Cover Story: How “Giving Voice” Got Its Design

The way I feel about book covers speak volumes about me.

In second grade, each person in our class spent weeks writing, illustrating, and designing our own hardcover books (a big deal compared to “little kid” paper books barely held together with tape, staples, and spit). As you can tell from an original (and only) copy of Rainbow Forest below, I relished the process.


As a Ph.D. student procrastinating while writing my dissertation (entitled Home Screen Home: Disability, Distinction, and Domestic Access), I drafted an imagined book cover for it: an embroidered sampler, but instead of having a traditional wooden frame, using the hard metal rim of an iPad.


As someone who cares deeply about how books are written, designed, and used as design elements in a space, I eagerly anticipated working on the cover for my recent book, Giving Voice: Mobile Communication, Disability, and Inequality.


The cover was designed collaboratively with the folks at MIT Press, who were receptive and responsive to my input at each step. Stylistically, I was inspired by several images and existing book covers:

The pattern of sound waves, photographed by scientists at Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1950 (Library of Congress).


Vintage book covers about sound from George Giusti in the late 1950s/early 1960s such as Echoes of Bats and Men (1959) and Waves and the Ear (1960).



Other scholarly works about disability and/or communication, such as those by Laura Maudlin and John Durham Peters.



We tried to convey several of the book’s core themes in a single book cover. This encompassed:

  1. Voice as motion, and not as a static or solid entity to give
  2. Axis of intersectionality and inequality
  3. The outline of different sizes of mobile devices, created through negative space, and finally,
  4. To consider disability in relation to all three

The cover of Giving Voice also appears one twist away from a hypnotic spiral, a drowsy trance. For while the book’s manuscript was completed months before Trump’s election, the cover was finalized afterwards, casting some shade onto the light.

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