Mark Joyce

Designer/Educator

236

18

If At the Wedding (at the Zoo) [Final Cover]

FINAL COVER w/ Process Documentation

Final Cover as a Book

2. Select your short text

I selected "If At the Wedding(At the Zoo)" by Lydia Davis because

  • The title grabbed me
  • I was unfamiliar with the work of Lydia Davis
  • In reading the poem, the first time, I was taken by her love of language

If At The Wedding (At The Zoo) by Lydia Davis

http://www.theparisreview.org/fiction/6230/five-stories-lydia-davis

If we hadn’t stopped on our way to the ceremony to look at the pen of black pigs, we wouldn’t have seen the very large pig lunge at the smaller one, to force him away from the feeding trough.

If we hadn’t come early and seated ourselves on a bench in the sunlight under the pavilion roof to await the start of the ceremony, we wouldn’t have seen the runaway pony trot past trailing its rope.

If we hadn’t heard the sudden murmur of our neighbors on the benches in the cold sunlight under the pavilion before the start of the ceremony, we wouldn’t have looked up to see the bride coming in her bright green dress from a distance walking briskly with long strides hand in hand with her mother.

If we hadn’t craned our necks to look around the people standing in front of us, prepared to officiate and take part in the ceremony, we wouldn’t have seen how the bride came, her head bowed, her mother’s head bowed, her mother talking seriously to her, the two of them never looking up, as though there were no one else present, toward the pavilion, the guests, the poised cameras, the ceremony, and her future husband who stood waiting for her.

If we hadn’t looked away from the ceremony in which the couple getting married stood before their officiating Buddhist friend while their other assembled friends and family chanted Indian and other chants, we wouldn’t have seen the Hasidic and Asian families walk past the pavilion gazing curiously at us on their way to and from the Corn Maze.

If we hadn’t walked across the room in which the reception was beginning, past the two accordionists, man and woman, to look out the back windows at the wedding party being photographed in the cold October sunlight late in the day to the sound of klezmer music, we wouldn’t have seen the two families of pheasants run along the crest of the pumpkin field toward the shelter of the woods.

If we hadn’t walked across the reception room to stand next to strangers at the back windows, we wouldn’t have seen the wedding party being photographed with their faces toward the setting sun, holding each other in the cold, laughing and stumbling as they changed positions and poses between shots, with accordion music behind us in our background so that the scene we were watching was suddenly like the end of a happy Italian movie.

If we hadn’t returned to look out the back windows later during the reception, after the speeches in the far corner of the room and after the dinner sitting close to people we knew but across from strangers, we wouldn’t have seen the brown cow raise her nose and toss her head, standing under a tree, and chew her cud looking up at the sky.

If we hadn’t left the reception hall for a moment after dark, before coming back in to the light and music and dancing, we wouldn’t have seen the black round shapes in the branches of the trees which were the chickens roosting.

3. Read and annotate the text

II hadn't watched the videos and selected this text on Thursday (10/25/14),
I wouldn't have seen
possibilities in my mind during the downtimes of our all day Friday/half day Saturday garage sale or lulls in the conversation with cousins visiting from Colorado over the weekend.

I noticed several patterns in the audible structure of the poem and reformatted its layout to make them more visual in preparation for decomposing the text.

IF AT THE WEDDING (AT THE ZOO)
[Reformated to visually reflect the repeating patterns I saw and for decomposition purposes.]

If we hadn’t stopped on our way to the ceremony to look at the pen of black pigs,

we wouldn’t have seen the very large pig lunge at the smaller one, to force him away from the feeding trough.

 

If we hadn’t come early and seated ourselves on a bench in the sunlight under the pavilion roof to await the start of the ceremony,

we wouldn’t have seen the runaway pony trot past trailing its rope.

 

If we hadn’t heard the sudden murmur of our neighbors on the benches in the cold sunlight under the pavilion before the start of the ceremony,

we wouldn’t have looked up to see the bride coming in her bright green dress from a distance walking briskly with long strides hand in hand with her mother.

 

If we hadn’t craned our necks to look around the people standing in front of us, prepared to officiate and take part in the ceremony,

we wouldn’t have seen how the bride came, her head bowed, her mother’s head bowed, her mother talking seriously to her, the two of them never looking up, as though there were no one else present, toward the pavilion, the guests, the poised cameras, the ceremony, and her future husband who stood waiting for her.

 

If we hadn’t looked away from the ceremony in which the couple getting married stood before their officiating Buddhist friend while their other assembled friends and family chanted Indian and other chants,

we wouldn’t have seen the Hasidic and Asian families walk past the pavilion gazing curiously at us on their way to and from the Corn Maze.

 

If we hadn’t walked across the room in which the reception was beginning, past the two accordionists, man and woman, to look out the back windows at the wedding party being photographed in the cold October sunlight late in the day to the sound of klezmer music,

we wouldn’t have seen the two families of pheasants run along the crest of the pumpkin field toward the shelter of the woods.

 

If we hadn’t walked across the reception room to stand next to strangers at the back windows,

we wouldn’t have seen the wedding party being photographed with their faces toward the setting sun, holding each other in the cold, laughing and stumbling as they changed positions and poses between shots, with accordion music behind us in our background so that the scene we were watching was suddenly like the end of a happy Italian movie.

 

If we hadn’t returned to look out the back windows later during the reception, after the speeches in the far corner of the room and after the dinner sitting close to people we knew but across from strangers,

we wouldn’t have seen the brown cow raise her nose and toss her head, standing under a tree, and chew her cud looking up at the sky.

 

If we hadn’t left the reception hall for a moment after dark, before coming back in to the light and music and dancing,

we wouldn’t have seen the black round shapes in the branches of the trees which were the chickens roosting.

Decomposition

After multiple readings and a variety of highlightings and annotations, I created and compiled my decompositions into a table.

  • Actions/verbs: The first and third columns contain mostly the action verbs associated with the poem's If we hadn't... and we never would have seen patterns

  • Concepts/nouns:The second and fourth columns contain mostly the concept nouns that are the recipients or associated with the actions

  • Concrete vs. Abstract Concepts: The concepts are further divided into concrete and abstract concepts. For visual purposes, 
    a concrete concept can be represented-you can draw or photograph it, e.g., bench, pumpkin, pig
    an abstract concept can only be symbolized, e.g., cold, to and from, strangers

  • Descriptors: The fifth column contains descriptive language that might be shaping tone or mood

  • Wedding references: The sixth column contains wedding specific language

  • Animals: Animals are further annotated in bold

  • Palette: Three colors have been noted as possible palette colors for the book cover. A related palette was used to create the placeholder photo for this project.

My objective with the decomposition table was to be able to scan the content elements of the poem across the nine descriptive passages using each of the vertical coloumn, and be able to visually compare and contrast content elements across columns.

Feel free to adapt this way of seeing content differently for your own decomposition purposes.

What did I see/learn? (Questions & observations derived)

These are questions and observations driving my next steps in this cover design process, in no particular order:

  • Who is speaking to whom? Is the storyteller speakin reflectively to him/herself? narratively to a friend, descriptively to me as the reader? What if I were a listener? Does it matter?

  • "How was the wedding?" I'm willing to assume we all know someone who went to a wedding and the next time we saw them we asked,. "How was the wedding?" I doubt any of us ever got an event description like this.

  • Quirky wonderment. I thought the poem had a bit of an adult ADOS (attention deficit-ohh shiny!) quality about it. The speaker was certainly open, perceptive and tuned into his/her envirionment.

  • About the wedding. There really isn't much detail or focus on the wedding other than its providing an event timeline.

  • About the zoo. When I first read the title's parenthetical (At The Zoo) I was thinking exotic, wild animal zoo, species houses, etc. Based on the animals named, I'm now thinking farm zoo or petting zoo. That would also be more consistent with the pumpkin patch and corn maze.

  • About the wedding dress. Green!? I've seen it on bridesmaids but never the bride. Yet another one of those quirky little details.

  • Palette possibilities. While the green is named as a dress descriptor, it also provides a unifying color for a palette of pumpkin field orange and corn field yellow via their leaves.We'll see what, if anything, comes of that connection.

  • Serious > happy. ...the bride came, her head bowed, her mother's head bowed, her mother talking seriously to here, the two of them never looking up, as though there were no one else present... This would not generally be considered a good start for a wedding. I was glad to see the later reference to it being suddently like the end of a happy Italian movie.
  • About the mother/father. I've already commented on the serious mother to daughter chat enroute to the pavilion. There was no mention of a father.

  • Landscape settings: Foreground? None described-lawn or meadow to pumpkin field possible. A tree or more close enough to shee the chicken shapes. Middle ground: pumpkin field. Background: Pumpkin field has a crest, so there's something of a hill, then woods.

  • Architechtural Settings. A pavilion - perhaps open air? Recreation hall where the reception, dinner, dancing was held. A barn, airplane hanger, or wedding reception hall built on the property for such theme or destination weddings?

  • An Implied If/Then. The pattern If we hadn't ... (then) we never would have is implied. The word then never appears. Its absence serves to continue the flow of words and is consistent with the text is tightly written despite the plethora of words.

Our course project notes reminded us to remember:

  • Every text tells a story - this one certainly does -- about people, animals, a location, and an event.
  • Goal 1: Understand the story at face value - I see face value elements are noted in the reformatting, decomposition table, questions and observations. They are face value elements to the extent that those of you still reading this are also able to see what I've described in the text.
  • Goal 2: Discern the underlying meaning - I don't know about the underlying the author had in mind but an underlying principle the poem reinforced for me is how we each see things differently.

    If we were to assume the poem's speaker is a woman and she attended the wedding with a husband and two children aged 8 (boy) and 12 (girl), they would each respond to peer How was the wedding? question differently.

    We don't know the relatonship of the speaker to the bride or groom. We do know that she had an extended senory experience at this wedding, one that would suggest a curious mind. And she was able to translate it into a tale descriptively well-told. Perhaps she read Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and Sherlock Holmes as a girl?

Lydia Davis: Readings & Interviews

I wanted to see if there were any readings of this poem available to get a feel for how others might be interpreting its sound and flow. Was it read in a breathlessly runon manner? With nuanced or exaggerated inflection?

Adam Lucier's Palimpsest on If At The Wedding (At The Zoo)
The first reading of the poem was helpful. (beginning - 4:05)
Beyond that he used it to create echoic cacaphony.

I learned that Lydia Davis is a contemporary poet and looked for interviews so that I could hear her voice and get a sense of the personality of the person who wrote this descriptaliscious poem.

I found multiple transcribed interviews but wanted to hear her voice in interviews.
These two provided me with useful insights.

Lydia Davis Reading ' Goodbye Louise'
Hearing her read this was very useful. It gave be a sense of the eye with which she sees things.
She is reading a false autobiography of mistakes make about her name and profession.

NPR Interview - Lydia Davis' New Collection Has Stories Shorter Than This Headline 
This April 2014 interview is 7 min 51 sec. Transcript included.
It was useful in several ways: I got to hear her

  • read additional short works
  • provide insight into her writing and characters

I've learned Lydia Davis has a deft and wry sense of humor and can be self-effacing.
In watching her speak and read, I thought she had a twinkle about words.
I think she's playing with words and we readers  in 'If At the Wedding (At the Zoo)'.

Bonus find 1: Alan Cote is Lydia Davis' husband and an abstract painter
I enjoyed learning about his works, thinking and processes through videos produced by their son, Theo.

Bonus find 2: Rejected Cover Designs for Can't And Won't by Lydia Davis
Not an interview or about my selected poem but given the focus of this course, this was a fun and useful read, independent of the fact that they were for her most recent book. Check it out!

4. Consider the title

What does the title tell me about the book, in this case, this poem?

  • Quirkyness. It tells me there's something quirky about this poem.
    It makes me wonder a bit because weddings and zoos are uncommon companions.

  • IF. If suggests a conditional presence.

    Possibly the presence of a condition that may be contrary to fact, or
    an if/then, or
    an if this/then that construction.

How can the title help you design the cover?

  • IF - I've developed an if fixation that I'm going to try to work to my design advantage.
    I know, after even reading the poem just once, that each paragraph of the poem begins with If.

  • By the numbers, some working thoughts

    - A single IF on the cover would be minimalist and consisent with the author's penchant for short writing.

    - 9 IFs could be derived from the nine paragraphs beginning with If.

    - 9 cover subpanels can be created by dividing the cover panel into vertical & horizontal thirds.

    - 9 rows - another possible division of the cover panel.

    - IF can be constructed within a 3x3 grid.

    - IF I used Phi to construct an F, what might that look like?

  • Typeface/font thoughts

    - NO wedding script or decorative farmboard fonts!

    - If I used a serif font, it would be a slab serif and I'd want to explore the negative spaces created.

    - A casual but not cartoony sans serif is a distinct possibility.
      With any sans serif, I'm anticipating a need to pay attention to
      > the alignment of the letters in IF or If,
      > the design of the W and kerning of the We, and
      > the kerning of the parentheses.

    I'll be doing the composition and typography in PowerPoint 2010.
    It supports layers and kerning in rudimentary ways.

    - Ligatures. I wonder if there are any ligatures for IF? I'll be checking that out.

5. List the themes

Connected powers of observation. I keep coming back to thinking about how the speaker has used her powers of observation and description to experience the wedding in extended ways, ways beyond just going to a wedding and its reception.

These are connected, not disparite, conversations. They are connected by the the If we hadn't...we never would have seen   stems.

They are diverse enough to include people/persons, places, things (animal & vegatable) and ideas.

Connected wonderment. You know those thick cardboard picture books they make for early readers?
In some ways I can see that format used to illustrated this poem's 9 Ifs. Each stiff page would have the
If we hadn't statement illustrated on the front side and the 
we never would have seen statement illustrated on the back. 

I'm contemplating ways of hinting at that kind of a connection on the cover (when not fixated on IF). 
It would take me more in the direction of three-dimentional solutions captured and inserted as graphics.

6. Sketch ideas by hand in rectangles [11/9/14 final documentation added]

This section includes my explorations and decisions re

  • Layout
  • Cover Typeface
  • Cover Text & Its Layout
  • Cover Content
  • Cover Palette
  • Final Cover

Layout

I set up a slide using the 6.375" x 9.25" dimensions we were given.
Then I set up a grid within the page that gave me a square on top and a rectangle on the bottom.
This grid framed and shaped my thumbnaill and typographic explorations.

Cover Layout Grid

Typeface Explorations
I explored several pages of different typefaces using the grid. A sample page follows.

Typeface Explorations

Text Layout in P22 Eaglefeather (final typeface and layout)

Using the grid helped me decide that the text was too long to fit on one line and still be large enough to catch the eye and be readable at a glance.

It also helped me decide to right justify the two lines of text. I found beginning the second line of text with a parentheses while left justified visually problematic. 

Final text layout in P22 Eaglefeather

I chose P22 Eaglefeather as my typeface, for multiple reasons: 

  • It has some formal stylistic touches appropriate for a wedding, as in the upper case A and W and some of the open strokes of the lower case ds and g. The lower case os were fully round.
  • It had an informal feel appropriate to the site location of a farm/zoo. (I've been to a wedding on a farm and there's only so much formality it will support even with a brass choir in the orchard.)
  • The slight thickening at the beginning and ending of strokes gave it a handlettered feel.
  • I thought the parallel diagonal strokes of by Lydia Davis were subtly striking and may subconsciously lead a browser to look inside

Cover Content & Layout Thumbnails
In my thumbnails I explored the ideas I recorded earlier in this project documentation.

In this sample page of thumbnails you'll see some of my explorations of the IF motif but you'll also see the seeds of a color blocking alternative surfacing in the lower right rectangles.

Sample of an early thumbnails page

This is a photo of my final page of thumnails wherein I was exploring an abstracted corn and pumpkin motif. As abstract as it was, I wasn't happy with how literal it was becoming. The poem is not about corn and pumpkins. I felt their mention should be more just visually contextual.

I shifted to several aggressive explorations of a color blocking motif using orange for the pumpkins, yellow for the corn and green for the wedding dress. (I'd researched fall weddings and learned that green (more toward olive than verdant) is the traditional color of a fall wedding dress. Who knew?!)

You'll also see a couple final explorations of the IF motif.

Copy of final thumbnails page

Cover Palette Explorations
Once I decided to use a Green, Yellow, Orange color blocking motif, I began looking for image sources that included the triad. If possible, I wanted to sample the colors from a source that already contained the three in some authentic relationship.

My explorations included photos of cornfields, pumpkin fields, gourds, autumn/harvest landscapes, centerpieces, clothing, logos, paintings, maps and map legends, stacks of towels, paint palettes.

I set up a slide to compile my samplings. In addition to GYO, I sampled darks that might provide text alternatives to black and lights that might be useful for backgrounds or inverse type. The layout of my color blocks was still tentative at this time. Here's a sample page of Potential GYO Palettes.

Sample page of potential GYO palettes

By the time I'd finished compiling sample palettes, I'd decided to go with a yellow square, orange rectangle and green background.

After creating those color blocks, I felt they were too strong so I muted them some and blurred them to better communicate subtle context and to help the text pop in contrast.

Initial and Blurred Cover Color Blocks

Final Cover

How do you like it?

Final Cover: If At the Wedding (at the Zoo)

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