Shine On: Anne Jordan and Mitch Goldstein Shed Light on the Cover of M. Joy’s The Unnaturals

For designers Anne Jordan and Mitch Goldstein, a book’s insides should always dictate its cover design. Design begins from within, after all, in the guts of the thing. For the cover of M. Joy’s young adult dystopian novel The Unnaturals, new from inclusive indie publisher Wellington Square Media, Jordan and Goldstein got not only creative but downright kinetic with blue light, a driving motif throughout the novel.

“We were inspired by “Aether,” a powerful blue light force used by the main character for protection throughout the story. Blue sparks, orbs, and flares of light came up again and again in the manuscript. Our goal was to combine typography with blue light by finding a way to make flares and sparks of blue light explode or shoot out from the type,” Jordan said. To turn their vision into a reality, Jordan and Goldstein found artistic liberty in pyrotechnics: “We bought a bunch of oversize sparklers (3 feet long so they burn for several minutes), set them on fire, and photographed them in our home-studio’s backyard at night.” 


Were the designers daunted by the task? Hardly. Instead, Jordan and Goldstein embraced the challenge of creating Aether in their own backyard. “We live in the woods where it’s pitch black at night and perfect for this kind of shoot. We used a slow shutter speed and moved the camera during each shot to emphasize the flares. The final cover is one single photograph that captures the unpredictable, explosive aspect of the character's Aether use. The type is woven into the image to enhance the exploding effect.” 


The illuminated cover of The Unnaturals hints perfectly at the book’s dystopian setting and turbulent plot, but it also retains that hint of mystery that beckons open up, read moreThe Unnaturals features an alternate world, warring factions, and a pair of young, relatable, and heartbreaking heroes desperately trying to save each other and their home. Jordan praised the book for its brave stance on issues all young adults face in one form or another: “The book has a strong dystopian theme, as well as themes of militarism and rediscovering yourself after trauma; it’s also about the way people, especially adolescents, can internalize the things others think about them. There’s a running subtext of trying to figure out who you are independent of other people’s opinions.”

Amy Scafidi, CEO of independent publisher Wellington Square Media, is thrilled that The Unnaturals is now available for people of all ages to read. Wellington Square is dedicated to inclusion and diversity in publishing and has been sharing distinct stories since its founding in 2017. Jordan and Goldstein were thrilled to be able to create a cover for a book so full of light and promise.


All images courtesy Anne Jordan and Mitch Goldstein.

Mary Ryan Karnes is a freelance writer and a Master's candidate in fiction at the University of Southern Mississippi.


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