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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Impossible Motherhood

Design by Carin Goldberg

You might have heard of this book; if you haven't, you will. It remains to be seen if there's a more polarizing book published this fall season. If you're not familiar with it, read the description on the publisher's Web site.

Earlier this week, I twittered the following:

A number of my Twitter followers replied, and all of them encouraged me to post this for discussion. One noted that "design is about message, and this is a very excellent example of committing to a visual messsage using the most simple tools." I couldn't agree more. But what really stuck in my head was something someone else offered: "That's brave, expressively strong, yet quiet." It was the adjective "quiet" that stuck in my head as this design's most important attribute, probably because reaction to the book has been and will be anything but.

I wanted to know more, so I asked designer Carin Goldberg a few questions, and she was gracious enough to reply:

The BDR: Did you consciously design this with a sense of quiet or calm in mind? So much about it *is* quiet, even delicate: the colors, the weight of the female form, the type. Is your design solution a conscious effort to suggest "really...please give this book a chance?"

Carin Goldberg:
Yes, the subject matter of this book is very sensitive and potentially controversial. And yes, of course it was important to design a cover that wouldn’t frighten the audience or misrepresent the author and her complex story. The design was not meant to provoke in an overt or gratuitous way.

The BDR: The tally marks are small and thin, but less quiet, and suggestive of more than just simply keeping count, espcially as they're placed on the body. Did you hesitate using the red tally marks as a design element?

Carin Goldberg: No, I never hesitated. They marks were my first idea. And yes, they are meant to have a double meaning, or maybe even a triple meaning. Not only do they tally the number of the abortions she has had and suggest a woman’s pubic area, but they might also be seen as prisoner tallies. The author was imprisoned by her psyche and by her compulsion to have multiple abortions.

I think Carin hit the nail on the head by stressing the need not to misrepresent the author and her story. In following that simple-to-understand but not always simple-to-produce idea, she's designed an amazingly effective and resonating cover.

What do you think?


Erika Martinez said...

What a great post. The cover is brilliantly executed; so simple and easy to interpret. It's always nice to learn more about the thoughts behind a designer's process. Good read!

Anonymous said...

Fascinating discussion of the cover. It's wonderful hearing how much thought goes into design--and this cover really does a terrific job.

That said: I spent a couple hours with some writers friends the other day, and we were brainstorming possible subjects for memoirs that might sell. The right combination of grief and misery and prurient content. I thought we did a pretty good job, but we totally missed this one!

MrsPete said...

I would add a fourth meaning: they seemed to me at first like bloody cuts or scars, evoking the actual procedures. Great cover.

Rachael said...

This cover is nothing short of wonderful. Great interview and discussion of such a clever design. I'm excited to read the book now - mission accomplished!

Ian Koviak said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Carin Goldberg is by far one of my favorite top 3 designers. Her work is always full of deep thought and very distinctive and original in every sense of the work.

I won this book and was immediately attracted to the cover. The folks at Other Press told me it was Carin and then it all made sense... Brilliant execution.

Melissa Dominic said...

This cover is just... fantastic.

Unknown said...

This cover perfectly complements Vilar's voice. Beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Nice quiet cover, but I believe its done more to lull the reader into picking up what otherwise is a horrific piece of non-fiction.

I agree with the poster Mrs. Pete about its 4th meaning, I was seriously expecting the designer to echo that as well.

I thought it was weak how the very coherent author wrote in 3rd person about herself in summarizing the book. I think Joseph would agree that one cannot judge a book's cover without considering its content.