Farmer and blogger Jenna Woginrich details her funny, heartwarming, and uncomfortable learnin experiences in her new memoir, One-Woman Farm. Here, Storey art director Carolyn Eckert gives us an insider’s glimpse at the detailed process of designing this unique book, from visiting the farm to holding the finished product in hand.
We visual types get excited when we’re assigned new books. Each book is a unique design puzzle, and the words lead us down the path toward finding the right art. Jenna Woginrich wrote One-Woman Farm as a year-long farm journal spanning the four seasons, and the editors felt that the design of the book should reflect that journal-like quality.
The illustrator who worked on this book, Emma Dibben, lives in England (I found her by Googling “beautiful line drawings.”). Her style is warm and friendly, and I felt it was right for creating the look of sketches you’d expect to find in the pages of a journal.
In order to give Emma some real-life references (and to give me some visuals), and to evoke a strong visceral sense of Jenna’s life for the reader, it felt important to see her farm ourselves. So editor Deb Burns and I went for a visit to Cold Antler Farm on a cold, gray, winter day and I brought my camera along. Jenna’s farm is warm and welcoming. I took pictures, and we got a great look at Jenna’s fun aesthetic (and ate very delicious soup).
A book’s design also reflects my own interests at the moment. While working on One-Woman Farm, I had been looking at a lot of very layered Australian design, and I always have one of my favorite journal-like books, Griffin and Sabine, in the back of my mind. When Deb Burns showed me her book of old sheet music, the design for One-Woman Farm clicked into place.
I wanted this book to feel really full, as full as if it were Jenna’s real journal, with art and doodles. I started scanning pages from Deb’s book of sheet music (so old, it’s copyright-free), including the endpapers. That led me to other old papers and notebooks, which was good but felt too flat. After experimenting with scanning paperclips, pencils, and coffee (don’t tell our I.T. guy!), another art director, Jessica, suggested rocks (too fat), sea glass (not geographically appropriate), and feathers…yes! Feathers worked because Jenna loves crows, and is a writer, for whom a quill is pretty great.
The book was beginning to come together. We had Jenna’s wonderful words, we had lovely sketches from Emma, I had tons of scans. But Alethea, our creative director, pointed out that the pages were a little too black-and-white.
The book was set to have a two-color (as opposed to full-color) interior. I wanted a lot of variation so readers could flip to any page and be drawn in. So the next phase of design involved bringing in as many different color tones as we could.
When I first learned I was designing One-Woman Farm, I was thrilled because I knew I could have fun with it. In the end, I feel as though I captured the warm aesthetic of the farm, and the art supports and adds another layer of interest to Jenna’s words. The book feels good in the hand. I hope you think so, too.
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