Robert Lane Greene's You Are What You Speak has a cover that asks you to think a little bit. Brain? Conversation bubble? Fingerprint? It's intriguing, and that bright red, well, it stops you for a moment.


We often deal with fiction covers in this Cover Stories series, but it's interesting to step into the mindset behind a non-fiction title -- one that John McWhorter, author of  Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, calls “A flinty, fact-packed fun-house of a book."


Here's Robert Lane Greene, who's also a correspondent for The Economist, to talk about how the design came together:


"I went back and forth [with cover ideas]. Some days I wanted a cover as messy as real-life language is, like the one that illustrated my article here. That language is hugely variable is a big theme of the book. 


"Other days, I wanted a nice stark, simple cover. (Think Malcolm Gladwell; one word, black on white, with a simple image…) But I didn’t have any specific ideas.


"When I first saw my cover, I loved it!  The thumbprint in the speech bubble brought together the two concepts (language and identity) so neatly I wanted to high-five whoever came up with it. This was, I later found out, the Heads of State, a pretty neat two-man design firm.


"I didn’t like the font of the title. They initially had it done in a font like this one here and here. I thought it was too whimsical, and I said so. They quickly made the change to the final font.


"I was offered a red version and a white version (right), and variants with little photo-holding corners and those without. I liked the red, worried that the white would get smudgy easily, and voted against the photo corners. All my preferences were accepted. 


"I am asked whose fingerprint it is; I honestly don’t know! It’s not mine, though – kind of a relief, as I don’t fancy having my identity stolen…


"I was so pleased that the cover had the ideas brought together so neatly. It took me a little while to see how the speech-bubbles on the back cover also seem to refer to the quotes praising the book there - pretty clever. Overall, the cover says 'As soon as you open your mouth, you reveal so much about yourself.' That’s what the book is about, too. I think it makes people want to pick it up.'"


Thanks, Lane! I agree that the red makes a stronger statement and the final fonts are more serious, too.


What do you guys think of this cover?



Melissa Walker is the author of four Young Adult novels, including the Violet trilogy and Lovestruck Summer. She is co-creator of the popular teen newsletter I Heart Daily and the awkward-stage blog Before You Were Hot, as well as the blogger for Her author blog, where Cover Stories originated, is

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