I had the pleasure of working on our new Zeke Meeks series for the last year. This series is so ingenious and funny, it will bring you to tears. Yeah, funny even for a grown girl like me. (Please notice I did not called myself a grown-up, I'm not . . . yet anyways.)
I wanted to share the funky eureka process with everyone out there and unveil some of the little secrets of this project on the visual side.
Nine months ago I brought the first manuscript home and showed it to my daughters. We read it together and laughed hysterically. Now, my job was to output this great content correctly. Panic . . . terror . . . all of it started to set in. Part of our job as art directors or book designers is being the matchmaker between the story, visuals, and audience.
I looked for an illustrator for a month. No luck. One day I decided to post something ridiculous about my illustrator search on twitter: "Looking for an awesome illustrator for a chapter book that knows comedy & enjoys irony at its best.” (I thought it sounded smart at the time, really I did.) Many submissions came along, and I knew I had found the perfect match for Zeke in illustrator Josh Alves. Why? He understood cleverness and irony when it came to illustrating, and his style said Zeke all over it. I pitched Josh the project, he loved it, and was a shoo-in.
Now I had the awesome story and the great illustrator, but I still needed the design to glue the parts together. It was one of the most challenging and involved developments I've done. I produced more than 30 versions of the covers before Michael Dahl, back from one of his many trips, dropped a magazine on my desk with a post-it that read: "Cool inspiration for Zeke." It was a high fashion magazine. I stared at it, completely puzzled. Then I got an email from Michael explaining the magazine on my desk. It was a crazy idea, and it was perfect. I laughed, grabbed a piece of paper, sketched and doodled like a first grader, and that was that.
I simply asked myself, “What would Zeke say about his own covers?” I could hear a little voice inside my head. The coolest guy you'll ever meet. My hair looks awesome. Panic makes my eyes go big. (maybe too big, not my best feature.) No TV is scarier than a horror movie. I visualized the design entwined with the text, the branding, and Josh's illustrations. It was a total eureka moment.
This project was a full-throttle collaboration of the creative team, sales and marketing, and many other people. It was a super crazy process, but in the end it turned out exactly like Zeke Meeks—completely awesome!
One month after being released, these books seem to be flying off the shelves! Which it makes us all grin proud with excitement. If you get the chance to check them out at the your library or local bookstore, let us know what your thoughts are! We can't wait to hear from you!
Check out Zeke's page for more fun stuff, book trailer, bios and a super entertaining activity kit, you won't want to miss out on.