrived at the cover design we chose?
JL: Part of the process was weeding out the drafts that weren’t successful, and focusing in on what was working. The cover we chose references music composition with lines arranged like staves and the letters of the title like notes. The contrast of the structured lines and the scattered, chaotic title echo the ideas you put forward in the book of imposing structure on your creative process in order to manage the chaos that your mind can create. And of course, there are “Dale Blue” color accents. It’s part of your brand at this point.
DT: Are you truly happy now with the exact shade of the background color? Be honest.
JL: Haha yes! Trying to get the right shade of ivory to print on an unknown printer is so much more difficult than you’d think. Printed ink can look way different on paper from the color you see on your computer screen, so you have to tweak and overcompensate to get the print to match. It took us 3 proofs to get there, but I think we got it.
DT: How do you approach a project that's new to you, like designing your first book cover, first album cover, etc.? I imagine that would be intimidating, but maybe you just dive in and do it!
JL: Sometimes it’s even more helpful to approach a project with a process that you’ve borrowed from your other creative endeavors. You end up generating fresher ideas and feel less bound to convention. That’s the amazing thing about design. Once you have a solid foundation and a process that works for you, you can really apply it to anything. I just fill in the gaps in my knowledge by doing research and asking other designers for advice.
DT: What are some of the most challenging parts of your own creative process, and what strategies do you use to move through them?
JL: Getting through the sh*tty first drafts! I know that’s the toughest part for me, but allowing myself to make things that don't work is an essential part of getting to something that does.
DT: What's your favorite part of that same creative process?
JL: I love the concepting phase, coming up with ideas and solutions. I also enjoy editing and refining something that started off meh and turning into a yeah!