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How the HowStuffWorks Book Works 2001

Judging a Book by Its Cover

Usually, when you go to the bookstore, it's the title and the cover of a book that draw your attention. Bearing that in mind, you can see how the cover of any book takes on a life of its own, and this cover was no different. At about the same time that Marshall and the other writers started working on the words for both books, Sheilah and Rick started working on the cover for "Marshall Brain's HowStuffWorks." Michele, the creative director at Hungry Minds, Inc., and the team in New York worked on cover ideas, too. It was one of the first things we started working on and it was pretty much the last thing to be finalized!

Essentially, Rick and Michele swapped cover treatments via e-mail, and then we all got together and discussed them. With Rick, Sheilah, Katherine and Marshall in a conference room here at HowStuffWorks, and Michele, Kathy and Cindy in a conference room at their office in New York, we went over the concepts point-by-point via conference calls. This was one of the most exciting parts of the entire project, but it also took a lot of time. There we all sat with more than a dozen beautiful covers. And everyone had really different ideas about what they liked and didn't like about each one. Here are just a few of the initial cover treatments:

"Big Gear" cover treatment

"Sidewalk" cover treatment

"Yellow Gear" cover treatment

"Montage" cover treatment

"Modern" cover treatment

"Big Gear II" cover treatment

This entire project was truly a team effort, and the cover was something that just about everyone was involved with. Once we had looked at the covers and narrowed it down to fewer than a dozen possibilities, the team at HowStuffWorks and the team in New York showed the samples to people in their offices. A wide variety of people (perhaps 50) had opinions and gave input. Rick, Sheilah and Michele then went back and worked on more treatments and we went through the entire process of meeting and reviewing them all over again. Eventually, Michele pulled all of those ideas together to create the final cover that you see today.

Final cover

If you were to add it all up, something like 500 or 1,000 hours of time goes into producing and finalizing a cover like this. Once the cover was decided for this book (we like to call it "the big book"), the cover for "How Much Does the Earth Weigh?" was worked out pretty quickly. If you look at the two covers side by side, it's easy to see that the design for the big book definitely had an impact on the design for "How Much Does the Earth Weigh?".