Scar of the Bamboo Leaf Book Cover Design

Posted 27 July 2014 at 8:35 PM | Comments (0)

When author Sieni A.M. approached me about designing the book cover for her second novel, Scar of the Bamboo Leaf, she pointed me toward her library of visual inspiration on Pinterest. I spent some time looking at the images and almost immediately knew how to approach the design. I knew it had to be illustrated by hand, because the novel’s main character, Kiva, is an artist, and her story is told with beautiful and detailed descriptions of her art.

I also knew it had to include an image of Kiva, but because the story spans years, her image should be approached in a way that wouldn’t be too telling of her age. Neutralizing her age was also important because it would widen the audience of readers. So I decided to go with a silhouetted profile. (And then I put a bun in her hair because A.M.’s Pinterest board hinted at pretty buns.)

The silhouette, on its own, was okay but felt too simple for a girl with a creative spirit; I gave her a crown of bamboo leaves, but still it seemed stale. A.M. suggested adding flowers, and leaves blowing around her head, and it added just the amount of energy that Kiva’s profile needed.

Scar of the Bamboo Leaf Kiva Silhouette Illustration by Mojan Sami

When I got started on the title, I went through typeface after typeface, unable to find anything that complemented the image of Kiva and her bamboo-leaf crown. So I decided to draw the title by hand as well. It took time, but the result was worth it. Custom type almost always pays off.

Scar of the Bamboo Leaf Title Design by Mojan Sami

Then, the cover went through so many iterations that it would be crazy to post them all, but all of the rough drafts were wilder than the final design we chose, and most of them were blue. Early on, we thought blue would be the right choice for the cover.

Scar of the Bamboo Leaf by Sieni A.M. Cover Design Drafts in Blue

When we finally came to a decision, both the author and I agreed that this design was the right one. The warm color and the more simple silhouette were a better choice for this magnificent story.

Scar of the Bamboo Leaf by Sieni A.M. Book Cover Design by Mojan Sami

Here’s a low-resolution view of the full cover, front and back. Notice the lemon-lime color on the spine and back—I thought it injected more life into the design and alluded to the tropical setting where the story takes place.

Scar of the Bamboo Leaf by Sieni A.M. Book Cover Design by Mojan Sami

Of course, there have been other social-media promo pieces, like these for the author’s Facebook page.

Scar of the Bamboo Leaf by Sieni A.M. Facebook Profile and Cover Photos

Scar of the Bamboo Leaf by Sieni A.M. is now available at Amazon. It’s a story you will never forget. Buy it now.

Scar of the Bamboo Leaf by Sieni A.M. Now Available at Amazon

Scar of the Bamboo Leaf Coming Soon

Posted 10 July 2014 at 4:31 PM | Comments (0)

One of the most rewarding projects I’ve been working on is the book cover for Sieni A.M.’s second novel, Scar of the Bamboo Leaf. Here’s the promo. I can’t wait to show you the finished cover!

Scar of the Bamboo Leaf by Sieni A.M. Coming Soon

*Bamboo watercolor by KO Studio Art.

Book Cover for Chills, A Collection of Suspense Short Stories

Posted 3 November 2013 at 1:10 PM | Comments (0)

Just in time for Halloween I completed an e-book cover for Sahar Sabati’s Chills: A Short Story Collection.

I hadn’t taken a design project in a while, but when the writer approached me it was at just the right moment, since I was finally starting to feel more settled and now have a quasi-workspace set up in my parents’ house.

And I’m glad I did. It felt good to get back to work, back to thinking about something other than this unsettled chaos of our family life.

Chills A Short Story Collection Book Cover Design by Mojan Sami

The background image is a photo I snapped on a country road, somewhere in northern Israel. Then, in Photoshop, I messed with it by darkening the colors and heightening its eeriness.

Since I read the book before tackling the design of the cover, I knew that these weren’t horror stories; they weren’t gory or gruesome. The stories are suspenseful but still appropriate for families to read together. So to contrast the eeriness of the image, I staggered the type for a touch of whimsy, which, together with the image, conveys all-ages reading.

Chills: A Short Story Collection by Sahar Sabati Now Available

You can buy your copy here.

Bird Art

Posted 21 December 2011 at 8:18 PM | Comments (0)

I’ve been over the bird trend for, oh, three, maybe four years now. Bird fabrics, bird wallpaper, bird salt shakers, bird decals, birdcages—it never seems to stop! Why?! Why don’t you fly away already??!

Well… except that was my attitude yesterday. Today, I’m reading Howard Norman’s exceptional novel, The Bird Artist, and it’s not only giving me a new appreciation for birds, it’s kind of making me obsessed with them.

Unfortunately I’m not about to become a bird artist myself, sitting in nature for hours at a time, sketching falcons, ospreys, and sandpipers. I’m much too—hm, how shall I say this—lazy. I’d rather let someone else be the bird artist and me, well, I’ll just give them my money.

Any one of these talented artists will do.

Original Bird Art Prints for Sale at

Bird prints for sale at, clockwise from top left:

Kingfisher Kitchen from alfredstark
Night Tree, Crescent Moon, Black Birds, and Farm Fields from TheBluebirdGallery
Great Horned Owl from annasee
Superb Fairy Wren from bridgetfarmerprints
Primary Birds from locole
Osprey at Cape May from berkeleySU

Little Bee and Other Book Cover Designs

Posted 19 November 2011 at 2:59 PM | Comments (3)

Every time I happen to glance over at my husband’s nightstand, I deliberately change course and walk over to it. Little Bee, a novel by Chris Cleave, is so enticing in its cover design that I can’t ignore it, even if I tried.

Little Bee, A Novel by Chris Cleave

This morning I finally turned to the book over to see who designed it. It’s Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich, a New York-based graphic designer and illustrator whose portfolio is blowing my mind.

Book Covers Designed by Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich

You know, when I first set out to become a graphic designer, I imagined my career would go in this direction. I certainly had the motivation and I even thought I had the potential. Yet now I feel so far off course that this no longer feels in my reach—or even in my realm.

And I can’t help but ask myself… do I still want it to be?

My Hot (Apple Cider) Fantasy

Posted 4 November 2011 at 9:17 AM | Comments (0)

And just like that, fall has arrived! It has been raining all day, and I’m in a cozy sweater and knee-high boots. It seems like a silly reason to be giddy, but I am. It’s finally fall! Woo hoo!

Tonight I’m going out with some girlfriends for hot apple cider, and with all this sweater/boots/cider/rain business, I’m in a seasonal mood more than ever. I made you a visual:

My Fall Fantasy Visual with Band of Outsiders 2011 Runway Look

*Runway image from Band of Outsiders’ fall 2011 ready-to-wear collection.

It’s basically what I want to wear, what I want to read, where I want to sit, what I want to drink, and what I want to see from the window. Isn’t it dreamy?

Oh, and speaking of apple cider, when I move back to the U.S. I’m totally hitting up this place:

White Mountain Cider Company
Glen, New Hampshire

“Centered around a restored 1890’s farmhouse, the White Mountain Cider Company in New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Valley not only offers the chance to watch apple cider pressing and sample freshly squeezed juice but also features a contemporary restaurant with New England cuisine and a cocktail bar both helmed by Culinary Institute of America grads Scott and Teresa Stearns.” —Laura Kath

Um, yes please!

Baby Shower Advice Book

Posted 24 October 2010 at 3:38 PM | Comments (3)

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. Between the fussy newborn, cranky toddler, successfully convincing Gap to go back to their old logo, and needlessly earning Gymbucks, I’ve been busy. And since my laptop is acting up, keeping up with the steady stream of design projects is an added challenge.

Anyway, speaking of design projects, Lauren—writer, blogger, mother, divorcee, co-parent, and all-around fabulous woman—contacted me a couple of weeks ago with a fun one.

She was planning a baby shower and had asked all the guests to contribute to an advice book. Their assignment—listen closely, you may want to steal this idea!—was to ask their mothers for snippets of advice on raising girls. Then, the quotes would be compiled into a keepsake book, appropriately titled, “…On Raising Girls.”

My job was, obviously, to design the book and send the files to Lauren (so that she could print and bind it herself). The only real requirement was that it should complement Pottery Barn’s Coco Dot nursery bedding:

Pottery Barn Kids' Coco Dot Nursery Bedding Set

For the cover, I used the colorful dot pattern, an adaptation of the blanket-border design, and then added my own swishy text frames:

Cover for Baby Shower Advice Book, "...On Raising Girls"

For the inside, I dropped the dots and made the border design the feature element. The fun part here was modifying the design on every page, so that every page was unique but echoed the original. Here are two of my favorite pages:

Pages for Baby Shower Advice Book, "...On Raising Girls"

And here are the rest of the pages, in thumbnail size:

Thumbnail Pages for Baby Shower Advice Book, "...On Raising Girls"

This project was the most fun I’ve had in ages. Though the real fun is yet to come—Lauren is sending me design magazines in exchange! That’s one of the best gifts you can give a magazine-deprived expat.

Lifting the Curtain on Design

Posted 18 October 2010 at 12:37 PM | Comments (0)

There are so many inspiring books on interior design and decorating that it’s almost impossible to commit to one. But when a modern legend like Vicente Wolf writes one of them, I perk up. Lifting the Curtain on Design will be released tomorrow. I’ve already added it to my Amazon Wishlist.

Lifting the Curtain on Design by Vicente Wolf

You Win Some, You Lose Some

Posted 18 September 2010 at 11:02 PM | Comments (9)

Graphic design, like any creative business, is a lot of work; in part because the possibilities are limitless and making small improvements can go on forever. In college I was undisciplined with editing and found myself sitting alone in the computer lab after 3:00 am every night. (I’m sure that all of you writers, filmmakers, photographers, etc. know exactly what I’m talking about.)

After ten years in the business, I’ve learned when to stop. I’ve learned which projects require more time and which require less; which require more research on the backend and which require more action on the front; and, perhaps the most valuable skill, I’ve learned how to work fast—especially when I’m not getting paid.

I recently entered a book cover design contest where working fast was essential, mostly because I was on the verge of going into labor but also because my instinct told me my style didn’t match the author’s intent. I wondered if I should enter the contest at all, but since it presented yet another opportunity for my unemployed, stay-at-home-mom ass to get a design workout, I went ahead and created a contest entry anyway:

Book Cover Design Contest Entry

The author had some interesting requirements. He felt it important for the book cover to have images of people, money, or open doors and to suggest attraction; yet he didn’t want images of fish or boats (see book title). So, one of my challenges was to come up with a design concept that was relevant to the book title without being overly literal. My solution? Turn dollar signs into “fish” and show them attracted to, and enthusiastically swimming upstream toward, “your boat.”

Another dilemma was the lengthy, almost confusing, book title. How do I get someone to stop and read the entire title and understand what the book is about? There were several solutions here. One was to keep the text clean and legible, and another was to highlight words that needed emphasis. Also, since the book’s subheading, as opposed to the title, makes it much clearer that it’s a marketing book, it was important for me to create a visual relationship between the two blocks of text, hence the swimming dollar signs that move your eye from top to bottom. I was also able to emphasize the subheading with a lighter blue background but didn’t make it so bold that it steals the show from the book’s title.

Lastly, it’s a marketing book, so it’s important for the book cover to convey a sense of authority as well as look up-to-date. Thus I was very careful not to use imagery or type treatments that would make the whole thing hokey; everything is very clean, strong, and midway between modern and classic.

I didn’t win the contest.

I’m perfectly alright with that, for two reasons. One, that’s the risk I take with design contests. I’m aware that my chances of winning are slim. Two, since I understood that risk involved, I didn’t let myself spend a lot of time on this project. I only allowed myself to go as far as I needed to create something good. Could it have been better? Heck, yeah. It could have been a whole lot better.

This is the design that won:

Book Cover Design Contest Winner