Design studio focused on book design, illustration, and environment design



A book’s cover is a promise about what the reader will find inside. For example, this cover for Treasure Island promises, “I will be boring and badly designed.”

A book cover is a promise

Books that don’t have cover art get automatically generated covers–these covers don’t quite do justice to the swashbuckling going on inside the books.

Many of the world’s great books are old enough that their copyrights have expired, and the text of those books is now considered public domain. Organizations like Project Gutenberg are collecting, digitizing and organizing those works to make them available to the public for free. That’s great for readers who are already interested, but the text by itself isn’t very engaging for a readers not familiar with those books. We do, of course, judge books by their covers—a good cover design communicates a sense of the tone and style of the book it’s wrapped around. A book’s cover is a promise about what the reader will find inside.

Crowdsourcing new faces for old books

There are a number of interesting redesigns already on the Recovering the Classics site. Some of them aren’t very strong, but some are interesting and evocative. They make promises that those books can keep.

While the text of these great books is evergreen, as compelling and provocative as ever, the cover art has not been as easy to preserve or distribute. Recovering the Classics is an initiative to crowdsource more interesting cover artwork for “100 of the greatest works of fiction” in the public domain. A lot of interesting book covers were created through the project, and some are on display on their website. Some of them aren’t very strong, but a number of them are interesting and evocative. Even better, they serve the stories well. Many of the redesigned covers make promises that those books can keep.

(I am curious about what sort of attention the inside of the redesigned books get. Apart from the story, the cover also makes promises about the quality of interior design. It takes time and careful attention to lay out the pages of a book. The designer works to create a reading experience that presents the text in an interesting way without distracting from it. While the cover is meant to catch the potential reader’s attention, the interior design should be almost invisible to the reader.)

Redesigning classic books in Sioux Falls

In the spirit of Recovering the Classics project, Siouxland Libraries has put out a Call For Art to host their own exhibit:

Siouxland Libraries invites submissions by local artists for a Reimagined Book Covers Art Show to take place at the Downtown Library from May 1 through June 30, 2017. The art show will be held in conjunction with a display of redesigned classic book covers from artists worldwide called Recovering the Classics.

Examples from the Recovering the Classics project, as well as book titles from which artists can choose, can be found at Pieces must be 12 inches x 18 inches or 18 inches x 26 inches and ready to hang.

Siouxland Libraries will award a People’s Choice vote with prizes for the top three pieces. The first‑place winner will receive a $100 cash prize. Gift cards will be awarded to second- and third‑place winners. Each of the three winning artists will also be offered the opportunity for a solo show at Siouxland Libraries. Winners will be announced in July.

To enter, artists must submit a digital photo of their work to Calla Jarvie at by Monday, April 17. Selected pieces must be delivered to the Downtown Library by Sunday, April 30.

For more information, please call Siouxland Libraries at 367-8700 or visit

The deadline for submissions is Monday, April 17. For more information, visit the Siouxland Libraries website or read the Reimagined Book Covers CFA. I’m looking forward to seeing what the Sioux Falls design community creates.



Book Design, Books, Community, Cover Design

“This house is peanut-free”

This house is peanut-free!


For households with food allergies, it can be hard to communicate your unique needs with friends.

This house is peanut-free

Food allergies can be isolating

When we found out our daughter had food allergies (and a lot of them) it was hard to know how to tell our friends and family about our specific dietary restrictions without creating confusion or fear. It can feel like the world of food becomes really limited, and dangerous. Meals at restaurants or potluck friends felt like tiptoeing through a minefield.

Informative, and a celebration of the goodness of food

With this poster, we wanted to let visitors know that we can’t have peanuts in the home, but without seeming unwelcoming and without focusing on the potential danger. We also wanted to highlight the reality that while a few foods are off limits, there is still a wide world of food to explore and enjoy.

This poster is meant to be informative, but also a celebration of the goodness of food.

Prints are available, and we can also customize the artwork in a variety of sizes and colors.

Community, Illustration

The [Censored] States of America

The [Censored] States of America


Out of many, one

While the recent refugee ban has gotten more attention in the media, the unprecedented reshuffling of the National Security Council might be as significant as any other issue in the news right now: a weak-minded, insecure president surrounds himself with persuasive, unelected advisors and cuts himself off from some of the most experienced voices on the NSC. From gag orders to “shock events” and classic autocratic power consolidation, the current administration is working to silence dissent, delegitimize critics, and undermine the free press.

Trust in government is currently at a record low both globally and in the US, but compared to much of the world Americans still enjoy a relatively high degree of trust in their government. That trust is now causing a lot of cognitive dissonance—we’re still working under the assumption that the goal of the administration is to govern well. While I was uncomfortable with things that both Bush and Obama did, I generally assumed (maybe naively) that their motives were more or less good, and that they were at least trying to do what they thought was the right thing. We may not have the luxury of assuming that anymore. The goal of the current administration might actually be to destabilize, to distract, and to create chaos so that they will have less resistance and scrutiny. (I’ve never been in the tin-foil hat camp before but we’re in uncharted waters here.)


Who are we?

All of this cuts at the foundations of what we say is true about our country, and feels more like Putin’s Russia, or Venezuela under Hugo Chavez. Do we believe in checks and balances, a limited executive branch, and in separation of powers? Do we want a president or an autocrat? What about our character as a country—are we a “land of opportunity?” Is this country a “melting pot” where people from every corner of the world contribute to a greater whole?


We decide what America will be

We get to decide, collectively, who and what we are. We decide if we will work together with people who aren’t like us; if we will defend free speech (even for the people we disagree with); if we will work to make our country a “land of opportunity” for others. We get to decide if we will be a nation divided or if we will be “out of many, one.” Will we be the United States, or a nation of us and of them?



(Feel free to use the [Censored] States of America images above as you find them helpful – option-click / right-click and Save As on a laptop or long press on a mobile device.)

Being Human, Community, Ideas

Home, by Warsan Shire

Home, by Warsan Shire 

Warsan Shire was born in Kenya to Somali parents and moved to the UK when she was one year old. Her poem Home and its depiction of the refugee experience has haunted me since I first read it some time last year. This is something of a departure from my usual posts, but because of the growing anti-refugee climate I hope to amplify and extend the reach of this poem.



no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark.

you only run for the border
when you see the whole city
running as well.

your neighbours running faster
than you, the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind
the old tin factory is
holding a gun bigger than his body,
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one would leave home unless home
chased you, fire under feet,
hot blood in your belly.

no one would leave home unless home
chased you, fire under feet,
hot blood in your belly.

it’s not something you ever thought about
doing, and so when you did –
you carried the anthem under your breath,
waiting until the airport toilet
to tear up the passport and swallow,
each mouthful of paper making it clear that
you would not be going back.

you have to understand,
no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land.

who would choose to spend days
and nights in the stomach of a truck
unless the miles travelled
meant something more than journey.

no one would choose

no one would choose to crawl under fences,
be beaten until your shadow leaves you,
raped, then drowned, forced to the bottom of
the boat because you are darker, be sold,
starved, shot at the border like a sick animal,
be pitied, lose your name, lose your family,
make a refugee camp a home for a year or two or ten,
stripped and searched, find prison everywhere
and if you survive
and you are greeted on the other side
go home blacks, refugees
dirty immigrants, asylum seekers
sucking our country dry of milk,
dark, with their hands out
smell strange, savage—
look what they’ve done to their own countries,
what will they do to ours?

the dirty looks in the street
softer than a limb torn off,
the indignity of everyday life
more tender than fourteen men who
look like your father, between
your legs, insults easier to swallow
than rubble, than your child’s body
in pieces—for now, forget about pride
your survival is more important.

i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore

i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home tells you to
leave what you could not behind,
even if it was human.

no one leaves home until home
is a damp voice in your ear saying
leave, run now, i don’t know what
i’ve become.

Note: There are many versions of this poem available online, and it’s not clear which is the most recent or which is preferred by the poet. I’ve chosen the one that seemed most complete but different versions can be found here, here and here.

Please consider signing this petition asking the current administration to not make a scapegoat of this vulnerable population.

Being Human, Community

When I try to focus



(This is what it looks like when your focus is as fragile as a soap bubble.)



Creativity, Illustration