The Design Behind Follow Those Zebras

by Lindsey Owens, Designer

Editor’s Note: We at Lerner recognize that the spread of COVID-19 and the need to practice social distancing during this time have made many routines, such as visiting a zoo or even going to school, unsafe. We plan on continuing to use this space to talk about books, but also share online resources that could help keep everyone learning and engaged. The San Diego Zoo, for example, has a kid-friendly website with activities, videos, and even live cameras of your favorite zoo animals. Also, The Cincinnati Zoo is hosting a “Home Safari” on their Facebook page daily at 3pm EDT.

The design for Follow Those Zebras began with a humble idea: stripes. As I began brainstorming designs for the cover, I tried several different variations of a stripes motif, from hand drawn and minimalist to erratic and regular. From there, I experimented with the color palette of the book. Initially, I thought a  bright color scheme would complement a zebra’s monochromatic pattern, but, after a couple cover designs, I realized that a vibrant color monopolized the entire design. Instead, I toyed with a few softer and cooler colors for the cover.

Once the team approved the cover design, I began to design the preliminary spread that would influence the rest of the book. Though the stripes were my first idea, we landed on a cover design in which they were hierarchically inferior to the type, so I wanted to make sure they were appropriately subtle in the rest of the design. This left a lot of empty space. Luckily, for nonfiction picture books, we tend towards large, splash images for intrigue, so I was able to rely on that as I worked through the spread. A large, bold chapter head treatment seemed to be the best way to balance this, and it helped break up the heavy background colors.

Down the line, once we started routing the first draft of the book, Danielle and I felt as if something was missing. Originally, I had chosen a lighter purple to offset the sidebars from the rest of the content, but we agreed that they felt a little flat. Eventually, Danielle suggested that we—cautiously—bring literal zebra stripes in as another design element to spice things up a bit.

Funnily enough, the zebra stripes behind the sidebars turned out to be my favorite part of the design. They were an effective and striking way to break up the solid backgrounds on the rest of the pages, and added freshness to the design. They turned out to be the thing that tied the design together, and they complimented the stripes built into the cover. In the end, we feel as if the final design for Follow Those Zebras strikes the harmony between excitement and sophistication, which works perfectly for the content of the book.

More posts about book design.

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