Twice a year, Storey issues a new catalog, with forthcoming books featured front and center. David Morrison, Storey’s marketing art director, takes us behind the scenes of designing the newest catalog cover.

Each season presents its own challenges in terms of landing on a cover concept for the catalog. For the most part, by the time we have to be underway with catalog design, our newest books are still in their infancy, so we don’t really know what art we’ll have to work with. Sometimes the look of the catalog is shaped by a theme that we see developing as those upcoming books take shape. Other times, it works best to look at specific books that are new for that season and choose one that feels visually compelling.

This time around, we didn’t have a single overarching theme, so I started pulling artwork from some of our new books that I thought worked well with the idea of spring. After trying a handful of designs — mostly fresh herbs and flowers sprouting in the sunshine — I felt like something was missing. The looks said “spring” but they just weren’t memorable. After trying out a few more ideas, I landed on something that would require some serious experimentation but that — if it worked — could make a very striking cover.

While sifting through images from a recent photoshoot for Fiery Ferments, I found a lively, brightly-colored image by photographer Lara Ferroni that showed a variety of peppers and spices on a weathered background. I felt it evoked the warm days of spring as they transition into the hotter days of summer. I had the idea to try writing with spices, sprinkling them over raised type to get a really interesting knockout effect. Everyone loved the idea when I roughed it out in Photoshop. But how would I execute it in real life?

Photo © Lara Ferroni Photography, excerpted from Fiery Ferments

I began by going back to Fiery Ferments to see what type of spices were featured in the book. How would they look dried up and ground down? Would it be better to use powdered spices or more seed-like spices? Could I get colors that contrasted well with this approach? It needed to be bright! After visiting multiple grocery and health food stores, I ended up with a grab bag of spices that would work.

I designed the lettering in Adobe Illustrator and cut it from ¼” foamcore using an X-Acto knife (not easy, but I was up for the challenge). Next came the process of sprinkling spices — I used chili powder and yellow turmeric — over the stencil. That was easy enough, except that in the first round, I used too much spice; when I lifted the stencil, the powder left behind looked unformed, like a blob of paint.

First attempt at using the stencil and spices.

Less spice did the trick — after a few more attempts, the letters looked crisp. I used Adobe Photoshop to merge a photo of the lettering with that of the peppers from the book, making sure everything lined up and looked natural.

The final take.

After a few hours of retouching, it had really started to take shape as the image now on the cover of the Spring 2017 catalog.

Each project has a life of its own and some need a lot more care to blossom into something special. It’s all about giving in to the process and knowing when you have an idea that’s working. I’m happy to say that this one involved very few growing pains and yielded amazing results!

Click below to see the full catalog.

Storey Digital Editors

We are the staff at Storey Publishing — the crafters, cooks, brewers, builders, homesteaders, gardeners, and all-around DIY-ers who make Storey books.

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