Case Study 26

Title: Wind in the Fire

Author: Bobbi Gibb

Designer: Y42K Publishing Services

Genre: Sports, Memoir

Graphics: This story is about the author’s training to run the Boston Marathon. She was the first woman to complete the race, in 1966. You might expect a contemporary photo of her, taken during the months of preparation or during the race itself. She would have been in her early twenties then, but the photo shows a woman of retirement age. This means there is a disconnect between the woman of the story and the woman of the cover.

There is another kind of disconnect. Her image clearly has been pasted onto a beach scene. She floats above the sand—so far above that she leaves no footprints. Even the background image may be untrustworthy: can we be sure those pillars in the background are real, or has the surf been superimposed on them?

However that may be, this graphic presentation doesn’t deserve even a gentleman’s D. The author used a small help-you-publish company that promises full-service publication for just $275, plus another $100 for cover design. As far as the cover goes, the author got less than she paid for. It would have been better just to have her floating image or, better yet, an easily-obtained aerial shot of the Boston Marathon in its early years.

Typography: It seems that a single font was used for the title, author name, and tagline. The title and author name are in all caps, and they ought not to be, at least not with this font. In this version it isn’t meant to be used as all caps.

The proof is in the capital R, which has a long, serifed leg. The leg forces the following E either to be kerned too close, so that it almost touches the R, or, if properly separated from the leg, to be kerned too widely, putting too much space between the upper parts of the R and E.

Given the busy background, a thicker, sans serif font would have worked better for the title, which is in the wrong color: white. There isn’t enough contrast between the title and the light image behind it. The designer could have used black, taken from the runner’s leggings, or a dark shade taken from her sweater.

The author name is in a color similar to those found in the sweater—but not similar enough. The runner’s sweater has hints of green, while the author name has a gray tint. So close yet so far, and that just doesn’t work. I would have placed the author name in black in one line at the top.

The tagline is illegible at thumbnail size. The sand is sufficiently uniform to serve as the background to text, but this font is drawn too thinly to stand out at such small sizes. Besides, it would have been better in black.

In summary, I would have used black for the tagline and author name, moving the latter to the top, and a dark shade drawn from the runner’s sweater for the title, provided the title were in a thicker, sans serif font. Or, for the title, I might have chosen a color not otherwise in the image, such as gold.

Overall: This cover fails in almost every respect: the pasted-on image of the runner, the ludicrous absence of footprints, the irrelevant background when an image of a race could have been used, the inappropriate font, and the weak colors for the text.