Three Stories, One Cover

Ooligan’s summer term is almost over, and for the Three Sides Water team, that means wrapping up the cover design and starting work on the book’s interior. We began work on the cover way back at the beginning of spring term, nearly five months ago, and it’s a joy to see our efforts come to fruition. Three Sides Water posed several design challenges the team members hadn’t encountered before.

The first challenge was how to design one cover for three different stories that are essentially novel-length. The team wanted to avoid prioritizing one story over the others; each story spoke to us in different ways, and we knew each story would pull in different audiences. We also wanted to avoid a collage-like cover, as our recent YA novel Seven Stitches had a collage cover. We decided to request covers that didn’t depict any one setting from the stories, favoring a more general “Olympic Peninsula” feel.

We researched current cover trends in literary fiction and identified elements that would work for Three Sides Water, keeping the book’s themes of place, longing, and independence in mind. We also called attention to overdone cover themes and design elements: one of the first things the group decided was to avoid any depiction of water, as well as the color blue. (Have you seen how many blue books Ooligan has published? It’s almost embarrassing.)

Once the design brief was complete, a call for designers went out to the whole press. Ooligan differs from traditional publishing houses in many ways, but the cover design process is perhaps the most obvious divergence. While larger presses might have a few designated cover artists or a design firm they contract, Ooligan’s covers (and books) are designed 100% by students. Many enthused designers heeded the call. Round one of our cover process saw twenty-six designs. Some potential covers were improved upon; some were eliminated. Eight unique designs (and many variants of the designs) participated in the semifinals, after which only three remained.

The three finalists were all unique and highlighted different aspects of the book the designers loved, but the design that won over the staff paid homage to the Olympic Peninsula in general and managed to incorporate elements of each story without relying on a collage aesthetic. It was a difficult and drawn-out process, but we have high hopes for this cover and can’t wait to show it to the world.

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