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Cover to Cover: Gil Adamson’s Ashland

From the April 2011 issue of Q&Q: Designer David Gee explains the steps involved in redesigning a Southern Gothic-reflected cover for a new edition of Gil Adamson’s poetry collection Ashland (ECW Press).

ECW Press approached me to repackage Gil Adamson’s 2003 poetry collection, Ashland. I was given no hard parameters, just the manuscript and a ­request to redesign the cover in a similar Wild West/­Southern Gothic vein. (Above is the cover for the 2003 edition, designed by Darren Holmes.)

Ashland Comp 1
I initially wanted to give the cover a sense of empty, dry, dead space “ something that provided an idea of a barren landscape without getting into the specific themes of the book. The large curving arcs of the type were meant to mimic old maps. I started to feel this design was a little too empty, and lacked the menace and darkness in the text.

Ashland Comp 2

Using old frontier typography seemed like a no-brainer, but I wanted to find an innovative way to do it. Woodblock ­letters achieved this, and the collage reflected the fact that this is a collection of shorter pieces. However, I had a feeling I’d seen this kind of approach before. I had: David Pearson recently redesigned Cormac McCarthy’s backlist using a collage of old wood type.

Ashland Final

FINAL. Taking a bit from everything I’d come up with so far, I ended up with a cover that achieved what I most wanted: a ­design free of all the typical visual language one would normally associate with Southern Gothic tales.