The cover of a second Ahab edition book by Canadian author David Vann (Caribou Island) stretched our decision making process to the limit. Most of the covers for Ahab go through a series of visual explorations that more often than not fall by the wayside but this cover in particular produced a wider than normal series of discarded designs.
The beginning seemed straightforward. I began by setting up a photoshoot on a day out in the countryside. With the idea of an autumn island in Canada I collected a bundle of small tree branches which I formed into the shape of individual letters. The results seemed promising. The atmoshere they created seemed appropriate.
But a range of efforts to make the branch lettering work on the cover failed. It seemed to be a classic problem of an idea or composition that was complete without all the necessary ingredients being present. So when I attempted to add the missing elements (first part of the title and authors name) the design became too unbalanced. So we started exploring other ideas like these below using painterly textures and mechanical type.
But because none of the previous Ahab cover used mechanical type (deliberately so) this idea was also put to one side. Time was a decisive factor in making a final choice – we just ran out of it. The final design idea started with a quickly drawn sketch of the title forming an island surounded by stylised lines of coastal waves of the sort sometimes seen on old maps.
The (innappropriate) 'cactus-like' lettering was replaced by a more caligraphic lettering style (too 'pirate-like') and eventually by a harsher, more angular rendering, better suited we thought to the rather bleak storyline (murder, dispair and suicide!).