Can this book be judged by its cover?: Shumeet Baluja’s The Silicon Jungle

“A Novel of Deception, Power, and Internet Intrigue” reads the subtitle to The Silicon Jungle, the latest work of senior staff research scientist at Google, Shumeet Baluja. Praised as being both “[a] cerebral, cautionary tale… credible and scary” as well as “[c]lever and prophetic,” this novel unravels a thrilling tale about a naive intern, granted unfettered access to people’s most private thoughts and actions. Undoubtedly, the novel raises serious ethical questions about technological advancements, and the growing availability to use online activity for private, political and personal gain.

The book’s cover, with its almost sinister, seemingly unidentifiable face mounted in an explosion of words, is effectively eye-catching and raises questions about the book’s content. After talking to the book’s cover designer, Lorraine Doneker, it became clear that there was meaning hiding between the lines of text and lurking in the gaps of this ominous image. The hint of mystery evoked by the book’s cover begs the reader to unlock the meaning breathing within the content –provoked by the words “deception,” “power” and “intrigue.” These ideas prompted us to ask Lorraine a few questions about the thought and work that went into the cover design of The Silicon Jungle.


Q: The cover of The Silicon Jungle is quite striking!  It definitely got my attention when I first saw it – I saw the face, and then I noticed the words.  How should we interpret this design?  Is it meant to be ominous, thought-provoking, attention-grabbing…?

A: All of the above, totally!  The author’s thoughts: edgy, revelatory, controversial, thriller, and dark – reminiscent of Brave New World or 1984. Big brother like… all of that meets modern Crichton thriller.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for this cover?  And how did you create it?  Did it take a long time?

A: The author actually sent his version “Our Significant Bits,” and I immediately saw the self portrait and knew it could work with some ‘tweaking’ and different colors. He actually created a program called fingerprint.jpg where he was able to place the text – I am sure it took him some time to create the effect he wanted.

Q: How did you decide which words to use to create the image of the face?

A: Text/Word art – words like ‘email, search, blog, cell phones…’ all composited together in the form of a person or face-signifying that these are the things we are composed of, and by looking at all of them in aggregate, it’s possible to get a complete picture of a person.

Q: Were there other versions of the book jacket design that you considered before choosing this one?  (If possible, could you send images of the other designs?)



A: The first is the original one the author sent – “Our Significant Bits.” The second one shows new color treatment and sizing of words that make up the portrait. The third is the one that was ultimately chosen. Colors are more effective with type placement for title, subtitle and author.

Q: Why did you ultimately settle on this design?

A: It gives the feeling that though, it is a technical book, it has a very real ‘human’ story behind it which is what the author wants to emphasize.

Q: Did the idea for this design come to you easily, or was designing this cover a more challenging process?

A: I am not sure how easy this concept was for Shumeet, like any artist, ideas grow and expand as your adrenaline surges. Kudos to Shumeet, I was happy to ‘put the icing on the cake.’ He was a delight to work with – he knew what he wanted and was very effective in conveying his thoughts.

Q: What’s your take on the saying, “never judge a book by its cover”?  Should The Silicon Jungle’s cover only be considered in conjunction with the book’s content, or is it able to stand on its own?

A: The cover is a nice ‘marriage’ to the interior. It conveys power and stature, almost the opposite of friendly– book is not friendly and the subject matter is a serious sense of timelessness. The author wanted something that is not solely appealing to techies, but instead reaches to a mass audience.


As Lorraine explains, the use of the face, although it evokes a certain ominous or mysterious feeling, allows the reader to understand a human aspect of technological innovation – accurately reflecting the content of the story to follow and the vision of both the author and the cover designer. Many thanks to Lorraine for this amazing cover, and for answering questions about this design!

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Comments

  1. book title itself is a killer title..

  2. Rick Olsen says:

    I Think every book is judged by it´s cover most of the time

  3. I agree with Rags with the title.

    I’m surprised to see the author’s name too subtle and should be more clear and bold to emit confidence. We all judge books by the cover. It’s the first impression of the content on the inside. It could be a great book but if the cover doesn’t say this, it’ll fail to find traction and readers.

    Good interview. The one chosen is the best of the three.