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Foundation by Isaac Asimov

Part 1: Research and Notes

The book I have chosen is "Foundation," by Isaac Asimov. Foundation, the first book published in the prolific Asimov's famed Foundation series, is a collection of short stories spanning hundreds of years and detailing the rise of the book's namesake, a small civilization, located on an isolated planet, whose sole purpose is to preserve mankind's knowledge as the rest of the universe collapses into war and barbarism.

As a popular book and the first published in a series that was released over 3 or 4 decades, it has been reprinted multiple times and with many different covers, each depicting what was to be expected of a science fiction book cover at its release. In fact, you could say that the various editions' covers are very trendy.

The first edition's cover (from 1951) is a perfect example of this (though not because it is so hard to read, haha). Its portrayal of hundreds of ships soaring through the galaxy shows the deep interest in space and expansion at the time, as well as the awe in the shear size of things and mankind's potential.

After that, we have various covers that focus on different aspects of the stories, those aspects seeming to be picked largely on, like I mentioned before, the trends at the time.

For example, as we move through the late 70s, and into the 80s and early 90s, all eras where science fiction was generally becoming darker and more pessimistic, the covers start to focus on war, weaponry (with one cover simply being an older cover with a large explosion juxstaposed on top), and dark, brooding industrial cities, all in contrast to the earlier, more optimistic covers like the first edition's, or like the one (from the 60s) with the growing plants and bright sun ("a brighter future" it almost says).

It's interesting because, as with the nature of the book being several short stores covering different characters, events, and, to some extent, different places, you have a lot of different themes to pick from. That being said, I think it's safe to say that the overall theme of the book is not war, and is most certainly not pessimistic about technology and such, so I don't find the covers focusing on those things to be very approrirate. No, even though there are wars (though little detail is given outside of the macro level), and there are many unethical characters within the Foundation and unethical actions taken by the Foundation, I think the overarching theme is very pro-science, pro-progress, and pro-knowledge (with the most rational characters often winning out for the good of mankind and progress). The Foundation, with its flaws, is shown as a beacon of humanity and hope in a once civilized universe that is crumbling apart. It seems to me that these are the things a cover should show.

Part 2: The Design

Before I started sketching, I really thought about the themes of the book what I wanted to show -- what I wanted the cover to evoke -- and I really honed in on that "beacon of light" concept. I decided that I wanted to show the contrast between the "brightness" of the Foundation and the relative backwardness and deevolution of the civilizations that surrounded it.

For this, I decided to take a very minimal approach. While, since I'm a big fan of minimalist design, there may be some bias here, I thought that a minimal approach would be perfect for emphasizing this contrast. So, I decided to play around with simple, eyecatching ideas that would quickly get the point across.

After some sketching, I ended up with this, which I'm pretty happy with:

If it is effective, then it shouldn't need too much explaining, especially after summarizing the book and themes above. That said, a few notes...

The graphic is, fairly obviously I hope, a very simplified solar system or orbit, with the bright white planet representing the Foundation -- the beacon of hope in a troubled, broken universe -- and the dark planets representing the backwards planets that surround it. I wanted the Foundation planet to be very eyecatching, for it to be the first thing you see, showing that, yes, this planet is different, that it is special.

Regarding the "light" around the planet, I originally had a much smoother, gradual fade out, but it seemed a little too...hmm...it looked like it was made with a Photoshop light preset, if that makes sense. So, I looked at some old science posters, and I noticed an effect similiar to this one (no doubt made by layering multiple sheets of cut paper or plastic). I recreated the effect, and I'm prettty happy with it. I think it fits with the minimal style, as well as the subtle nods to science and science fiction art and ideas from the 40s and 50s.

Speaking of which, the type.. I looked at many old science fiction books, and I liked the shape of many of the typefaces, but they all tended to be very thick and bulky, which I didn't feel would work here (well, I tried it quickly, and it definitely didn't). So, I ended up experimenting with a few, and I found this one, Lintel by Northern Foundary, which has that nice modern shape like the fonts on many old science fiction books, but while being much thinner and sleeker.

Well, anyway, that's all I have to say about that :)

Oh, I did do a quick mockup of how the full dust cover might look (including spine and back).

Those dotted lines wouldn't actually be printed, but instead are just there to illustrate where the spine starts and stops.

I'd love to hear what you think!

Thanks,

Ben

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