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- The Best Reviewed Books of the WeekMay 18, 2018
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My cover for We Should All Be Feminists (2014) is not my “best” design. It is not the most clever, or the most beautiful, or the most impressive cover I’ve ever worked on. It is, however, the book I’ve felt most proud to design for. We Should All Be Feminists is an essay by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie based on her viral TED talk of the same name. In it, you will find one of the most accessible and compelling arguments for feminism I have ever read. The design was pretty straightforward: it has hand-lettered type with some decorative elements, and a neutral background that connects to my cover for Americanah, Adichie’s previous bestselling novel. I enjoyed working on it. I was happy with the design. I was pleased with the way it was printed. I considered the final product a job well done and moved on to the next project.
Then, the book was published, and it took off. It seemed to strike an important cultural chord. Through social media, I saw posts from young girls about reading it, buying it, gifting it, and carrying it around in their pockets as a personal manifesto.
On May 29, 2015, Adichie was the commencement speaker at Wellesley College. As she stepped up onto the podium, the camera scanned the audience. Hundreds of prospective graduates—all young women—were standing up and waving their copies of We Should All Be Feminists. Adichie went on to tell the class of 2015 to never silence themselves, to never bend themselves into shapes to suit others and to never ever accept “because you are a woman” as a reason for anything.
On December 3, 2016, a Swedish publisher asked if they could use my cover design on their edition of the book. The Swedish Women’s Lobby had decided to launch an initiative to distribute a copy of We Should All Be Feminists to every 16-year old student in the country. I donated my design.
On March 7, 2017, Finland followed suit and gave a copy to every ninth grader in the country.
On January 21, 2017, hundreds of thousands of people all over the country, myself included, attended the Women’s March. Within the first five minutes of being there, I saw a flash of yellow, red, and blue fly by. I turned to see a woman who had a newborn baby girl—named Wini, as I later learned—strapped to her chest. Taped to Wini’s back was my cover design and in her mother’s hand was a sign, drawn in the style of We Should All Be Feminists, that said “World Peace: We Can Make Positive Change.” Wini’s mother told me that We Should All Be Feminists was the first book she ever bought for her daughter.
Other appropriations of the cover popped up in the form of protest signs:
The most gratifying thing about working as a book cover designer is the feeling that you are contributing to literacy, culture, and ideas. My job is to create a visual identity for every novel, memoir, story, or essay that comes my way. A cover is the face of a piece of writing and can influence how it is received by the world. In this case, however, it was the content that really took the wheel in its success. My experience with We Should All Be Feminists is a humble reminder that good writing can take off and touch so many in a million little ways. It can create empathy, mold ideologies, inspire thoughts, and create change. Sometimes, my design just gets to go along for the ride.