The AC Vent

Design gets a breath of fresh air.

Covers Reimagined
Date: February 4, 2015

Covers Reimagined: Stranger in a Strange Land

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:

Old Covers for Stranger in a Strange Land

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:

Stranger in a Strange Land book cover



Cover elements:

  • A man’s lit facial profile against a starry sky backdrop, with stark type and a red-orange planet* accent point.
  • The author’s actual signature used for type contrast on the front, then set in more readable type on the spine.
  • A banner in the same red-orange on the bottom to tie in to the color accent, and highlight the award-winning nature of the book.

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:

Book Cover Design – $799

What’s Included:

  • Discussion with you about your book.
  • 2 cover concepts, showing front cover, spine, and back cover as a spread.
  • 2 rounds of revisions to your chosen cover concept, if needed.
  • If stock photos are needed, comps will be used in the mock-ups, and stock photos only purchased with your approval. Stock photo pricing will be added to the project fee.
  • Final cover files delivered to you and/or your publisher/printer.
  • Native files and press-ready PDFs with bleeds provided.

Creative Commons photo credits: Public Domain Pictures, Public Domain Archive, and Patty Jansen

Creative Wavelength
Date: January 29, 2015

Creative Wavelength

I know, I know… I’ve been neglecting the blog this month. I blame wedding brain. But to kick things back into gear, I’m starting a new series! As an avid blog reader, I’m a sucker for well-curated link round-ups. And as a design site, the genre for my very own link round-up was obvious: art, design & other related creative/cool things that resonate with me (hence the name, Creative Wavelength). I’ll collect things as I wander around the internet, and probably do this list once a month. So! Let’s kick it off:

Image courtesy of Core77.

Image courtesy of Core77.

⇒ Stunning photo series: Here’s What Happens When a Super-Clear Lake Freezes Over.
Image via

Image courtesy of Zeven Design.

A Designer’s Guide To Setting The Mood With Lines. Just a cool infographic.
Image courtesy of Tim Gibson at Flying Whities.

Image courtesy of Tim Gibson at Flying Whities.

⇒ Possibly the prettiest beer packaging ever.
Images courtesy of

Images courtesy of Design Cuts.

⇒ Beautiful font bundles at an amazing discount: 21 Best Selling Beautiful Fonts and 20 All New Best Selling Fonts. $58 for 41 quality fonts, including web fonts & extended licensing. You bet I snapped these up.
Screenshot by me.

Screenshot by me.

ScultpGL. The setup reminds me of ye olde Bryce 3D, but the fact that you can do all of this in a plain old internet browser blows my mind.

⇒ I still think the 100 Day Project is a cool idea, and this gallery of completed projects is interesting.

iSketchnote. Write on actual paper, digitize your drawings in real time. I really want one of these!!

⇒ My latest eye candy guilty pleasure is the Architecture category over at Home Adore. I want to live in all of the cool houses!

⇒ I kind of want this Artist’s Coloring Book that is supposed to help with stress. Skeptical of that, but I always liked coloring books when younger.

⇒ Tips for Designing a Truly Delectable Restaurant Website. Psst, I can help you with that!

⇒ You may also want to check out my Fun Type Pinterest board if you’re a bit of a type geek like me.

Have you found any great art and design-y links lately? Share them with me!

Changes For 2015
Date: January 2, 2015

Changes for 2015

It’s a new year, and there are some new happenings to discuss around here.

The Good

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.

The Less Good

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.

The Amazing

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?

Happy Holidays
Date: December 25, 2014

Happy Holidays

Wishing a happy and healthy holiday season to you and yours. See you in the new year. :)

Gift Guide for Self-Employed Designers
Date: December 18, 2014

Gift Guide for Self-Employed Designers

Is there a self-employed/freelance designer in your life that you’re struggling to find a gift for? Have no fear, last-minute shopper. As most self-employed peeps will tell you, buying treats or gadgets for themselves tends to fall to the bottom of the to-do list, right next to updating their own website. So I’ve put together a list of things that your designer friend would be thrilled to find under the tree this year (I have a few of these, but would be thrilled by the rest, too!).

Gift Guide for Self-Employed Designers

Tech Gifts

  1. Sharkk ergonomic mouse. $16.99. I just got one of these and already love it. More importantly, my wrist loves it.
  2. USB hub. $13.99. So many things to plug in, not enough ports. This sleek aluminum hub fixes that.
  3. Inkling digital sketch pen. $68.95. Sketch on regular paper, get a digitized version. I would LOVE one of these.

For Fun

  1. Pantone mug. $17.99, your choice of color. Self-employed designers are guaranteed to love 2 things: hot caffeinated beverages, and color. Get the best of both worlds here.
  2. Page turner lamp. $19.99. Turn the page for a new illustration every day! Just a fun concept.
  3. Popular Lies About Graphic Design. $13.51. Beautifully designed and looks like an interesting read to boot.

Useful Subscriptions

  1. HOW Magazine gift subscription. $29.96 for one year. The go-to magazine for business, tech, and creative inspiration for designers. Their issues are always fun to page through.
  2. Graze box subscription. Starting at $19.47 for 3 boxes. People who are self-employed and work form home tend to be grazers. Help them keep nutrition and portions in check with this snack box service. I use this and love it.
  3. Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. $599 If you’re rocking Christmas Daddy Warbucks style, this year-long subscription to the full line of Adobe products would make any designer’s day.

Chime in, fellow independent designers! What do you hope to find under the tree this year?