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I assume there’s an endless supply of creativity when it comes to cover design. But similar to other art forms, I also believe that it must be incredibly frustrating for a designer, artist, or illustrator to constantly come up with something “cool!” and “unique!” and “edgy!” I’m pretty sure they get tired of hearing these overused descriptors, too.

I see artists as those who like to reinvent design, but not reinvent the wheel. I imagine that if a cover designer gets the opportunity to read a novel before moving to the concept stage, there’s a brain-wracking process involved. Questions might come up, like What’s symbolic to this story’s theme? or How can I personify X, Y, or Z? or How can I make this cover not look like the other 10,000 covers out there?

And then I see covers like the one below, for Todd Strasser’s If I Grow Up, a story about a teenager living in the drug and gang-infested projects.


Take a look at this cover for a few moments; all of the elements serve some sort of purpose in painting a picture of what the novel’s about. The black and white concrete backdrop that provides a stark contrast against the colorful kids’ blocks that form the title. The chalk-drawn author name. The cityscape that creeps out of the shadows of the blocks. It’s a pretty foreboding cover — I mean the title is If I Grow Up, not When I Grow Up.

Oh and of course, that bullet, which isn’t exactly my favorite element, but gets the point across.

It’s certainly not a cover that I’d expect to find in the YA or juvenile section of my library or bookstore. If I Grow Up features a message-heavy cover that requires a little more thought than ogling a shiny pretty cover (which I often do). I can only imagine that the book is even more saturated with more message-heavy substance throughout.

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Bryan Williams