Designer Eric Wilder loves to take several visual approaches to a creative brief, hoping one will resonate perfectly with both publisher and author. Such was the case with Wilder’s design for Between Two Worlds, David Sorensen’s memoir about growing up as the hearing child of two deaf adults. When he received the brief from Gallaudet Press, Wilder decided to use both the abstract and the concrete in the cover designs he submitted. Ultimately, Gallaudet and Sorensen chose a design whose colors and shapes evoked the liminal space the author occupied in his formative years.
Between Two Worlds: My Life as a Child of Deaf Adults explores Sorensen’s experiences as a coda, or a hearing child of deaf parents. “Growing up as a child of deaf adults was much like living in another country, on an opposite shore from my parents,” Sorensen said. “Now, more than 35 years later, I find myself returned to the country of the deaf with a long career as a mental health therapist and advocate for the deaf.” As a child, Sorensen often felt like a de facto liaison between the hearing and deaf worlds. “What I didn’t understand until I emerged from an exile from my family was that my fluency and deep understanding of the deaf world would be my way back. Few codas choose professions in deaf culture,” Sorensen said. “What I found instead was that I already knew the language and understood the inner world of the deaf, so my skills gained [me] trust and acceptance when I returned to what I now think of as my homeland, the country of the deaf.”
Wilder knew he needed to incorporate Sorensen’s unique, invaluable perspective and position as a coda into the cover design for Between Two Worlds. In the design below, Wilder took a more concrete approach to the memoir’s themes. “A contour illustration gives the reader only an impression of a family, inviting the reader to interpret the situation in full. [I selected] a thin typeface to best compliment the image.”
In the next design, Wilder employed abstract imagery and whimsical script to convey the message of Between Two Worlds. Wide, vibrant watercolor circles are separated by a considerable expanse of white space, which mimics the way Sorensen often felt as a coda.
Finally, in the design Gallaudet and Sorensen chose, overlapping watercolor circles and a clean font win the day. “[This is] a clean and humble design. Soft textures create an intimacy for a very personal feel that visually conveys the genre to the reader.”
Wilder’s multifaceted approach to creative briefs provides publishers and authors with several angles, giving them real liberty when the time comes to buckle down and choose a cover. In some ways, Wilder himself is between two worlds. His covers are the liaison between author and reader; they are messengers from one mind to the next.
Mary Ryan Karnes is a freelance writer and a Master's candidate in fiction at the University of Southern Mississippi.