In a world of constant noise, there is something about this title that really resonates. Of course maybe not for what you think. We can all use some focus in our lives and this author takes it a step further to connect with her audience, roller derby athletes, and really any competitive athlete who is looking to focus their game.
Writing a book is a challenge. The whole process is not a quick one. From the creation of the idea to the effort it takes to reach your readers, it isn’t easy, and to do it well, it shouldn’t be.
First, let’s dive into the backstory.
I love degrees of separation stories, and this one is insanely kismet. A local editor, Zoey Duncan, referred me to the EMS Foundation of Calgary who was in the market for a designer of their book. After approving my design proposal and together, we published their book in June 2019.
I would like to think that my collaboration with the EMS Foundation of Calgary went so well is why Zoey referred me to her next client, Prime (A.K.A. Emily Stonecipher), a CEO of her own one-woman fitness company, Iron Octopus Fitness. I asked Zoey how she crossed paths with her and had assumed it had something to do with their shared participation in roller derby. But I will let Zoey share her story.
“I’ve been a fan of Prime’s writing on an athletic mindset for at least a year or two. By chance, I was on her website looking to see if she had a book for sale (her e-newsletters are great) and didn’t see one. Within a week, she tweeted that she was looking for an editor to help her book finished and one of our mutual roller derby Twitter contacts mentioned me. From there, we connected, and it turned out to be a great fit!”
After Zoey introduced us in an email, Prime was keen to connect and move things forward. I suggested we could either meet via an online chat or join in person for coffee. I had assumed that as a connection with fellow local Calgarian, Zoey, she lived here in town. So a few guffaws were shared when she admitted that the commute from her hometown of Seattle, WA would be a little much.
So we met online where we had the opportunity to connect and share our own stories. I inquired about the history of her book project, which had been published only a year earlier. Prime had taken the right steps by hiring a couple creatives she found online to design her cover and then the content of the book. She found the creative collaboration inadequate but felt she was already hip-deep and invested her spent budget. So Prime accepted the final artwork and uploaded the files to Amazon’s Createspace self-publishing platform in 2018.
Regardless of the design, she received positive feedback from her athletic community, but it never sat well with her. So along with comments and suggestions on the content, she jumped at the chance to give it another try with a new designer, me!
I followed our call with a design proposal that offered three design package options and kept in mind the history she had with working with a designer. She put her trust in me completely and dove in signing the agreement and paying the deposit with no questions asked.
Behind the Cover Design
Let’s start with the cover. The first version used the title as inspiration and placed a stock illustration of a brain on the front. Then on the backside, a simple stock image pattern of sports equipment to attempt to give the book an ‘athletic’ look that Prime wanted to incorporate. Elements missed were; author name, a summary of the content on the back cover, and book title and author name on the spine of the book. The one thing it had going for it, was that they addressed her company brand colour theme (orange and black) without it feeling Halloweeny.
So I had a mission. Elevate the look and feel of the book to reflect; the content, the brand of IOF, and give it a design that is as kick-ass as Prime is herself.
The first change I suggested was the title. The original was “Teach Your Brain to Shut Up,” which is what I used to create the initial designs. After a time working with the design that I had the idea to change the word Teach to Train. As a Kinesiology graduate with a history of health and fitness, when I think of an athlete, the physical aspect of development requires training and practice. You don’t hear a coach talk about teaching, they focus on training. The mind doesn’t need to be taught a new technique, like all habits and skills sets you have to practice and train to develop physical skills. Also, when you say it out loud, train and brain rhymed which seemed to reinforce the message of the book.
So when I made the suggestion, Prime was receptive and sat on it until we met next. It was her baby, and for sure her call on making such a small yet significant change.
My first cover concept focused on typography. I chose the same typeface used in the Iron Octopus Fitness company logo. I also created a simple pattern for the background using the outline of the octopus logo. These were subtle ways to incorporate her brand without a ‘make the logo bigger’ mentality. I also made sure the book title and author name were designed into the spine of the book and using the company logo graphic as a tag. I added a space for a short description on the back cover and also utilized the shape of octopus graphic to use as a placeholder for the ISBN code.
My second concept brought back the brain. I wanted the illustration to reflect the style of Prime's brand as well. So I found this illustration seemed to hit the mark. I was able to adjust the colours to mimic her own orange to red gradation. The idea would be to make the brain the focus of the front and back and connect them so to get the effect, you would see the artwork flat.
After completing two concepts, I was wondering about vibrancy and thinking that the black could be too much. So I chose the second design to flip and re-create with a white background. This would allow the ISBN to float instead of being boxed in, as well the cover title without outline strokes because it wouldn’t need to compete with the dark background.
So with these three concepts, Prime came back with a love of version 2 with a couple of requests. She loved the idea of creating a unique ISBN using her octopus graphic. So I did some research and created a graphic that would still be scannable.
She was also torn on what background colour to go with, black or white? So I figured, why not both?
And here we have final cover design.
Time to peek inside.
No really, pretty covers are ‘pretty,’ but if the inside is just blank - what do you have? Well, not a book that is for sure.
This book was a combination of standard readable copy and a custom worksheet journal. I wanted to create an inside that was as dynamic as the cover but easy to read, and also inspired readers to use the journal elements.
When I design a book layout, I view margins as sacred, they can make or break the feel of a book. The page should never feel stuffed up with words. There is a time and space for ‘space.’ The inside margin should be large enough, so the reader doesn’t have to break the spine to read, and there should be enough area to hold the book and still read as well.
The next thing I keep in mind is the readability of the body copy. In the previous version, the designer did a complete copy/paste of the content from the formatted document the author had created. They focused on layout and didn’t expand on the design at all. Though this can be a time-saver, it assumes that the author has ‘designed’ the content when all they were doing was creating content. It’s a different animal for sure.
It was essential to create a readable element to the copy. Referring to the ‘before’ layout and design, the bold and condensed typeface though impactful gives you the realization that more is more, not better. I found it to be jarring to the senses, which isn’t the impact you want to make on your readers.
It is import to use a limited amount of font styling so you can ensure that what needs to be focused on does stand out easily, and also you want your reader to be comfortable as they work through the content, not continually impacted with jarring visuals.
I placed all book information in the footer only (book title, section title, and page number). I wanted the content of the book to be the first thing the reader sees, as they say, “Content is king!”
As you flip through the photos below, you will see the other design elements I brought into the book design; section title pages, bookmark tabs and the journal pages used clean dotted lines so the written content wouldn't compete with the instructional content.
I was also asked to create some custom icons to use in the book as references for the reader. I tied the design into the same hexagon shape used in the company logo to further tie in the branding.
In the end, what matters most is the client’s reaction. Prime summarized our work together in a testimonial she posted on my google business page:
And the feedback has been very positive.