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Cover to cover: Caitlin Sweet’s The Pattern Scars

From the July/August 2011 issue of Q&Q: Designer Erik Mohr explains how he drew on classic imagery and geometric motifs to achieve the proper vision for Caitlin Sweet’s forthcoming novel The Pattern Scars (ChiZine Publications).

This was one of the most difficult covers I have worked on for ChiZine. The rich imagery in this book was hard to resist: the main character, Nola, experiences visions, and I wanted to incorporate these into the design. In this version, I used the classic shapes of a dramatically lit portrait and incorporated smoke rising from her closed eyes to indicate the moment just after a vision.

I started to experiment with reds and purples. I have a strong personal bias against purple, but I do try to stretch myself into uncomfortable territory once and a while. Thank God it didn’t work this time! I was also experimenting with typography to capture the grittiness of the story. However, the handwritten type felt too loose for such a layered story, and the visual of the woman was almost completely obscured.

In an attempt to emphasize the image and give the glowing eyes a dramatic feel, I minimized the type and gave it an almost Victorian touch. However, the story put me in mind of ancient Greece or Rome; the new type style conveyed the wrong tone.

I sat down with the publishers and we hashed out what each of us thought the book was about. I came back with this cover. There is a scene in the book where Nola’s eyes are bleeding after her vision. Elsewhere, her visions are likened to fractal geometry. These ideas, paired with a marble bust and some classic typography, contained everything the publishers were looking for.

The bleeding eyes, were, I admit, an error in judgment. And the expression on the woman’s face was a bit too cartoonish, with its pouty lips and sad eyes. This final version captures the book’s feel, which is both mysterious and ancient.

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