This week I’ve spent some of my free thinking about the cover for The Digital Press at the University of North Dakota’s newest book: Picking the President: Understanding the Electoral College edited by Eric Burin. In most cases I fuss with book covers and chat with more designer-ly friends or even contract with someone to produce it. Since Picking the President is a “quick book” designed to provoke questions, conversation, and debate about the electoral college in light of the recent presidential election, I don’t really have the luxury of a protracted design process (nor do I feel pushing someone to produce a cover quickly over the holidays is a very nice thing to do). So, I’m doing this on my own!
I wanted to do two things in my cover design. First, I wanted to use blue and red which are colors now closely associated with the Democratic and Republican parties. Second, I wanted to use an old style font evocative of that used on such 18th century publication. I really like the font Caslon (and its slightly weightier modern variants) because they were historically common and remain recognizable as “olde tyme” fonts.
My first effort set the works “Picking the President” against an outline of the U.S. and bands of blue and red.
This cover is decent, I guess, although I thought the text was hard to read against the blue so I made the blue and red a bit opaque. Unfortunately that made the colors look faded and a bit like a bad color photocopy. And the bands of red and blue look a bit like the French flag. The font is Didot which is fine, but a bit contemporary for what I was after.
I messed with a few other designs with more and with less color and finally figured out what the outline of the U.S. needed. It needed a flag!
I like the Caslon font on this cover too, although I’m never entirely happy with how “P”s work with small caps. There is always some kind of kerning issue. That being said, I think this works a good bit better both in terms of legibility and style. Barring an overwhelming desire to mess with this more or I get some good suggestions from readers!