“What is this?” Ian threw the sketches on the conference table. “You’re joking, right?”
Polly’s gaze darted around the room, searching for an ally in the group. Finding none—expecting none—she sighed. Why was it always her the boss yelled at first? “We never really came to a consensus. But we were running out of time. So we talked to the art department about what look we were going for, and this is what they came up with.”
That wasn’t entirely true. She was out-voted. Actually, her ideas were entirely ignored. Carlos and Tarik talked to the art department. But they were a team, so she’d align herself with them. Even as they went down in flames.
“What don’t you people understand about branding?” Ian picked up the concept art, leafed through it, and tossed the pages across the table. The papers fluttered in front of Carlos and fanned out in front of him. “So what look is this, Ramirez? Is this what you asked for? What you were going for?”
Carlos straightened the pages into one tidy pile. He held up the first one. “This cover shows a snake in a tree. It’s playing off the Eden symbolism in the book.”
“White, serif font.”
“It’s actually more of an eggshell, but yeah. Garamond. Name’s a smaller point size, all caps.”
“We thought so.”
“That’s sarcasm.” Ian shook his head. “It’s boring. Next cover.”
Polly covered a smile by sipping from her coffee cup. She knew where Ian was headed, and she agreed with him. These weren’t the concepts she’d preferred, but being the only woman on the team, the boys’ club didn’t take her suggestions. It would be fun to see how the guys defended their choices.
Carlos held up the second sketch. “This one is a close-up of a cup of tea. The book has strong Asian themes, and there’s a Japanese tea ceremony in it. We used a sans serif font in a jade tone for the title and red for the author’s name.”
“What font is that?”
“Do you see why that’s a problem?”
Carlos shook his head.
“It’s a Japanese-themed book.”
“I don’t think the fonts have national pride, sir.”
Ian looked at Tarik. “Okay, Hosni. Your partner in crime has proven to be an idiot. Tell me about the third cover.”
Polly wiped her lips with a napkin, again covering her glee. She could have predicted the meeting would go this badly. Too bad she didn’t put a wager on it.
“It’s a black and white cover featuring a smoking gun.”
“How original for a crime novel,” Ian said.
“Sarcasm?” Tarik asked.
“No, it’s the most original thing I’ve ever seen.”
Tarik cleared his throat and continued, his voice a bit softer. “The title’s in all caps. We went with an ice blue, because it looked cold and fit the stark color scheme.”
“Because when I think noir, I think ice blue.”
“All right, people. When you think about our line of classics, what comes to mind?”
No one volunteered an answer.
“Anyone?” Ian waited. “No? Fine. I’ll tell you. Consistency. Branding. Cohesion. There’s a certain harmony to the look. Same green leather, same geometric pattern, same burgundy accents. It doesn’t matter which volume you select. You know it’s part of the collection.”
“But it does matter which book you select,” Carlos said. “And at a glance, you won’t be able to tell which volume to choose. There needs to be some variation. Besides, those covers are pretty old fashioned. We were going for edgy.”
“You missed your mark.” Ian took a deep breath. “Classics can pull off a dated appearance. We’ll eventually update. But if I can’t trust you to work on our new work, I certainly can’t trust you to deal with our signature line. This publishing house was built on the classics. You want to go edgy, I’m all for it. But you need a coordinated look.”
“Each of these covers has a single element on the front,” Tarik said.
Ian rolled his eyes. “That’s not enough. Look at those stupid Twilight books. Or the Fifty Shades crap. Those books all look the same within the series, but they’re all different enough to be recognized on their own.”
Polly hid her expression behind the coffee cup again.
“You’ve got a trilogy here, and there are no unifying elements.” He grabbed an apple off the lunch cart. “Font, size, color, placement. The themes are all different, for Pete’s sake.”
“We were trying to differentiate the titles,” Tarik said.
“As well you should. But they all need to relate to each other. If we printed these and set them up side-by-side, people would struggle to realize they’re all by the same author, let alone three books in a series.” Ian took a loud bite out of the apple, then he strode to the door. Before leaving, he turned around and looked at Polly. “Really, Nakamura, I expected more from you. Get revisions to me by the end of day.”
Polly glared at her teammates across the table. They were the ones who screwed up the project. Why did she have to clean up the mess?
Carlos and Tarik rose and headed out the door. Carlos tapped her on the shoulder before he walked out. “If you’re stuck for ideas, come find us.”
Because their ideas were so good the first time.
Polly called Jackson in the art department. “Hey, Jax. You remember the three-book monochromatic concepts we discussed for the Mallory Kent books? How long to do mock-ups for me?”
Good thing she’d gone behind the team’s back and talked to Jackson last week. Because he’d already done sketches for her, the hard work was done. She’d just make deadline, because Ian didn’t usually leave until eight.
It was no damn wonder she drank. She’d miss happy hour tonight, but at least she kept a bottle of Glenfiddich hidden in her desk.
This story inspired by the WordPress daily prompt: Harmonize.