What Were You Thinking? Chris Tompkins on his Jacket Design for The Iron Bridge

Chris Tompkins’ jacket design for Anton Piatigorsky’s The Iron Bridge (Goose Lane) made the cut for Salty Ink’s 2012 Judge a Book by Its Cover Contest (vote here!). He had this to say about his concept coming together …

“With The Iron Bridge, I really wanted to play with the idea of change and transformation.  I  decided to try out this concept by taking something fairly innocuous and seeing how I could pervert the image into something monstrous.

The selection of Hitler/Nazi imagery on the cover was a fairly obvious choice given that he is the most recognizable of all the dictators in the book. It made perfect sense. I wanted people to make a specific connection between youths and tyrants.

The more I read through the manuscript, it became clear that, even as adolescents, the dictators in Anton’s book didn’t come across as particularly nice people. Young Addie (Hilter) was quite disagreeable as a character. This led me to thinking about school photos and yearbooks, and how often kids will deface photos of other children that they may not like. Once on this path of thought, everything started to fall into place. I found an old photo of an innocent looking boy and distorted him. The treatment I applied to the photo was youthful and juvenile: the scratched out eyes (which add a particularly malevolent vibe to the photo) combined with the rough handwritten font and illustrations of the mustache and armband to fully bring my concept together.

Chris on 1 abandoned cover concept …

My initial concept was to take an illustration of a young boy walking down the street and have his shadow transform into the shape of a Nazi salute.  This idea worked quite well for me, playing with the themes of transformation and change, and illustrating that this young boy could grow up to be something far more evil than you’d think at first glance. Yet given that the tag line for the book was “Is it possible to reconcile the mind of a youth with the actions of a monster?” I didn’t quite feel the image was strong enough, so I kept exploring various ways that I could better turn an innocent into a monster.


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