Friday, October 11, 2013

Carolyn Eckert: Designing One-Woman Farm

Tonight, farmer and blogger Jenna Woginrich celebrates the launch of her new book, One-Woman Farm, at Battenkill Books in Cambridge, New York. In this blog post from Storey art director Carolyn Eckert, we get an insider’s glimpse at the detailed process of designing this unique book, from visiting the farm to holding the finished product in hand.

One-Woman Farm cover and title page

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.

The farm

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). 

Carolyn's photos and Emma's illustrated versions

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.

More of Carolyn's photos and Emma Dibben's corresponding illustrations

Pages excerpted from One-Woman Farm © 2013 by Jenna Woginrich. Illustrations © Emma Dibben. Photos and scanned objects by Carolyn Eckert. All rights reserved.

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Want more Jenna? The ebook of One-Woman Farm is available for just $2.99 for the month of October through Storey's Fresh Picks, a selection of ebook titles on sale for a limited time. Want great Storey content you can't get anywhere else, including announcements of Fresh Picks titles the moment they're on sale? Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow! Amazing to get a glimpse into your creative process, Carolyn. No wonder these are pages that I can leaf through many times and feel refreshed by something new every time.