Happiness Cover Project | Skillshare Projects



Happiness Cover Project

The text I chose was Happiness by Ramond Carver.

At first glance the poem seemed really straightforward, and I don’t read poetry very often, so this was a challenge to me personally to find the underlying meaning in it.

The first stanza seems to set the stage, it is early morning, probably 5-6 AM, maybe earlier, since it is still quite dark out. It seems the narrator often has early morning thoughts, it is not uncommon, and he sees the two boys who deliver the newspaper walking up the road.

The second stanza is longer, sentences describing what the boys are wearing, and I am wondering if this is relevant. It is February of 1985/86 (this was when it was written), it seems appropriate. It focuses on the happiness these two boys share together, this moment they have to themselves.

The third stanza is the most abstract to me, describing the beauty of the moment that these two share that it is uninterrupted by anything, not even death or love can cut in.

The last stanza, the most important, discusses how happiness is unexpected, and goes beyond any early morning talk or thoughts. I take this last sentence as it is vast and bigger than we are.


What I took from this poem was a beautiful, shared happiness that was observed by the narrator. The happiness was uninterrupted and could not be replaced or disturbed in that moment. Mind you, I haven't annotated something since high school english class.

The tone was quiet (the narrator is thinking and the boys are not speaking), peaceful, serene. Warm, in a way, from the happiness. Time passed in the poem, even if only a few seconds or minutes, it was almost dark in the beginning, and slowly over the course of the poem I imagine the sky became brighter, although the moon still hung. The only characters are the narrator and the two friends walking up the road.

He brings up objects through out the poem, such as coffee, newspaper, the clothes the boys are wearing, the moon and the sky.

Some of the words that caught my attention: happy, together, beauty, unexpectedly


The title is Happiness. It is simple, one word. It feels like it doesn’t have much important, but the last stanza says the opposite, that happiness goes beyond the early morning thoughts this narrator is having. Is it something we can’t comprehend? Does it go beyond our logic? It’s hard to think of how I would treat the title at this point, but it will not be broken or cluttered, but rather held delicately, because it is something special. It can stand on it’s own. It is pure, uninterrupted by any other words just like the moment between the two boys. But then I think the boys walking together, and think of breaking it up for this one reason.

I have a million directions I could go as far as the medium, (and this tends to be the more difficult part when I approach a cover because I prefer illustration) so I try different illustrative approaches and photographic approaches, which you will see in the rough comps.

Normally I do a ton of sketches before deciding on an approach, but I could only muster out ten before I thought I had a good direction of where I wanted to go with this. And ideas came as I created, so I just ran with some of them.


First was the idea of an illustration involving the coffee Carver was drinking, or the newspaper the boys were delivering.

I would go back and rethink the serif typeface. I wanted to imitate a newspaper clipping. I think the newspaper illustration and then the newspaper clipping for the title is reduntant, so I'm scratching this one out.

The next handful of rough comps feature serene photographs of sunrises, some with the moon, some not. I wanted to really try to capture the warmth and feeling of stillness I had when I finished the poem. Not a fan of the first photo, but thought I would throw it out there to show the process.

I realized I hadn't worked with one of the main characters of the narrative, Carver, and I had the idea of a sunrise/early morning sky within a silouhette (which you can see in the sketch below)

This last one made me extremely nervous because it didn't feel like it was a good design, but I enjoyed the concept, from how the letters imitated the moon rising, and the two s's at the end of happiness represented the two boys. It's a stretch, by far.

At this point, I'm worried I may be too tunnel vision with a certain direction, and have an itch to go back to the poem and do some more sketches. I may be taking very obvious routes, and this concerns me.

Added some more concepts, trying to get down to the bare bones. The photograph (or at least the WHOLE photograph) of the sky in the sunrise concepts was becoming distracting, and I was wondering if the entire photo was necessary, or if I could just use the hues.

I also attempted to use the second to last stanza, the most powerful part of the poem, on the cover, but I'm not sure if I favored this.

The next two cover concepts are getting closer to the idea I'm trying to portray, at least, the sense of simplicity and nothing excessive. Really asking myself, do I need "so and so" on the cover?

This would most likely be a spot gloss.

And this would have the case of the book printed with a diecut cover. I resisted putting the moon, because I began to wonder if it was even important, if only to convey time. 

I'm still not sure if I'm 100% convinced with this latest cover, and will update with more soon.

So, getting down to the wire, still not 100% with any concepts, but am beginning to warm up to some others.

I worked with watercolors because I enjoyed the organic nature of the medium (and the fact that it is not the most forgiving)

The graininess added more character to it.

This was sort of out of left field, I kept wanting to fiddle with the concept of the "pp" and "ss", and how it is similar to the "together" factor from the poem. The letters wandered around sporatically to show the "unexpected" factor, but I would have loved to push it more so that they were literally all over the place, but then I'm afraid the viewer wouldn't know how to read the title.

Drum roll for the final design decision:

Overall, I am happy with my decision, and realize poems are a lot harder to design for than I thought they would be. 

Thank you everyone for your comments and help along the way.


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