I was never here. . .

The trick of Photoshop is to make it look like you didn’t do anything. I was working on a catalog cover and I wanted to use an image of a dove holding an olive branch as the main image. Most of the images I found were just so-so—most didn’t have a dove with a wide wingspan, some had awful backgrounds, and none had background big enough for my purposes.

That may be the thing I do in photoshop more than anything—extend backgrounds. I always work in layers and masks and I always do more of the background than is needed (the image below is cropped even more than the original. So I found a dove from my stock site that would work. Then I added a layer to paint on more clouds and sky, added an olive branch into the doves mouth, and (after some constructive feedback from my bosses) increased the contrast between the dove and the sky.

The final result is subtle and hopefully looks like it wasn’t messed with too much.

Catherine’s War

Several months ago I was recruited, by my editor friend Karen, to work on a book project. Originally, I was just recruited to design the cover (Karen was doing the interior). Actually, originally, I just recruited to consult on exporting a Word document to an epub file. I tested some things out and never got anything resembling a clean epub file. Anyone out there who knows how to convert a Word document into an epub that doesn’t look like a WYSIWYG editor threw-up after a long night on the town let me know. . . actually don’t, I don’t want to know that bad.

Anyway, I was asked to design a cover for this book. The author, Denise, and I discussed ideas for a few days before I started. Her first thoughts were about train stations and long goodbyes, but after talking to some friends she moved on to train tracks and misty-ness and most importantly black and white—they had convinced her that the train station wouldn’t have the same impact as tracks. So I gave her these concepts:

And as is usual she sent back feedback for me to move forward. She liked this part of one, that part of another—she wanted a different feel. I could tell none of them wowed her. Then I spoke to Karen. Karen was surprised the concepts weren’t all of train stations. Karen, the editor of the book, was the one person who knew the book almost as well as the author. So I did some more work and sent an email back to Denise with the subject “Not to muddy the waters…”


Her response was “Omg, omg, omg. One of these images just made me gasp aloud.” It was the first one. We then spent an evening discussing what she liked about it and how it was so full of hope and the sun shining through was exactly what she wanted—to which I told her “I know something you don’t know. . . that image looks even better in color.” And from then on with very little alteration we had our cover.

Catherines War Cover
I’m sure there’s some lesson here about going with your first instincts, or trusting your designer more than you trust your friends, but really it’s just how the design process goes—when you let your designer in great things can happen, if you keep them at a clinical distance it’s harder for them to get a sense of who you are.

An Order of Imps

I am a designer by trade, but a writer by heart. Much of this site will be writing both about design and some other stuff. This is my first fiction post.
An Order of Imps
Autocorrect changed a text from my wife to something fun—Imo’s is a local pizza chain.

The box arrived today. I have been waiting three weeks for this moment.

It started as I was reading a magazine in Dr. Marcus’ office, an article about the plight of migratory frogs in New Zealand. A woman burst through the door leading to the examination rooms and startled me, making me drop the magazine. Her face was streaked with tears, her make-up like a watercolor painting in a rainstorm. The receptionist yelled something after her about making another appointment, but the woman ran past and slammed the door to the office behind her.

A few moments later I realized I was still staring at the closed door, some meaningful thought must have been in my head, but even then I could not place my finger on what is was.

I blinked and bent down to retrieve the magazine which had flipped away from the story about the frogs. It lay on the floor fanned open, pages bent under. I picked it up glancing once more at the door. What had I been thinking about?

I placed the magazine in my lap and looked down to try and find my place in the article again. As I reached for the corner to turn the page a word caught my eye: “imps.”Then another word: “box.” Then “assorted,” “order,” and “call now!” followed.

The receptionist called my name. I looked up, glassy-eyed. She called my name again.

I stood to follow and as she turned her back I tore out the page and stuffed it into my pocket.

Later that night I stared at a glass of vodka on the coffee table. No juice tonight, just the vodka—a full glass. I shifted on the couch and heard a crinkling sound. I arched my back, squeezed my hand into my pocket, and retrieved the wrinkled page from the magazine.

The picture was grainy and dark, but the headline was as clear as could be. “Order your box of assorted imps today!”The word imps was in red with a red tail swirling under it, an arrowhead point at the end. I called right then and began my wait thinking, “I don’t know how to tell you this, Dr. Marcus, but I have some bad news.”

The box arrived today. I have been waiting three weeks for this moment.