The Heads of State, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 2010


Project brief: Solo is a complex and abstract story with broad themes. It’s almost a psychedelic historical fiction. We were tasked with creating a bold and iconic cover that simplifies the scope without eclipsing the depth of the story.

Approach: We began by distilling the many themes of the book down into symbolic images. We created many sketches and rough comps to test the wide range of ideas we came up with. After faltering a bit with the first proposal, we went back to some of the original rough doodles and stumbled upon the solution. As designers and illustrators, we worked directly with the art director to sort through the many iterations of the cover. Ultimately we settled upon the simplest direction, which incorporated a hand-drawn silhouette with found typography. Some wonderful uncoated stock was selected to add textural depth to an already tactile, textural image.

Effectiveness: The cover possesses a sense of bold poetry and arriving at that point required some very heavy lifting. As a cover, we consider it a success because it sums up the story without sacrificing its power or the surprise of the narrative structure. That duality is always a tough balance to strike and it is something we are always aiming for in our work.

Juror Notes

Haunting illustration. The way the birds fly in and out of the type is a nice touch. The spine is also nicely considered as is the tactile quality of the paper stock.

Collections: 50 Books | 50 Covers of 2010
Repository: Denver Art Museum
Discipline: Book design
Format: Book, Book cover


Design firm
The Heads of State
Art director
Martha Kennedy