Cover#4: Adelaide’s Pop Psychology from ‘Guys and Dolls’

Our school play (musical) is ‘Guys and Dolls’, which is a darling of a show with incredibly upbeat numbers and period styling as it’s set in the 50s, and is one I produced back at University … unfortunately in the days just before social media and digital cameras.
One of the two pairs of romantic leads is Adelaide, the ‘comedy’ female lead. She has a brilliant number called, rather unimaginitively, ‘Adelaide’s Lament’, where she is reading a pop psychology book that explains that her constant cold is actually a psychosomatic response to having been engaged for fourteen years but not actually getting anywhere near the altar. This is clearly a sore point for her, despite her comically chirpy outlook, as she’s already written to her mother about her five kids and her husband’s promotion. The lyrics are a delight: here’s a version of it (at 6.18) with the scene leading up to it beforehand…

So, in an excuse to design a book cover (which I haven’t done for ages) I decided to create the cover for the pop psychology book that she might be reading.

First, I found a decent-sized hardback book in my library – one that I didn’t mind getting bashed around and used as a prop for the next few weeks. I found one with a hardback that had no dustcover, and measured it to make a template.

The cover template, indicating where the large spine bindings go.
The cover template, indicating where the large spine bindings go.

Actual dimensions: (w)26.8cm x (h)19cm

Next came the inspiration. Trawling the internet with the search ’50s book’ is always a fun way to go to get pulp porno covers, so you do need to broaden your search a little… but here’s the most innocuous portion of my search:

You can really see a prevalence of primary colours, simple block shapes, slightly rough edges and a very particular set of fonts.

My further inspiration came from the Bridgeman art library, the Free Stock Photo and Font libraries at, and Retro Shapes Photoshop brushes at (scroll to the end for my used links)

My favourite images gave me a bit of a colour and layout suggestion, as well as suggesting a suitably patronising tone for the book:

From the Bridegman Art Library
50s Science Fiction Book Cover
Single Girl, from

Anything too fiddly or subtle was going to be lost in the cover’s usage as a stage prop, so I decided to keep it bold and simple.

I set to work, using the Comicbook! App on my iPhone to halftone the Single Girl picture (I could have done it in Photoshop but I was being lazy). I then created coloured overlays in Photoshop to bring ‘feminine’ colour to her lips, nails and blouse.

The font needed to be right, and a trawl of Tackorama’s downloadable files gave me Cherry Cream Soda, by .

I also needed some kind of patronising doctor-figure for the back. This time, took care of that.

Putting the cover together, I originally chose a maroon background like the SciFi book above, but changed it to blue to contrast with the bright yellow title – it needs to be visible from stage if possible. A rough stripe across the two sides started off as a lighter blue to create contrast. retro shapes, such as hearts, continued to add interest to the cover, and, on the back, a patronising blurb, smug author photo and logo of fictitious ‘Two Jugs publishing’ (I’m going to say that it’s called that because I found I had Egyptian Hieroglyph brushes and the jug is the first one I saw…but it’s not 😉 )

Here’s the first attempt:

The first attempt

The changes made for the final version included moving the content further away from the edges of the design to allow for edging overlap, something I hadn’t allowed enough of in the first version, and changing the colour of the contrast strip to something that was both more feminine and more of an actual contrast! Pink sufficed here, light enough to let the hearts show up.

Also added were some ’50s’ shapes – atomic spangles, as I like to call them, from a free Photoshop brush library (see end) in the same yellow as the title and the stupid punning author name (yes, sorry about that.)

The final version (although not really – see below)

After printing, I realised that things I’d have continued to change would be to put a darker tone behind the doctor author photo and to rotate the spine font 180 degrees (DOH!) as it’s the wrong way round! (I didn’t want to waste any more printer ink, so I’ve changed it on the design below but not my own version, alas.)

So, here’s the final version. Please feel free to download it and use it yourselves if you happen to be putting on Guys and Dolls.

EDIT: Three people have now thought this was a real book when I handed it to them. This makes me think 1) great, it’s realistic; 2) erm, what do you think I’m suggesting to you?; 3) what do you think of me?!!/id436114747?mt=8


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s