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February 26, 2016

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February 26, 2016

Which of these 3 How Change Happens covers do you prefer? Vote now!

February 26, 2016
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Many years ago, around the time of the invention of the printing press, interweb, I worked in a small publisher and was given a ‘guide to handling authors’. One passage stayed with me – publishers should expect authors to throw a hissy fit when they first see roughs for the cover design. It’s their first chance to vent their anxieties and blame someone else for the book’s impending disaster. So when OUP showed me the roughs for How Change Happens, which now even has a webpage, I bit my tongue, smiled sweetly (very difficult combination, that) and suggested that, in the same way we invited comments on the draft text, we put the short-listed designs to the vote by you, the prospective readers.

So here are the 3 designs. Please vote for your favourite, and leave any suggestions for further improvements in the comments section. Needless to say the result is not binding, but it will be helpful.

Which of the three rough cover designs do you prefer?

  • Option C (the ripped paper) (66%, 322 Votes)
  • Option A (the arrows) (26%, 126 Votes)
  • Option B (the jumping, multicoloured letters) (8%, 38 Votes)

Total Voters: 486

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Over to you. Here are the three candidates:
Green visual 1
Green visual 2 Green visual 3




  1. a) suggests to me the white heat of technology…changing stations on the Underground c. 1968…very retro. Not for me really, but might appeal to some. b) is just like a kid’s comic, 1970s-style; wacky + frivolous. c) is OK…bit boring/conventional; feels like a typical 1980s/1990s interpretation of the concept. But it does grow on me…maybe something could be done on the same lines but a bit more dramatic? So probably like you, Duncan, have to say I don’t much like any of them.

  2. A takes too much mental interpretation and is too busy. B makes me feel gozzy-eyed (is that a real word)?. Of the 3, therefore, C is best. But doesn’t go any way towards communicating complexity and dynamism. How about an animated cover to break some new ground! Maybe a hologram could work?

  3. I chose the ripped paper design because it’s the least obnoxious and gives an air of seriousness to the book. If the colors of the arrow design were less offensive, I would like it more, as it’s definitely the most dynamic. As they are, the first two seem to be trying too hard to grab attention, which is a turn-off for me.

  4. The arrows on the first one remind me of Hillary’s logo. You tell me whether that’s a good thing! You need some more positive feedback loops in there if you’re going to use arrows.

    Could you commission a version of one of the cartoons you frequently use?

    1. Jamie Pett’s idea of commissioning a version of the cartoons you normally use would be great. And if there is no funding for that I’m sure you could find a good cartoonist that would be happy to do it pro-bono. I’m a big fanatic of book covers (maybe it’s because books in Chile are super expensive and often my only option is just looking at them haha) and I didn’t really like any of the 3 options. I pretty much agree with previous comments.

  5. I’m with the don’t like any of them crowd including agreeing that third is the least obnoxious, first would be marginally better if less neon but too linear to illustrate how change actually happens

  6. #1- I like the arrows which suggest forces of change and resistance (ideology and utopia,progressive and conservative etc.). I would like it better if it were less dualistic (ie. with more than 2 opposing forces)and had arrows from more directions and perhaps had a resulting dialectical synthesis(spiral?) or showed an emerging paradigm shift(good luck). The colour scheme is ghastly(I prefer more organic earth tones).
    # 2 makes me dizzy
    # 3 has the right earth tones but I was slow in getting the break-through-the-envelope concept
    Liked the draft a lot, only regret that my personal timing situation precluded sending in comments. Hope this book can contribute significantly to more effective sustainable development.

  7. I don’t think any of them do justice to the theme.

    a) change = linear reversal
    b) jazz hands
    c) bodice ripper

    So easy to criticise so here goes…

    How about a cover using arrows but in the form of a systems thinking diagram with curved arrows showing feedback loops (make it slightly less complicated than the US military map of Afghanistan…) and most of the arrows would be, say, black, then a couple are mysteriously in eg red, clearly driving change, but we don’t know what those drivers are (hence the exploration of the book…) . The title and your name could easily be embedded as words in the diagram.

    Or how about a cover using the concept of Before and After. Illustrating what? Something in between photos of weight loss and photos of Shenzhen….could be a pair of photos, or a cartoon…could be funny, or attention grabbing…

    Whichever way you go I think you should not go with a cover you just don’t like. You’d start every talk by apologising for it with a wisecrack, which the designer and publisher would hate and you’d get bored of quickly… Get a cover you are proud of. You more than anyone else will be marketing this book…

  8. Like many people I go for (c) because I like the “breaking through” metaphor and I don’t like the other two very much. Too much eye-strain in the other designs – as I’m old enough to wear bi-focals my first reaction was to check that I was wearing the right pair of glasses and only then try to read the words.

    I can imagine a conversation in the bookshop:
    Customer “I want the new book about change, the one with the orange cover”
    Bookshop “You mean the Green book?”
    Customer “No, I’m sure it was orange”
    Bookshop “That’s right, the Green book is orange”

    Still not seeing in these designs that change is about people – maybe it’s too conventional but I would like a human element in the cover. The breaking through paper symbol on a t-shirt or the word “change” written on a human hand showing through the torn paper. Too complex probably. I’m not a designer.

    But, as I work mostly paperless and wouldn’t buy a book because of the cover, I don’t think it matters so much.

  9. I agree with other commenters that (c) is fine – mainly because it’s the least garish. I don’t have any eye issues other than shortsightedness but I found the other two messy & uncomfortable and wouldn’t stand out to me in a book store. In addition, there’s a lot of literature about design and fonts and how certain fonts or colour combinations are hard for people to read (not just because of colour-blindness) and thus exclude some people simply by being complicated.

  10. I liked the dynamism of the arrows but I would suggest you reverse the direction of the arrows if you use these colours. The pink dominates the green (at least it does on my screen). I would think you’d want the dominant coloured arrow pointing right would suggest moving forward i.e. positive change. I must have spent too much time on the other side of the The Pond because I’d prefer a bit of dynamism over a more conservative design.

  11. Having lived through personal dramas with book cover suggestions by publishers, this set fits in my ‘oh dear’ experiences. As Mary said ‘they are all pretty awful’. C is the only one I would not be deeply embarrassed by but boring and ‘superhero ripping through walls’ does come to mind. Also having the name ‘Green’ in orange grabbed my attention and I didn’t think of the title – not really what the publishers are after I imagine. Push back.

  12. Could figure that the ripped paper was ripped paper. SO the one that made sense to me was the arrows but cant say that that logo or any of them for that matter is enthralling.


  13. Would go for C i.e. ripped paper as I find so engaging, simple and inquisitive to a third person, I also feel there are some sort of artwork innovations in it which is always pretty to arouse attention of the subject matter. I am afraid, as the other two looks so generic, formal and classified.

  14. I chose C, although a bit boring but simpler and neater than the first two options. Ideally, you’d want something illustrating people…. but that may make the cover more complicated. Good luck with finalisation!!

  15. Hi Duncan, in the many years I worked in publishing, I had almost the same notes as you except they didn’t mentions authors’ “hissy fits” but rather that all authors have a son/daughter/niece/godson/whatever who is very artistically gifted and would produce a wonderful cover. So you could ask the next generation in order to stay in author role.
    Personally I think C could work with some tweaking. I like the torn paper partly because it references the cover of “From Poverty to Power” and partly because it gives an illusion of depth to the cover. And I like the type for How … Happens, but think the “change” needs to be in – perhaps – real handwriting rather than a typeface that apes handwriting. And I think the author’s name would be better in black.
    Really don’t like A or B – look so late 80s /early 90s

    Hope it’s helpful.

  16. I like C the best of the three. Your title suggests to me your book might be a riff on and/or followup to on This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein. I am Canadian and This Changes Everything has had a high profile here– showing of the video sold out in our local, small town theatre. Your book may be the appropriate follow up, perhaps even the sequel and you might want to trade in on that as development is surely the caldron where change is the coin with which we work.

  17. Owwwww! First design so confusing and second design gives you a headache (and worth noting that both designs are not at all accessible). c) is much better so I chose it, but I agree a bit passe. Could they not be clever with the word CHANGE – turn round the letters for example?

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