Design gets a breath of fresh air.
I went through a phase in middle school where I read nothing but Greek mythology – yes, for fun. I don’t remember what sparked this interest, but I do remember it being pretty intense of an obsession. This has echoes nowadays in trying to guess the myth in a Renaissance painting before looking at the title, and getting miffed at how often Hades and the underworld are portrayed as equivalent to the Devil and Hell in popular culture (seriously! Not the same). I think I will always carry a soft spot for Greek mythology. That’s why for the 2nd post in the Covers Reimagined series, I’m sharing my take on a cover for The Odyssey, by Homer.
I’m going to assume you have at least passing familiarity with the story, as it is required reading in a lot of high schools and colleges. But just as a refresher, it’s the tale of the Greek strategist Odysseus, on his journey home from the Trojan War back to his kingdom of Ithaca. He manages to piss off the god of the ocean, and what should be a fairly simple journey turns into a 10 year odyssey, full of monsters, dangers, and our hero’s trademark cunning to escape both. Notable episodes include his encounters with a cyclops, the witch Circe, the Sirens, the monster Scylla and the whirlpool Charybdis.
Now, this story has literally been around for thousands of years, so it’s been through a LOT of different covers and translations. Some of them are meh, some of them are really good, and some of them are awful. Trying to pick past covers to put together a brief montage was like trying to pick favorite stars, there are that many. So I’m going to get right down to business. Here is my cover concept for this Greek classic:
I favor photo-based covers, as you might have noticed, which proved a particular challenge with this cover. There aren’t exactly any photos from Ancient Greece lying around. There are, however, lots and lots of sculptures and stone carvings from the Greek age, which is why I ultimately went with the textured stone look. I think it helps convey both the age of the story and the gritty nature of Odysseus’ adventures (let’s be honest, there’s quite a bit of death and mayhem in the Odyssey – Greek gods didn’t pull their punches when they were pissed off). This is also why I used a roughened typeface for the title, to tie in with the stonework.
The color scheme of ocean blue and grey seemed a natural choice for a story with so much focus on voyaging over the sea. The ship graphic was included to also convey the idea of a voyage and adventure. The tentacles were included to pay homage to Scylla and the story’s many other monsters. The choice of a clean typeface for the author and subtitle was to give a bit of contrast to all the roughness.
Overall, I’m pleased with how it turned out. I think the photographs are a nice modern touch, while the textures and coloring evoke ancient ocean.
What do you think? Did I hit the bullseye as Odysseus would have?
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True story: I am an unabashed bookworm, with a strong penchant for fantasy and science fiction. So when I was thinking up books to use in this Covers Reimagined series (welcome to the first post!), a lot of the books fell into that genre. The one I decided to start with, and that I’m sharing today, is a science fiction classic: Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein.
It’s the story of Valentine Michael Smith, a human who was born on Mars, raised by Martians and then returned to Earth in his adulthood. Seeing all of the customs and behaviors and politics and nonsense of humanity filtered through his outsider’s eyes makes for a very thought-provoking read. Michael, though human, has some otherworldly powers and a deep connection with all living organisms. He also has some unconventional ideas about love, relationships, money, religion, and death. Depending on your mood or mindset, you might find it beautiful or weird. Either way, Stranger in a Strange Land is considered a classic of literary science fiction. It also won the Hugo Award for Best Novel in 1962, and was the first science fiction novel to make the NYT’s bestseller list.
Sum up done, time for the good stuff! Just for reference, here are some of the covers this book has sported in the past:
The one on the far left is the most common/famous cover. And there are lots of sci-fi appropriate illustrations across the lot. I’m not sure what’s going on with the green one. And the one on the far right, while interesting and of a more literary fiction feel, I don’t think conveys anything specific to this story. But you can see, they pretty much all have a 60’s or pulp sci-fi feel. Which is fair, since the book was originally published in the 1960’s. But I thought it was time for an update.
Here is my cover concept for this sci-fi classic:
I choose to go photo-based, because a) I like photo-based covers! and b) I’m not an illustrator or painter or anything, so Creative Commons photos are my main source of usable image material for fun projects like these. A type-only cover is also certainly an option, but it wasn’t the direction I wanted to go with this redo.
Since Michael is the main character, the ‘Stranger’ referenced in the title, and definitely the driving force behind the entire book, I wanted to include a representation of him on the cover. A lit profile silhouette like this is clear enough to convey that it’s a guy, and at that large cover-spanning size that he is an important character. But it’s still vague enough not to conflict with the book description of hair color, eye color, etc. (which to be honest, I didn’t remember as it’s been awhile since I read this).
I also wanted to convey that this was in the sci-fi genre, but not in the lurid manner of some of the old covers. It is what I would consider high-concept science fiction, and I don’t think the previous covers did justice to that. Another consideration: a dark background would work best given the silhouette I wanted to use. A sparse starry sky and the small planet are clear references to space that accomplish all of that nicely.
Overall, I’m really happy with how this turned out. And, if I do say so myself, if I saw a cover like this in store, I’d pick it up to read more.
What do you think? A modern reimagining that does the story proud?
*Ok, it’s actually a photo of a blood moon because it turns out there aren’t a lot of photos of Mars on Creative Commons. Whatevs. It works.
While we’re on the topic of books…
In case you haven’t made it over to my Packages page yet, book cover design is one of the services that I offer:
It’s a new year, and there are some new happenings to discuss around here.
I refined my package offerings more so that they cover all of my most common design requests (and the types of projects I love doing!). I’m focusing on three areas: Identity Design, Print Design, and WordPress. I go into more detail over on the packages page, as far as what is included in each one and the differences between them. The new setup also gives a rough idea of the investment required if you’d like to work with me. I debated with myself about whether or not to publish my prices, but in the long run I think it saves time for both potential clients and me to know right away whether I’m in their budget range or not. I know I do excellent work, and am confident that my prices are where they should be. Ideally it will discourage those more interested in a lowball price than quality design work. And for those ready to invest in design for their business, the details hopefully answer a lot of the questions you might have.
A new year, a new accountant, and a new… sales tax? Womp, womp. Way less exciting. It turns out that graphic design services are taxable in the state of Texas. So, if you are also located in Texas, all invoices from here on out will include sales tax on services provided. If you’re outside of Texas, no worries, you are not affected by this change.
And now for the really exciting bit: over the holiday break, my boyfriend of many years became my fiancé! We are officially engaged, and plan on getting married later this year. There will be a sizable out of office period when the wedding and honeymoon roll around. It won’t be for a few months at least, and I’ll certainly give any active clients as much advanced notice as I can. But wait, there’s more! Since I’ll be taking his last name, there will be quite a few changes around here, too. I’ll be moving to a new domain name (this one will forward there, don’t worry), adjusting my logo, maybe even doing a DBA as a studio instead of just my name. I haven’t quite decided yet, but major changes along those lines are coming. And to answer some non-business questions about this: I was completely surprised, at the Grand Canyon, I love my ring, and yes, I’ll be designing my own wedding invites (and am super excited about that!).
Now you’re all caught up! If you’d like to get news like this and other design bloggy bits direct to your inbox instead of having to search out my site, sign up for my newsletter. Once a month emails at most.
How was your holiday break? Any big changes in store for you this year?
Wishing a happy and healthy holiday season to you and yours. See you in the new year.
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Leslie Archambault, Austin Child Guidance Center
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Katie Smith, online boutique owner
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Joe Mount, Vice President of Operations, Tabernus
I love working with Amanda because she goes above and beyond to take care of all the little details involved with a large project. I don’t have to ask or worry about it – it’s just done, and done well.
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