We recently published a major retrospective catalogue on the work of the photographer Duane Michals, called Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals. This is what the cover looks like:
But it could have looked very different; in fact, it did:
By my count, our indefatigable designer Brett Yasko produced at least 75 variant covers over the course of the design process. This is a bit extreme, but it is not as unusual as you might think. A cover is a tricky thing. It needs to be compelling and representative. It has to look good on a shelf and as a tiny thumbnail online. It is also a physical object—will it get dirty, show scuffs or fingerprints, tear easily?
And Michals’s work in particular presents unique challenges. The photographs for which he is best known require close, sustained looking: his small, multi-image sequences unfold over time and space, and his images incorporating handwritten text are complex. His work is the antithesis of “the decisive moment” that would naturally make for an arresting standalone image. So, after talking with me and exhibition curator Linda Benedict-Jones, Brett started with the sequences, and the concept of Michals as a storyteller…