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Making an upbeat book cover about abuse

How's this for an assignment: Design a book cover about sexual child abuse, a memoir, but make it upbeat and positive.


This was a recent project of mine, from a client who had suffered abuse for years as a child, and wrote a book on how writing got her through the trauma to a better place as an adult. She had a publisher, but wasn't happy with the cover they provided.


So she contacted me.


I love books, and I love designing books. So this was a great challenge.


I always start with the title. An early version of the title, "Getting To The Happy:

Write Your Way to a New Future from A Sexual Abuse Past," was long. The main topic, sexual abuse, was listed way at the end. And would this book really make you happy?


I'm a book designer, sure. But I'm always happy to throw in my 2¢ about the text, and had ideas about this title.


My number one rule about text: There's usually too much of it, so cut, cut, cut. As Kim explained more about her book and how it would help readers beat the crap out of their painful past, I moved "Kicking Abuse in the Ass" up to the top.


Time for the image. How do you show a young abuse survivor, without it looking tortured? The book really is about writing, so that's what I used for an image. The high angle gives some anonymity to the woman, and puts more emphasis on her writing.


It's a brutally honest memoir. But just saying those words does not convey the true strength of that sentence. Writing "brutally honest" by hand, as though the author wanted to make sure the reader really got the point, was the solution to bring that to the reader's attention.


When Kim saw my cover design, she wrote this:


"Well you are fucking awesome at what you do because I saw the cover and completely broke down sobbing."

That's the kind of reaction I go for with my clients.

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