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  • Writer's pictureScott Montgomery

The Cover Version

Guest Contributor Scott Montgomery talks about the design of the cover of Growing From the Ashes. "I'm open to anything, as long as it's a phoenix,"Sheila said. Any designer likes a tight brief. But as client notes go, this was a first.


Sheila and I had been working on a few projects by email – I'm pretty sure I hadn't even met her in person yet. I wasn't aware of her history, we'd simply been juggling copy and images for an anthology we'd both volunteered to produce. Almost in passing she mentioned she was working on an intensely personal memoir about the afterlife of her murdered daughter. What!? I thought that sounded compelling; she sent a draft.



I offered up a passel of rough ideas – illustrations that juxtaposed burning with new growth, floating apples over a stump, smoke and flight at various levels of abstraction. "I'm still thinking it's a phoenix."



Among the versions I submitted was a hand-painted one, swirling with sparks. Sheila responded, "I like all these – you've made it hard to choose, but my daughter approves of this one."


Now, I've had a lot of clients for design and illustration over the decades. What I'd not gotten before was studio notes from ...the other side. On the other hand, she'd probably know better than me, right?


I like to run things by the designers at the branding agency I own, to get their thoughts. They can be pretty brutal about my designs, but they seemed pretty positive about the final choices. "What does your client think?" our creative director, Brian, asked.


"Well, Sheila was open, but her deceased daughter prefers the painting."


"I'd take that over a living client who waffles any day."







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