As an investor, founder, CEO and business book author, I write about startups, design, how to build a good business, and I like to muse about culture in any form.

Going under the covers in making a book cover

When I met my McGraw Hill editor Casey Ebro to kick off the book project, I told her I would be a very responsive first-time author and fully defer to her deep expertise and guidance.  But I also warned Casey that, as a designer, I would be a pain in the neck when it came to the cover.  Casey wisely suggested I hire my own cover designer.

I did. I researched business book cover art and wrote a full brief for the project. The Grommet design team was very short-handed so I hired one of the best designers I know. She did a fabulous job. But Casey rejected all of our proposed concepts. Here was my favorite.

Casey had an internal designer take a crack at it. I was predictably unhappy. Here is the McGraw Hill suggestion. I tried to work with it, but was discouraged.

I stewed and pouted and gathered up the fresh energy to go back at it after a couple weeks.

Round two, I asked Stacey Bakaj, our design team lead to take on this ill-fated project and give it another fresh go.  I warned Stacey that it would probably be a complete waste of time, given how far apart my cover vision and Casey’s seemed to be.  Stacey was nonetheless game and created a wonderful set of new concepts.  Here was my favorite (ignore the name, this was just an inspiration image we would translate to the specific title “How We Make Stuff Now.”)

Casey and her editorial team again rejected all concepts. We were at a stalemate.  I stewed and pouted some more.

I told Casey I was really unhappy and she quickly wrote back asking for a call.  And that is where the worm turned (in a positive way.)  During the call Casey revealed that the McGraw Hill team actually liked one of the rejected concepts from Stacey, but the team had a hard time visualizing it.  Seeing a crack in the door, Stacey and I walked right into it. Helping visualize the idea more concretely was a problem we could address.  And we did. Or, more precisely, Stacey did.

Everyone finally agreed on this concept:

Happy days, here are some shots of the photo shoot for the book.  The words “HOW WE” were formed out of wood by one of the Grommet team Zack Williamson.  He used his home laser cutter.  The word “Make” was crafted by Stacey out of Crayola Air Clay.  The word “STUFF” was 3-D printed by Scott Janousek, who has a shop at Artisan’s Asylum in Somerville, MA.  The word “NOW” was machined out of metal by Big Blue Saw.


Stacey Bakaj inspecting the fabricated type that will be photographed to make the cover.

Stacey hanging out with Grommet Photographer Tim Renzi as he sets up the cover shoot.

Instead of envisioning being embarrassed by holding up a book cover I dislike, I’m really proud of this one. It represents the book perfectly in its range of materials, bright, friendly aspect, and 3-D execution.  Thanks Casey and Stacey!


7 Responses to “Going under the covers in making a book cover”

  1. Kathleen Mathewz

    Yep, nailed it! It’s perfect. It’s different and attractive and like the products offered on Grommet was toyed with until perfect. I am so happy you won’t have to sit next to pile of ugly books at your signings.

    As always, thanks for sharing.

  2. Change Agent Des

    I love how this showed the teamwork of the folks at The Grommet. Zach using his home laser cutter. Scott doing his bit at Artisan’s Asylum. Nice! This teamwork was also shown in the Instagram pictures last week of team members pitching in to paint a wall at The Grommet. Really Nice!

  3. Jill

    Revisiting your post again..can’t help being pulled into the process. Love the way it provides a vivid account of the vortex of people and ideas swirling around each step, much like how each Grommet gets to us!


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