The importance of a book cover cannot be understated—especially for a book the author is publishing himself. A poorly and amateurishly designed cover can immediately identify a book as self-published and make the whole work—no matter what appears on the inside—seem unprofessional. So, it was with great thought that I approached the task of designing the cover for We Regret to Inform You: Stories.
My initial idea for the cover was to have it be wholly typographic, including hand-drawn letters. I thought this best since it was a collection of short stories without a clear unifying image. I went as far as to take a class online on hand drawing letters and mocked up several ideas. I still like the idea and the typography I came up with, but after doing some research and further learning about book cover design, decided that I needed photographs of people. At the same time, I also began to really see and arrange the themes of the stories and it was easier to see how images could communicate those themes.
As I searched through stock image databases for images to go on the cover—images that would communicate the themes of boyhood, manhood, and masculinity that I was trying to draw out in the collection—I became particularly attached to this image.
The boy’s expression is puzzling; I thought it portrayed the feelings of a lot of the characters in the stories, child and adult. I went so far as to play around with fragmenting the image in Photoshop in order to communicate much of the dissatisfaction the male characters feel as they try to connect with others. I tossed this idea in the end because I thought it gave the false impression that the book was only about childhood. The picture of the boy remains in the final cover, though.
I liked the result but was still drawn back to the picture of the boy and decided to make a cover with him and an older man.
The result was a step in the right direction but still not quite far enough, so I went and found a picture of a young man and sequenced the pictures from top to bottom to coordinate with age. I settled on the three faces, representing the three stages of life. I used Photoshop for each set of eyes to create effects. For the boy, I created a comic-y, newspaper print effect. For the young man, I added blur to indicate speed, time, movement. For the older man, I added an effect to mimic stone. Readers will recognize some of these effects in the stories in the book.