I’ve always loved book covers, generally ignoring the wisdom about not choosing on first impressions. I am usually swayed by an attractive image on the front, and I like nothing better than a relaxing stint in the library, idly selecting books like pretty dresses from the rack, based on how they look, or feel, or the size and style of the font. I’ve read a few unexpectedly interesting books by choosing this way – it’s worth a try!
When I was approached last year by a team of consultant neuropsychologists, to illustrate the cover for their new book of research, this method of choosing based on the cover became very pertinent. In our first meeting, the Doctors were very clear that the book cover had to jump off the shelf. To be irresistible. It had to be something – ‘wow’. A hush came over me. Wow. They had chosen to ask me because they knew I could deliver ‘wow’.
Of course, I replied, (gulping slightly), wow, yes, tell me more. It had to be the sort of book cover that would make professionals in their field sit up and take notice of it. Something different and fresh in that erudite profession. Practical too – it had to be the sort of book cover that parents of children affected by brain injury might feel drawn to. Something they would take down from the shelf. Something they would feel able to open up and read more. It had to be quirky, unusual, electric, meaningful. Wow.
I started by thinking hard for quite some time. Every brief can be answered in some way – the trick is finding how to start. I usually begin by thinking thinking thinking. Going for a walk. Stroking the cat. Doodling. Reading round the subject. In this project, reading round the subject was extremely hard as it is a very complicated, involved and intelligent subject. I told myself that I am also quite complicated, involved and intelligent, and gave it my best shot. A few days later I emerged from a fog of psychology terms, medical journals, doodles of children, case studies of families… and chose 4 different ideas. I worked them carefully up into drafts, wrote out the reasoning and symbolism behind them all, and got together with the Doctors. At the end of the meeting we had a clear path. A way forward. An idea, chosen! It was a lighthouse, shining out over a stormy sea.
I had decided a lighthouse might be symbolic of the Doctors’ company, Recolo, which offers a wide reaching service of practical, psychological help for the whole family whose child has been affected by a brain injury. Recolo guides the way through the storm (and is also a leading light in its professional world, so that worked well too). The light from the lighthouse shines out in the colours of Recolo’s branding. The boat struggling to get to shore would be a family in the midst of trauma (see the tattered sails?), and the lively fish in the sea, also painted in Recolo’s company colours, were to swim valiantly under the boat, shoring it up.
The lighthouse has windows on many different levels – this is to show that Recolo works with families in unexpected ways – help where and when you need it, not just when you might expect it.
I painted the illustration very patiently by hand.
The book was published earlier this year, by Palgrave Macmillan, and getting my copy in the post was exciting! There was quite a buzz about the cover, which was fun, and such a thrill. It was amazing to see all that careful work come to fruition.
It’s full of new, important research, which will change lives and help families. I was honoured to be a part of it. Thank you, Recolo!