Last winter, Ooligan students were far too busy to notice Portland’s infamous rain—-we were hard at work on one of publishing’s most demanding creative challenges: designing the cover that will grace one of Ooligan’s forthcoming titles when we send it out to greet the world.

Having worked on the editorial team for Ooligan’s upcoming young adult release, A Series of Small Maneuvers, I was keen to see the creative process up close, as was author Eliot Treichel, who eagerly awaited a chance to see the cover that would introduce readers to the book’s story of grief, survival, and growing up. Ooligan’s design students did not disappoint. In a creative process that lasted five weeks and three full rounds of individual critiques, eight different designers submitted more than nineteen covers for feedback, working with fellow students to refine their ideas into fully realized cover concepts for a final vote by the whole press.

This process was remarkable, not only because of how many Ooligan students submitted cover designs, but also because of how much the designs themselves developed through the term, evolving and improving to the point of utter transformation. Sitting in those weekly design meetings and listening as students gave each other feedback on everything from font selection to color palettes to point size, I was amazed at the dedication of these artists as, week by week, they channeled raw creative energy, tempered by constructive criticism, to forge covers so eye-catching that we only wished we could print them all. As the three finalists show, each cover offered a distinctive interpretation of Eliot’s story, offering readers astonishingly different windows into the book’s themes of coping with loss by taking life one “small maneuver” at a time:

Cover Finalists: The Top Three

  1. Stephanie_Round_3_Cover_Finalist

    Finalist cover design submitted by Stephanie Podmore, featuring paper-craft mountains and a moody, earth-toned palette.

  2. Erika_Round_3_Cover_Finalist

    Finalist cover design submitted by Erika Schnatz, featuring a cut-paper Southwestern landscape dominated by a night sky, winding river, and a lonely tent that speaks to A Series of Small Maneuvers‘s themes of overwhelming loss.

  3. Alexandra_Round_3_Cover_Finalist

    Finalist cover design submitted by Alexandra Haehnert, featuring a sailcloth cover torn in the shape of a river canyon in illustration of the book’s dramatic emotional tone.

And the Winner Is . . .

Ooligan Press is grateful to designer Stephanie Podmore for developing the cover for Small Maneuvers! As Stephanie says of her process, the concept centers on

“cut paper to represent the Southwestern landscape where the story takes place. The technique and colors are on-trend without being so overused that [the cover] won’t stand out. The simple shapes play off the even-keeled narrative tone, while the layers play off the title and theme of several small things adding up to something bigger. The depth they create hints at the journey in the book. The image is simple, yet interesting enough to look good on a large scale or as a thumbnail. The Small Maneuvers team, the design lead (Erika), and our author were all involved in perfecting the cover to best fit the story as well as the market we hope to reach.”

Look for A Series of Small Maneuvers in bookstores soon—with a cover like this one, it’s sure to stand out!


Final winning cover design submitted by Stephanie Podmore, featuring paper-craft mountains under a moody night sky that hints at the drama that awaits readers of A Series of Small Maneuvers.

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