A Request For The Design Hive Mind: Vote For A Tangled Bank Book Cover

By Carl Zimmer | May 8, 2009 4:04 pm

[Update 4:30 pm: I left off one of the covers (Tiktaalik3) from the original poll. You can re-vote now.]

Greetings, readers. I write to you from that frenzy towards the end of writing a book when everything has to be done at once and the sight of the incoming pincers makes me freeze like a deer in the…pincers. See, I can’t even come up with a good metaphor right now.

As some of you may recall, I’m writing a non-majors textbook called The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution. The book includes the nuts and bolts of selection and drift, along with the origin of complex traits, coevolution, sex (lots of sex), medicine, human behavior (and nonhuman), and the fearsome hand of extinction. It’s going to be heavily laden with cool examples from recent years, from E. coli that break all the rules to kinky ducks. If all goes according to plan, it should be out in time this fall for the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species (but, of course, you can pre-order right now).

Right now, I’m signing off on the final proofs for the book and wishing that all scientists would agree to a moratorium on the publication of any interesting new research on evolution for, say, the next two years. And I’m also trying to decide on a cover. I always find this an agonizing process, perhaps because I’m not in touch with my inner designer. So I’d love to get your opinion. Take a look at these eight covers and then vote at the bottom of the post for the one you like. My goal with this book has been to create something that will not only serve well as a textbook but will also be a good read for anyone who wants to get a handle on evolution in the twenty-first century. So I want to avoid a cover that’s too textbooky. (Note that the final covers will, of course, not be watermarked)

The first two (Whale1 and Whale2) are paintings by Carl Buell of Ambulocetus, an ancient relative of today’s whales and dolphins.

The next three (Tiktaalik1-3) are also by Buell. These are of Tiktaalik, a species that lived during the emergence of four-legged land vertebrates from fish.

The last is of a wasp that has been fooled by an Australian orchid into thinking the flower is a female wasp–fooled so far as to actually complete the full act of wasp love. With a vague invertebrate sense of dissatisfaction, the wasp flies off, carrying orchid pollen, which it will deposit on its next bad date. It’s a great story (which I describe at length in the book), but you wouldn’t be able to guess it from this lovely photo.









Tangled Bank Cover (for real!)(polls)


Comments (77)

  1. W1. Only W1 & 2 are sufficiently red in tooth….. W2 highlighting of TTB – why?

  2. I couldn’t vote twice, but I am really, really behind Wasp2.

  3. Re-vote, re-comment :-) W1. Only W1 & 2 are sufficiently red in tooth….. W2 highlighting of TTB – why?

  4. anon

    Thought you should know that here’s no way to vote fore Tiktaalik3, unless you click on the poll on the page for this blog entry (but not the front page for this blog). It appears there are two separate polls.

    Carl: Thanks, anon–I actually had to replace a Tik3 deficient poll with a full one. It works fine now. Cast away.

  5. synergy

    It seems the three that I was having a hard time choosing between are in the lead. :) Ultimately I picked Wasp 1. The macro pic is eye-catching and the small subtitle lets you draw in someone to picking up the book before they might realize that it’s about evolution.

  6. michael

    I like the picture of Tiktaalik3 the best, but I can’t stand the font. I voted for Tiktaalik1, but would prefer to see Tiktaalik3 with either the font from T1, or a really cool font (preferably), or even a tangle-y seaweed-y ish type font if it’s not to cheesy.

  7. I’m a fan of Wasp2, but any of the Wasp pictures will do. I think they’re more subtle images than the first two sets, and I like the fact that there’s some interesting backstory to the wasp+flower in question.

    Of course, scary creatures that have teeth and are unfamiliar would probably sell more books.

  8. Krista Zala

    I like Wasp2. Any artist’s rendition, no matter how lovely, is immediately dated (Oh yeah, that what we thought whale ancestors looked like back in 2009.) Whale1 has nicer font, but Whale2’s uninterrupted arc of the Ambulocetus twisting is more attractive and lets the eye sweep across the page. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s being stalked by an aquatic anteater. There’s no tangle to speak of in the Tiktaalik image, so I can’t make the connection. I get the sense that what I’m about to read is probably very good for me but also uninspired writing. Wasp1 looks like a government report, and the orchid crop in Wasp3 is phallic. Wasp2 looks like it’s contemporary and accessible.

  9. The book sounds fascinating. But I have to confess that based on these covers, it looks like it’s aimed at a middle-grade audience. The wasp covers are the only ones that seem more sophisticated, but they remind me of Smithsonian magazine covers. I’d love to hear what jacket designers for trade books would do with the subject matter.

  10. algorythm

    wasp wasp wasp! i aint buyin it if the wasp doesnt make it to the final book. itll be naturally deselected.

  11. I went with Wasp 1. I find pictures behind words distracting, and same with different colored words and letters. I thought the ominous red lettering didn’t set the right tone. A photograph lends the book more authority than an illustration, and Wasp looks like it could be part of a real tangled bank somewhere.

  12. Bobbie

    There’s gory (whales) and gruesome (Tiktaalik) and intriguing (wasps) I vote for WASP 1 which is in the lead at this point (no, I did not peek before I voted)…. The whales seem very sensationalized. The Tiktaalik images are too murky for me. And the fonts and name placements are off on some of these. WASP ONE all the way!!

  13. I went with Whale 1, because the title font is more inviting; and also because ever since we found out that whales had evolved from land-dwelling mammals, most people have had a hard time visualizing the amphibious whales.

  14. It really is down to who you want to hand over $ – read it – and become a better person. Introduction to evolution suggests non-specialist, dare I say ‘man in the street’. Taking a devil’s advocate position (maybe) Tick is smiley, Wasp is boring, Whale about to mutilate fish? – (sadly) appealing…..

  15. ERV

    I LOVE the look on Tiktaaliks face. He looks so proud of himself!

  16. Dan Riley

    Unfortunately, the Buell paintings look very dated to me–like 50’s SF covers. So I’d vote for the wasp, and of the three I think wasp2 has the most intriguing composition, with the antennae drawing the eyes down to the title and author.

  17. I for one LOVE 50’s sci-fi covers. Actually I think they look more like classic illustrations from national geographic. I voted for Tiktalik 1, I like the layout of the title, the art, and tiktalik is really an amazing example of evolution.

  18. I’m hogging – so last comment. The whale has bears paws and ducks feet. Introduction to evolution? – how can you not? Whale 1.

  19. Jo

    Tiktaalik! Man, I do love that illustration.

  20. synergy

    I agree with Jackal and Dan Riley: different colors and interwoven pic and fonts are distracting. The whales etc remind me of my 1970s elementary school science books (which may have been the same designs from the 50s/60s, considering the public schools I went to).

  21. Love wasp 2. The text is elegant, and any book that has a Cryptostylis subulata flower and an Ichneumon wasp is bound to be a huge success–especially when people learn of the amazing sexual mimicry involved. Okay, I’m biased, because I have them growing wild in my garden. :)

    I agree with Dan Riley about the dated look of the paintings. They remind me of the sort of thing you’d see in “How and Why” books from the 60s. By contrast, the wasp image is fresh and clean.

  22. I went with Tiktaalik 1, for both the image and the type.

  23. CoffeeCupContrails

    WASP 1.

    I love plants and their interaction with animals. I’m tired of whales and fishes on the cover of Evolution books.

    Plus, only the Wasp covers seem bright and sunny; the others are quite gloomy and just a tad scary.

    Regarding the text on the cover:
    I like the Title and color style in Wasp 3, the sub-title font and color in Wasp 1 and the Author font in Wasp 2 (but not the blue color, preferably a white or sunny yellow). Brighter colors (white and light green or yellow, not blue or even dark shades of yellow) seem to work great with me, especially for night-time reading.

    The Tiktaalik and Whale themes (picture, font style and colors) seem “way” too 1970-ish and 1980-ish: speaking from a 25 year old’s perspective.

  24. Chaz

    It’s definitely Whale 1 for me. The font does seem a little “1970-ish” like CoffeCupContrails says, but it makes the book look like a classic! And this is from a 21-year-old’s perspective. Also, as has been said, the transitional-ness of the photo is just perfect for a book on evolution.

  25. I have to agree with the comments against the drawings – they’re nice and incredibly well done, but they do look dated in a way. Maybe if they looked more like a real photo (it’s amazing what they can do with graphic art), it would look a little more modern. So I went with wasp 2. Though it bugs me, in general, that they have that copyright text on top of the middle of the photo like that. It ruins the image!

  26. …just realized the copyright isn’t going to be on the book. It’s just for the photo, isn’t it?… *sheepish look*

  27. I voted for Wasp 2 as well, but any of the Wasps would be fine.

  28. As a quandam graphic artist (it’s how I made my living for thirty years) let me say this:

    1. The typography should be large and consistent – otherwise it looks sloppy and amateurish.

    2. The image should be memorable. One of the Buell’s is much better than a generic nature pic.

    So Tiktaalik or the Whale.

  29. Carla

    I voted for Wasp 1 because I find it the most satisfying composition. The title doesn’t fight with the image for your attention. The Whale and Tiktaalik are delightful images – especially to those of us who have read “The Water’s Edge”, but I don’t think they will resonate with as much with the person in the street.

    Just finished reading “Microcosm”. I’m sorry that it didn’t win the LA Times award.

  30. jackd

    Voted for Whale1, but any of the Buell selections is fine with me, ’cause Carl is an awesome artist and a really nice guy to correspond with.

  31. ruidh

    I *love* Carl Buell’s work. Tiktaalik is on the cover of Neil Shubin’s book. Ambulocetus, however, is an awesome specimen. Great teeth! I had to vote W1.

  32. eric

    I really like wasp 1, but think whale 1 is a good runner-up.

    As big a fan as I am of Tiktaalik (the fossilized organism), I can’t get behind Tiktaalik (the book cover) because my first reaction to it was that it reminded me of one of Ken Ham’s books (“The Lie”) that one of my biology students “generously” shared with me. Sorry.


  33. phagenista

    Just because of the sans serif font, Whale2!

  34. Tiktaalik 2 for sure! Very cool. Tiktaalik 3 looks like a rip-off of the cover of ‘Nature’ … I think it’s that font.

  35. minusRusty

    Whale 1, Tiktaalik 2, and Wasp 1 have the best layout and capitalization of the title. I voted for Tik 2, but would like it better with the text color scheme of Tik 1 (red+white) and slightly smaller primary text for the main title.


  36. minusRusty

    Additionally, looking at them again, I think the photograph (of the wasp, obviously) looks more “textbooky” than the drawings. That narrows it down, IMV, to Whale 1 and Tik 2.

    And thinking about the subject matter of the book further, the image of Ambulocetus seems to make a better tie-in to an audience that might not be familiar with evolution. (It’s much more clearly a “mixed type” (i.e., transitional) than Tik, again, from the point of view of someone who might not be familiar with the images.) So despite my original vote, I think Whale 1 is best.


  37. Q ball

    Tiktaalik 1. The font (color and style) is striking and classy-looking, and tiktaalik’s happy-goofy expression is non-intimidating. Personally, stinging insects give me the heebie-jeebies, and merely gazing at the wasp pics, brings to mind images of myself running around, flailing wildly with one of the little vespid bastards on my neck.

  38. WASP! The other two covers do look 70ish like someone else commented. Can’t wait for the book!

  39. Morgan

    Tiktaalik1, for sure–I love Ambulocetus as an organism, but design-wise, that image is just not made for a book cover. I’m sure you noticed this already, but though whale1 has the most votes of any single cover, there are the fewest combined votes for a whale cover (30% at the time of writing), as opposed to those for a Tiktaalik (37%) or wasp (33%) cover.
    Whoever did the cover design for the paperback ed. of Microcosm is fantastic–is it too late to recruit him or her for this?

  40. Arnold Mousetrouser (Australia)

    I’d reject the lot. They just don’t sing. And look as if they’ve been selected from a set of file images that are always pulled out when Evolution is the topic. Tired, in other words. And cheap.

    The book’s title is “The Tangled Bank”, for Pete’s sake, which has been forgotten in the production process, referring to the evocative last paragraph of the “Origin”, and you show the same old giant “evolution” monsters doing the same old giant, toothy things, and a wasp doing nothing of any great interest at all. Someone’s asleep at the wheel. Designer: Get back to the title of the new book, and read Darwin’s paragraph. And dream a bit.

    The Tangled Bank image Darwin uses in his summing up is a remarkable evocation and there must be a remarkable artist around to make an attractive cover out of the idea of it. I’ve had the book ordered in advance for many months and I don’t want to be filled with dread when I open the package. AM (Oz)

  41. I love the wasp/orchid idea, but I don’t think the photograph has the depth of field or framing needed to pull it off — the cropping is too tight for people to recognize what’s going on, especially if viewer is not familiar with orchid flower shape. Cover number one, whale without text distraction, shows the most action, and that’s what people want. But I would push title to be one line, so that it doesn’t compete with the art. Tiktaalik art is great, but I think it is overused these days, and it doesn’t have the action.

    Can’t wait for the textbook!!!

  42. I would second Arnold’s view, though: if the title is going to refer to tangled bank, you’d be insane not to find, or have made, a tangled bank. Something incredibly detailed, with lots and lots of beasties.

  43. Oded

    I’m torn between talik2 and talik3 – I like the “coming out of the dark”, but the full lighting is also nice. I voted talik3..

  44. ppnl

    The whales rule but I can see voting for Tiktaalik. But wasps?!?

  45. captain Kidd

    I hope you informed your readers that neo-darwinism is dead:

    Lynn Margulis: “Well Niles Eldredge, a wonderful friend and colleague of mine, is talking about those scientists who derive from zoology. He probably refers to the deliberate intellectual activity that reconciles Mendelian stability with Darwinian gradual change and tries to force it into this procrustean population genetics neo-Darwinism.

    Francisco Ayala is presenting at the “evolutionary mechanisms session” in Rome. He was trained in Catholicism, Spanish-style, as a Dominican. We were in California at a meeting with Whiteheadian philosopher John Cobb. At that meeting Ayala agreed with me when I stated that this doctrinaire neo-Darwinism is dead. He was a practitioner of neo-Darwinism but advances in molecular genetics, evolution, ecology, biochemistry, and other news had led him to agree that neo-Darwinism’s now dead.

    The components of evolution (I don’t think any scientist disagrees) that exist because there’s so much data for them are: (1) the tendency for exponential growth of all populations — that is growth beyond a finite world; and (2) since the environment can’t sustain them, there’s an elimination process of natural selection.

    The point of contention in science is here: (3) Where does novelty that’s heritable come from? What is the source of evolutionary innovation? Especially positive inherited innovation, where does it come from?

    It is here that the neo-Darwinist knee-jerk reaction kicks in. “By random mutations that accumulate so much that you have a new lineage.” This final contention, their mistake in my view, is really the basis of nearly all our disagreement.

    Everybody agrees: Heritable variation exists, it can be measured. Everybody agrees, as Darwin said, it’s heritable variation “that’s important to us” because variation is inherited. Everyone agrees “descent with modification” can be demonstrated. And furthermore, because of molecular biology, everybody agrees that all life on Earth today is related through common ancestry, as Darwin showed.

    Everybody agrees with ultimate common ancestry of Earth’s life, because the DNA, RNA messenger, transfer RNA, membrane-bounded cell constituents (lipids, the phospholipids) that we share – they’re all virtually identical in all life today, it’s all one single lineage. So that part of Darwinism – that we’re all related by common ancestry –no scientist disagrees with.

    The real disagreement about what the neo-Darwinists tout, for which there’s very little evidence, if any, is that random mutations accumulate and when they accumulate enough, new species originate. The source of purposeful inherited novelty in evolution, the underlying reason the new species appear, is not random mutation rather it is symbiogenesis, the acquisition of foreign genomes.”

    And that Cosmic Ancestry (Panspermia) is alive and well:

    “A renowned physicist, (Freeman) Dyson was among nine distnguished scientists who spoke at a two-day public symposium sponsored by The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and The Harvard Origins of Life Initiative, held during the Cambridge Science Festival. Others speakers included Harvard Astronomy Professor David Charbonneau (left), and University of Washington paleontologist Peter Ward (right). Panspermia was favorably mentioned by several of the speakers, including Dimitar Sasselov, who heads the Harvard Origins Initiative. Because impacts can launch life-bearing material into space, he said, “Panspermia is the future of the galaxy.”

  46. captain Kidd

    How are these “foreign genomes acquired? Here’s a hint…

    Structural Studies of the Giant Mimivirus

    Chuan Xiao1¤, Yurii G. Kuznetsov2, Siyang Sun1, Susan L. Hafenstein1, Victor A. Kostyuchenko1, Paul R. Chipman1, Marie Suzan-Monti3, Didier Raoult3, Alexander McPherson2, Michael G. Rossmann1*

    1 Department of Biological Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, United States of America, 2 Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, University of California, Irvine, California, United States of America, 3 Unité des Rickettsies, Faculté de Médecine (CNRS) UMR 6020, IFR 48, Marseille, France

    Mimivirus is the largest known virus whose genome and physical size are comparable to some small bacteria, blurring the boundary between a virus and a cell. Structural studies of Mimivirus have been difficult because of its size and long surface fibers. Here we report the use of enzymatic digestions to remove the surface fibers of Mimivirus in order to expose the surface of the viral capsid. Cryo-electron microscopy (cryoEM) and atomic force microscopy were able to show that the 20 icosahedral faces of Mimivirus capsids have hexagonal arrays of depressions. Each depression is surrounded by six trimeric capsomers that are similar in structure to those in many other large, icosahedral double-stranded DNA viruses. Whereas in most viruses these capsomers are hexagonally close-packed with the same orientation in each face, in Mimivirus there are vacancies at the systematic depressions with neighboring capsomers differing in orientation by 60°. The previously observed starfish-shaped feature is well-resolved and found to be on each virus particle and is associated with a special pentameric vertex. The arms of the starfish fit into the gaps between the five faces surrounding the unique vertex, acting as a seal. Furthermore, the enveloped nucleocapsid is accurately positioned and oriented within the capsid with a concave surface facing the unique vertex. Thus, the starfish-shaped feature and the organization of the nucleocapsid might regulate the delivery of the genome to the host. The structure of Mimivirus, as well as the various fiber components observed in the virus, suggests that the Mimivirus genome includes genes derived from both eukaryotic and prokaryotic organisms. The three-dimensional cryoEM reconstruction reported here is of a virus with a volume that is one order of magnitude larger than any previously reported molecular assembly studied at a resolution of equal to or better than 65 Å.

    Received: October 6, 2008; Accepted: March 11, 2009; Published: April 28, 2009

    Copyright: © 2009 Xiao et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

    Abbreviations: AFM, atomic force microscopy; cryoEM, cryo-electron microscopy; dsDNA, double-stranded DNA; IBDV, infectious bursal disease virus; MCP, major capsid protein; PBCV1, Paramecium bursaria Chlorella virus 1; TEM, transmission electron microscopy

    * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: mr@purdue.edu

    ¤ Current address: Department of Chemistry, University of Texas, El Paso, Texas, United States of America

    Author Summary

    Mimiviruses are larger than any other known virus, yet despite their size, the capsid has been shown to be a regular icosahedron. Using cryo-electron microscopy and atomic force microscopy, we show that the icosahedral symmetry is only approximate, in part because one of the 5-fold vertices has a unique “starfish-shaped” feature and because a better three-dimensional reconstruction was obtained by assuming only 5-fold symmetry. Contrary to expectations, the arrangement of the capsomers on the Mimivirus surface is not as that in many other large icosahedral dsDNA viruses. Instead, the faces of Mimivirus have systematic vacant sites that are surrounded by six capsomers with alternative orientations which differ by about 60°.

  47. captain Kidd

    For further info, visit captain Kidd’s website:


  48. chezjake

    I voted for whale 1, but I could also like Tiktaalik 3 if it was done with the serif font.

    I note that all three of the best vote getters at this point have the serif font. In my mind, at least, I associate sans serif fonts with cheap production values.

  49. Susan

    I agree with michael. Tiktaalik3 is the best picture but the font just doesn’t work so I voted for Tiktaalik1. In Tiktaalik3 more of the animal is visible which makes it more interesting.

  50. Arnold Mousetrouser: “…a wasp doing nothing of any great interest at all.”

    Arnold, Arnold, Arnold! Nothing of any great interest?! This is one of the most extraordinary examples of sexual deception you will find. See here: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/abs/10.1086/587532

    That wasp is about to ejaculate onto the flower, because the flower is mimicking a female wasp, not only visually, but by way of floral scents that emulate her sex pheromones. Bloody incredible!

    (And Carl, if it were at all possible, a tiny sentence on the back cover explaining what’s happening in the photo might well inspire someone browsing in the bookshop to buy the book.)

  51. Arnold Mousetrouser (Australia)

    @Margaret Morgan: Thank you for your rap on the knuckles. In my haste to get into the discussion I left a key phrase out – “looking as if it’s” – between the word “wasp” and the word “doing” in that sentence. In other words the photograph appears to the uninitiated to be no more than decorative, a designer’s indulgence. And I don’t think “a tiny sentence” on the back of the cover to explain what’s happening in the photo would make much difference. The front cover is the primary selling point.

    To repeat myself: the book is entitled “The Tangled Bank”, a phrase directly taken from Darwin’s “Origin” that almost everybody seems to have overlooked. And to save space here, I refer readers of this post to my first post (above) for the rest of my argument as to why it should not be overlooked when designing the cover. AM (Oz)

  52. Arnold Mousetrouser (Australia)

    @Colin Purrington: And thank you Colin Purrington for seconding me. The Tangled Bank. Just noticed! (also above). AM (Oz)

  53. Carl Buell

    Since I AM 62 years old, I suppose I can understand the “dated look” comments, but damn it’s tough to think I’ve reached that point… ouch … back to the drawing board. I agree with Arnold Mousetrouser (although “tired” and “cheap”… double ouch) and Colin Purrington that “The Tangled Bank”, Darwin’s own words, is too beautiful a phrase and idea to not have a visual representation. The illustrations above were done as chapter headers meant to stand alone, not to work with and enhance a title font. I don’t have a vote, but if I did, I’d say commission something that reflected Darwin’s perfect analogy.

  54. Arnold Mousetrouser (Australia)

    @Carl Buell: Thank you Carl Buell: that’s very sporting of you. I regret “tired” and “cheap” and apologise. I know your work well and I’m 75 and a writer and should not have been so arrogant. Bad attack of the shouts under pressure! But, as you say, that last paragraph of “The Origin of Species” is a “perfect analogy”, and the artwork should reflect that. AM (Oz)

  55. Carl, my apologies too, for sounding a bit mean in my description of your artwork as looking like something from the How and Why books of my youth. But if it’s any consolation, those very same How and Why books gave me a life-long passion for science!

  56. I’d LOVE to see artwork that featured Charles and Emma holding hands, observing the tangled bank on their walk. Just their backs, or maybe a little bit of their hands and face — just as shadows as part of the main focus on the bank. Or maybe just their hands and his walking stick — it would be obvious who they were after reading the Intro chapter, I suspect. And, of course, it would be GREAT fun to have an apple tree with a red apple highlighted in some way, to allude to the forbidden fruit of knowledge. Maybe an earthworm instead of a snake?

  57. blueshifter

    My vote is for the first Tiktaalik1 image.

    I don’t like the title; however. If you’ve read the Origin, or seen the last paragraph quoted, then sure – it’s cool. but for someone new to it, mainly accustomed to modern usage English, you’re just gonna get a big “Huh? Banking? who the hell wants to read about banking.”

  58. Wasp 1 all the way!! INVERTZ RULEZ!!

    Just my opinion, but I’m tired of whales as a model for evolution. The audience might not understand the significance of tiktaalik (until they read your book of course!) and it just looks strange and the image is too dark. Tiktaalik 3 was much better and a more interesting image, but I just love me some inverts. Plus with both the whales and tiktaalik it looks like paleohistory book. While it incorporates alot of paleohistory, it seems to me this book is about evolution in the broader sense of the study. The wasp and plant image also fits the title better in both metaphorical and literal senses.

    Wasp1 because I like the font and the title’s placement best. Wasp2 was a close 2nd. Its looks a little fresher, but like everyone I have internet-induced A.D.D. and need to see the title large and proud.

  59. Whale 1. I love the font, and the picture is intriguing.

  60. I guess you know this, but the title is shared with a whimsical but delightful book by Stanley Hyman:
    Darwin, Marx, Frazer and Freud as imaginative writers
    and by an anthology of speculative fiction (but may just be vapourware):

  61. Todd oakley

    “Tangled bank” is THE metaphor for diversity. None of these show any diversity. It would be a real shame to waste that title with any of these images, in my opinion. The images are not bad, but they are bad for this title.

  62. dawn stover

    Nice images but none of them work well with the book’s title so I’m not voting for any of them. The title is not self-explanatory so the right image could really help with that.

  63. Hey Carl – was just about to give you a heads-up that I blogged about your poll, but I guess you already found my post! :) Hope you don’t mind me weighing in with my opinions, but I think it’s a fascinating challenge to hit on just the right design combination to do justice to evolution, Darwin’s words – and your book!

  64. Leenibus

    I like the visible detail of Tiktaalik 3, and voted ofr it, but in truth but it is spoiled by the heavy obtrusive font in the main title. Any way to replace it with the font in Tiktaalik 2 (but no yellow)?

  65. Hi, Carl —

    I agree with Buell — none of the images really captures the intended diversity. But I will say that the final one (wasp 3) is the only one with a web-friendly font and a CSS color scheme. If you’re thinking bloggily.

  66. Mr. Buell, your Tiktaalik and whale are not dated in my opinion. I found that comment especially ironic considering your technique.

    I voted Tiktaalik #3. It has some other creatures in it, it has a light source in it, and draws my eye to the shapes behind the interesting specimen on the front. I am not crazy about the fonts though. Too bold, not enticing.

    Tiktaalik is it man. Who care if it’s one Shubin’s book too? Tiktaalik is cool enough for two books and the images -while both excellent (Shubin’s was by Kalliopi Monoyios, I think?)- are completely different.

  67. I’d buy Whale1 (which I voted for) or Tiktaalik2 if I saw them sitting on the shelf or display in a bookstore. The others say “textbook” to me.

    So the question is: which readers do you want to aim at: students already enrolled in the class, who are expecting a textbook, and who have to buy it in any case; or people outside the classroom who might be intrigued by it enough to buy it.

    I’d aim at the latter group, myself, both because it doesn’t hurt to cast the nets wide, and because it might startle students expecting something more textbooky (read, expensive and boring).

  68. BioinfoTools

    I’ve intentionally not read other comments in writing this.

    For the target audience, I’d pick one of the first two, but with revised text placement and fonts choices.

    Firstly, they are the only ones to have action. Although in principle the last does too, as you wrote, you wouldn’t know unless you knew the story.

    Secondly, Tiktaalik doesn’t convey a sense of scale and may look a bit “goofy” to some. On the scale issue, I can’t but help think some will confuse it with some kind of salamander or the like. (The third does a little better on that front.)

    Thirdly, I think it’s helpful for the picture of have depth if it is presenting living things in action. The first two and Tiktaalik3 qualify for that.

    I do think the use of the placement of the text and choice of fonts (and colour) in the Whale ones needs attending to, though. Because of this my vote would be split over these two, without favouring either one of them.

  69. I would choose Whale 1, but I would change the illustration.

    More contrast. More use of the available range of values.

    Brighter glints at the surface. Maybe some light streaking through those glints.

    Darker darks in the water, especially down below.

    Maybe some focused light ‘caustics’ wrapping down from the tops of the creatures.

    Some sense of churn or trail or at least slight air exhalation to impart direction and speed cues.

    An even bigger mouth on the left about to eat the whale thing. (Okay – I was kidding about that last part)


  70. Speaking from a design perspecitive, my problem with the whale images is that they’re so good as stand-alone art that they draw all attention away from the book title and credits. The cover just isn’t balanced, although I’d certainly pick that image of all 3 to hang on the wall.

    Wasp1 is clean, balanced, and works well with the title, as well as capturing the concept of “tangled bank” perhaps a bit better.

  71. I can’t say that any of them blow me away. The wasp ones are lovely but don’t make as much of a statement about evolution as showing an extinct creature on the cover. So I went with T2 (and am apparently in a tiny minority).

  72. neuralstatic

    love the tik image. the wasp image is badly exposed, not a quick read, and looks kind of amateurish, imho. a great shot, but not a great b ook cover — it doesn’t say EVOLUTION like the other two.

    the balance of tik is must much better than whale. whale image looks like a 3rd graders story, and it just doesn’t balance well with the text.

    tikta1 says it all, with all elements working together.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


See More

Collapse bottom bar