On The Road Book Cover Design

On The Road – Book Cover Design

“If you can design one thing, you can design everything.”
Massimo Vignelli

Sometimes, a design doesn’t come out of you easily or willingly. It doesn’t curl up next to you like a beloved pet or laugh easily with you across coffee like an old friend.

Sometimes, a design is ornery, mean, rough, tattered, and kind of just squeezes out of you. It takes all of your mental focus, hope, prayers, and motivational pep talks to be made manifest. That’s how this project has been so far for me.

More interested in coding and finding cool ways to incorporate visual design with my growing backend skills, I wanted to bend and shape this assignment to my web dev will. However, as I sat to work on it – toiling over my ornery and scraggly book covers felt like the right thing to do. I won’t always get to design what I would prefer to design. And if I want to call myself a designer, designing a book cover is designing a website is designing a t-shirt.

So, here is the bloody, messy, in-progress update.


I came up with five moods or themes that spoke to me from my reading of On The Road. Primarily, I felt angst, movement, holy ordinariness, collapse, and sadness. I will not be joining the I ♥ Kerouac club any time soon but I can appreciate the gritty emotion and truth-telling of the book. That’s something I want to share through my covers.





Something that has stayed with me from the book (I read the Original Scroll, not the fictionalized novel) is Kerouac’s realization that the bus stops and streets, even the people sometimes, are the same across America despite the changing geography. That sentiment is something I wish I had known when I was in my younger 20s and something I want to impart to my younger siblings. I have been searching for something “on the road” that I’m not sure actually exists. I sense some of this same restlessness in my younger siblings so I am imagining my little sisters in the 17-25 age range to be my target audience.

How do I get 20 year olds interested in a 62 year old book?

I don’t know yet. I’m still just trying to gather these wild and unruly and unhelpful ideas onto my artboards and give them a semblance of intelligence, as Vignelli would say. But, if I had to guess where this will ultimately go, my cover would need to make them interested enough to look inside. It would need to match something inside of themselves so that a part of their soul reaches out to to embrace this book, acknowledging soul kin.


I am testing out three styles, the middle style still unknown. I want to try a minimalist/chaotic style, a minimalist/photographic, and…I’m not sure. Maybe typographic. One of my sisters loved the book The Fault in Our Stars so that cover is an inspiration to me for a typographic/quote based cover.

Well, back to wrangling…