Genesis of a Cover (Episode 2)

In the previous episode, we analysed the first six design trials that brought to the genesis of the new cover for my editions. All of them were based on one or more lines positioned on the spread (that’s how we call two pages of an open book, for the non-initiated). Seeing how this design was either too similar to the one used by paladino edition or not original enough, I decided to change tactics. Called lines back on the bench, it was time to try something with geometrical figures.

Geometry can be a trap

The first attempt was using triangles on the spine and a circle in the middle (TRY 7):

If you try to close the cover in your mind you will come out with something that may resemble a stylised version of the old French tenor clef, which was almost a letter K. This was nice, and could have worked well, but, sadly, there was a printing issue. You may be familiar with the concept of bleed in printing jargon, and if you are not, here is the explanation. Even with the incredibly precise machines we use today, there is always a small margin of error (namely 1 mm). That is why a certain amount of imaginary margin needs to be prepared around the document, and that is why every graphical object or image sitting near or touching the edge of the page should end up inside this area. If you look at this picture, you will understand what I mean:

The white area is the page, while the thin red line is the bleed line. The ruby red graphic goes beyond the page but, if all goes well, only what is on the white area will be printed. What is important to understand is that professional printing doesn’t use standard page size as a starting point, rather massive sheets of paper on which multiples of 4 pages are printed and then cut by precise machines. Do you recall the 1 mm margin of error? Well, here is where it comes into play. If, for a few copies of this cover, the machine makes an error, it will keep the error within 1 mm. Since the graphic goes well beyond the machine’s margin of error and the bleed is set (here) at 3 mm, close to no-one should notice it.

Coming back to TRY 7: if you zoom in the bottom or top center of the spread, you will notice that the rounded-corner triangle with the black stroke outline sits exactly on the page border. The printer told me that this was not good and that I either had to change something or to accept the possibility of having badly printed copies. I opted for going back to the drawing board.

I loved the rounded triangle idea, so I could not make it straight nor sitting the figure outside the page, inside the bleed, would not have helped much. Something else was needed.

TRY 8 evolved on the middle circle idea by making it an elongated ellipse and repeating it once on top and once below:

Honestly, this could have been the good one, but somehow, I ended up modifying the TRY 7 version in a way that was so bad, so amateurish, and so out of taste, that everyone who saw it reacted fiercely. Hoping, in my hubris, to finish this quickly, I moved the two triangles toward the vertical center of the page a bit to avoid the border, and added four quarter circles at the four edges of the spread. I have not even saved a copy of it, so bad it was. Once out of the shit-storm that came from many people about this design, I went back to the drawing board and decided that something radical had to be done.

Why not a cello?

Starting from the idea of geometrical figures, I tried to place the ellipses at the edges of the spread, instead of at the center. This was TRY 9:

This sparkled a new idea: since most of my editions are dedicated to the cello, why not make the covers recall a cello? Look at this design: even without the F-holes, it recalls the C-cuts of the shape of the cello. Inspired by this, I went deeper:

This, TRY 10, made the cello more apparent, but I felt the magic had been broken, and I had to try either something more extreme or something more discrete.

In TRY 11 I increased the coloured borders, and I think I will keep this design good for the future, as I see it as a viable candidate for a collector’s edition printed with leather or velvet cover. As you can see, the cello shape is evident, but the lack of proper proportion makes it less convincing. The next attempt (TRY 12) would do away with the cello, and just have a coloured contour:

Generally speaking, this is not bad at all, but it is a bit dull, a big “you know…”—as my dear teacher used to say when we played in a predictable way. I scrapped this almost immediately and tried something else.

Some more geometry

In the coming back from the cello idea, I mixed it up with geometry, in what would have become TRY 13:

This takes back the original design with the triangles and the oval in the middle, but reflects it on each page border. It still reminds the shape of a cello, though in an almost cubist way. Some part of this made me think of a wine barrel, and that is one of the reasons I abandoned it.

One more try with geometry was attempted, trying to fill the two parts of the spread that were feeling empty: the bottom right and the top left. This is TRY 14:

This has its fascinating elements, and it is only missing a couple of eyes in the pyramid’s top to become a new masonic symbol! Something I liked about this was the mirror effect of the inverse triangle created by the text on the front cover (right side of the spread) with the lower pyramid. A problem was immediately apparent, though: what if the composer’s name was short, then the title middle-length, and the instrumentation extremely long? The effect would have been lost. Besides, the spine would have had no colour at all, a flaw I was not ready to accept.

Where to go now?

An a posteriori analysis of these first fourteen attempts pointed out that the paths I had tried to walk down were all based on technical aspects, on mathematics, on something that was more cerebral than instinctive. The name of my company is, as you know, Artistic Score Engraving, and I saw little of artistic here in these cover, little of the spirit that is driving my research and work.

In the next and final episode, you will see where this realisation brought me to, and enjoy the final cover that will go live into every edition of mine!

Stay tuned!

Bottom Line

In case you are not already part of my mailing list, please consider joining it now, it’s free, and it rewards you with weekly gifts and discounts. An always up-to-date catalogue of all my products is available here.

Since November 2022, it is also possible to support me directly with my new ASE+ program (a kind of Patreon), where, with a monthly donation, you can ensure that I keep creating these high-quality scores, all the while being rewarded as you do! Check it out here, and in its presentation article here!

That’s it for today!


Published by Michele Galvagno

Professional Musical Scores Designer and Engraver Graduated Classical Musician (cello) and Teacher Tech Enthusiast and Apprentice iOS / macOS Developer Grafico di Partiture Musicali Professionista Musicista classico diplomato (violoncello) ed insegnante Appassionato di tecnologia ed apprendista Sviluppatore iOS / macOS

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