The Psychopath Test
The Psychopath Test
The Psychopath Test
The Psychopath Test

The Psychopath Test

Metalmother, New York, New York, 2010


Project brief: This book is a first-person account of a journalist who sets out to determine, in the broadest possible terms, how best to identify a psychopath (who we quickly learn is different from a garden-variety crazy person). Jon Ronson, the author and journalist in question, profiles asylum inmates, former world leaders and heads of financial institutions and happens upon some alarming similarities. Ronson has a bit of a droll wit to his inquiries so it was important that the jacket not drift too much toward darkness.

Approach: The brief was addressed with something in the neighborhood of 12 to15 initial concepts, all with interesting suggestions but none that amounted to a direct hit. Helen Yentus, the art director, identified one comp from the first round that she felt possessed the germ of a lasting idea and we proceeded to work that idea over with variation after variation. We began in July and started locking an approval in October. We lost count as to the final tally of comps.

Effectiveness: Personally, after the sixth or seventh round of cover revisions, as the designer I took comfort in knowing that we had truly left no stone unturned. Additionally, Yentus told me of her meeting in which she showed what would later become the approved cover, which received laughs and chuckles all around (the good kind). Lastly, months later, receiving an unsolicited email from the author gushing about how much he loved it was also just a little bit validating.

Juror Notes

A great opportunity to mix two covers that was well executed. The combination of matte and gloss varnishes accentuates the effect.

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


Design firm
Art director
Helen Yentus
Matt Dorfman
Riverhead Books