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Andy Allen

Graphic Designer in London, UK

232

13

'Jessica' by James Merchant

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TEXT SELECTION

Hi there!

After taking part in Chip Kidd's class last year (project can be seen here), I'm keen to get stuck into this one. Poetry isn't a form that I know well, but I wanted to find a reasonably unknown poem and avoid the classics. I used a website called Poem Hunter and found this small but lovely poem by a chap called James Merchant.

Transfix me with your robin egg blue eyes

Pull me closer to witness the night

But I was never close to you

Though you saw me looking through

You,

You saw it in my face

That I was only washing in a pool of disgrace

If I could change

I'd rearrange

But I'm practically cardboard

And you're locked in an expensive jewelry store

I'm the Crow

You're the obsession

Look hard

And you'll find a connection

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NOTES

After reading the poem through several times, I made notes on words/sentences that can lead to something visual:

The last 4 lines of the poem — "I'm the Crow / You're the obsession / Look hard / And you'll find a connection" — also sound like a riddle, or a challenge from the author to their love interest, which is something I can think about in the ideas stage.

There are plenty of directions I can go, so my only problem might be having enough time to explore them all! I'll scribble down some ideas next — my thought process usually involves writing ideas down as words instead of sketches, but it can vary depending on the text I'm working with.

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SKETCHES

Scans from my sketchbook are below. Some of the ideas are perhaps slightly too abstract, such as having the author swapped with the title, but I want to create a cover that has an idea behind it. Something I also aim to do with a book cover design is include some kind of payoff for the reader – like an inside joke between the reader and the author – which makes sense once you've read the story/poem. Of course it can't be too weird or confusing, otherwise people wouldn't be intrigued enough to pick it up.

I'm going to throw together a few moodboards for some of the ideas, which should help flesh them out and give me some reference for how the final design can come together.

I'm keen on a few of these sketches/ideas, but I'd love to know what the classmates think!

Are there any which you think would be worth exploring further?

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MOODBOARDS

Crow

"I'm the crow" is quite a powerful line, so it's worth thinking about using this at the centre of the cover.

Hypnosis

The poem starts with "Transfix me…", suggesting how hopeless the author is in the eyes of Jessica. Playing with illusion in the typography could be interesting, or taking reference from vintage adverts/posters for creepy hypnotism services.

Obsession

This is the idea that got the most positive feedback from classmates. Aside from the author mentioning that Jessica is the obsession, it seems to be the overall theme of the poem, so perhaps this route is the one to take as it stays true to the entire poem rather than a specific word or line.

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INITIAL DESIGNS

To get started, I made a few very quick designs to play with layout/balance. Firstly I followed the layout of the first sketch of the 'Obsession' idea:

Then I tried executing the same concept in different ways…

I also tried using a grid of photographs (inspired by the moodboard), but even though the girl in the photo I found is turned away from the camera, I'm reluctant to portray her visually at all.

The poem is also full of visual cues, so I'd like to create a more typographic design to contrast against it. I'm quite keen on the 3rd of the 4 images above, but I'm going to try hand-rendering it to add a more human touch.

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FINAL DESIGN

Below is the final design. I covered a page with 'Jessica' using a rough permanent marker, scanned it in and added a chalkboard texture to the background so it wasn't so flat. "A poem by James Merchant" also uses the robin egg blue referenced in the first line of the poem.

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