Michael Crowe and Ben Denzer craft hilarious book titles and cover designs using Adobe Stock
For Found in Adobe Stock, It’s Nice That has commissioned creatives to explore the world of Adobe Stock and create a new series of work. The project asks a creative to dive into the depths of Adobe Stock as a starting point, then devise new short stories or create new worlds from chosen images. We follow each creative’s journey on their stock narrative endeavours and unpack how they use their individual findings to make new innovative final pieces.
For this Adobe Stock commission, we’ve done something slightly different, and we think you’ll like it. Where in the past, we’ve asked a poet to create four new poems from Stock image titles, or create photographic self-portraits or new comics from the Adobe Stock library, this time round, we’ve commissioned two creatives to approach Stock imagery from an entirely different approach.
First, we presented writer and artist Michael Crowe with a series of images from the Adobe Stock library centred around reading. Faced with these images alone, London-based Michael imagined the titles and authors of these books, feeding off the atmosphere and characters in the Stock images to inform his titular decisions.
Then, once Michael finalised these snappy book titles, we passed his work onto Ben Denzer, the man behind the wacky publications of Catalogue Press. Known for his experimental wit when it comes to book design, Ben’s creations have previously enchanted It’s Nice That readers by twisting the definition of a book on its head. I mean, why not make a book out of slices of cheese, wheels, ketchup sachets, dollar bills or fortune cookie fortunes? In short, they are amazing and we couldn’t think of a better fit to bring Michael’s book titles to life.
The commission started with Michael, someone who had never used stock imagery in his work before. “Stock imagery wasn’t something I thought about too much,” he tells It’s Nice That on the new endeavour, “mostly because the world of images already seems so overwhelmingly rich and available online.”
He cites a William Burroughs quote that he vaguely remembers from the depths of his memory where Burroughs refers to himself as something like an “image junky” because he consumes thousands of images on a daily basis. In a similar vein, Michael observes how (whether we like it or not) we today are in the same position, inundated with millions of images that we eat through constantly. “The problem is,” deduces the writer-cum-artist, “it’s stuff like stag night snaps and poorly lit pancakes.”
But when it came to sifting through the extensive library of Adobe Stock imagery, Michael found the task “great fun”, printing out his favourite images and scribbling his thoughts all over them. To get his creative juices going, he imagined the combined smell of the things in the image, considered the various weights of the objects and moved some bits and bobs around in a composition to invoke some ideas. From there, he came up with a long list of title options, thinking of the worst and best possible titles, the strangest, the funniest and so on. “This gives me more options for when I start to edit,” adds Michael, which in his words is kind of like “deleting everything and entering crisis mode.”
Eventually however, he came up with four great book titles. The first being Wally’s Complete Planned Whereabouts For The Foreseeable Future inspired by an image of a child reading a book. A friend of his painted Wally on a rooftop in Canada so children could look for the famous character via Google Earth, “and that was in the back of my mind,” says Michael on this title. “I was considering this sort of as a cheat book.” For his other titles, Descriptions of the View Outside Your Train, Dog-Human Crossovers: The Ethical Issues, The Overwhelming Benefits and Camping in a 6 Bedroom House: A Survival Guide, Michael also riffs off the subject of who is reading the book and where it’s being read to inform the titles.
Once he came up with the titles, his carefully selected words were then passed onto designer Ben to interpret in his own way. No stranger to a book design project, the brief presented Ben with far more restrictions than he is used to, as where he would usually read the whole book before starting on the cover design, for this commission, he only had a few words to go off. “It’s always difficult to design a book cover, even a fake one,” he tells us of the task at hand. “Every book design is a unique challenge and it always feels like you are starting from square one.”
His first impressions of Michael’s book titles played perfectly into his idea of stock images however. “A favourite past time of many designers is finding the weirdest stock photo (it can be the image, caption or a combination of both) and then sending it around for a laugh,” explains Ben. And in this way, the project provided Ben with a great opportunity to further exercise his visual wit. “I thought the titles went well with the tongue-in-cheekiness of stock images,” he continues. Extending this tone to the lighthearted designs for the commission, Ben talks us through how he visually interpreted each title to create an inviting book cover design.
For Dog-Human Crossovers: The Ethical Issues, The Overwhelming Benefits, Ben wanted to play with the idea of showing a crossover through type. Splitting the word “human” horizontally in two, then juxtaposing two typefaces together in a playful effect, Ben’s design draws out the duality of the dog-human handbook through the minimal use of colour and typography. For his second design, Descriptions of the View Outside Your Train, Ben envisioned the type as a window, setting the headline and author’s name in a suitably sized rectangle within the book cover’s white space. Opting to use an italic font to mimic a forward motion as if on a train, the cover design also features a misty fog effect in homage to the author’s name P. Fogg.
For Camping in a 6 Bedroom House: A Survival Guide, he focused on bringing the six bedrooms to life in the design, making this the central design component. Numbering the rooms from one to six in equal parts, Ben’s intentions were to create an active guide right on the book’s front cover, even before the reader’s had a chance to have a look inside. And in another pattern-based design, for Wally’s Complete Planned Whereabouts For The Foreseeable Future, Ben hints to Wally’s famous red and white scarf through the striped cover.
Playing on the age-old “Is it Wally or Waldo argument?”, catering to both the British and American versions of the bespectacled character, Ben’s bilingual design riffs off the red and white stripes as well as the marginally different dialectal changes. Utilising a similar visual language to the popular children’s books, the cover design clearly frames the children’s cheat sheet of where indeed to find Wally (or Waldo.)
Though Ben prefers to use his own imagery rather than stock imagery, he’d happily work in this way again. “I’m interested in books in general, so it was great to be able to play with designing these covers for an alternate stock photo reality,” he adds. Crafting new visual storylines through Michael’s words, the commission has birthed two new avenues of creativity (both verbal and graphic design) all from the humble stock image.
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About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.