April 18, 2017 UT Press Partners with Graphic Design to Create Book Covers

Note: This story first appeared on the School of Art’s website.

Sierra Plese, a senior in graphic design from Farragut, Tennessee, is about to see her work go to press.

Plese’s design, featuring carefully selected type, has been chosen to grace the cover of Athens of the New South, published by UT Press.

“I really appreciated the chance to work with UT Press,” said Plese. “It has been a great learning experience and I am excited to see my work published.”

The opportunity is the result of a new partnership between UT Press and the School of Art’s graphic design program.

After seeing a similar project done at the University of Illinois Press, Kelly Gray, senior designer at UT Press, reached out to Associate Professor Deborah Shmerler to see if her students would be interested in helping design the cover of the book.

UT Press prepared a presentation for Shmerler’s typography class, inviting students to submit their designs to be considered for the cover of the book, which is a reflection on the history of Nashville.

Weeks later, UT Press returned to critique the work.

“We were extremely pleased with the results. There were around 19 designs, and several of them revealed promising talent and a deeper engagement with the material than we had expected,” said Gray. “The critique involved discussing basic design concepts, getting students to elaborate on their aesthetic visions and defend their choices.”

Gray and her team from UT Press chose three designs as potential covers. From those, the writer, Mary Ellen Pethel, selected Plese’s design. Plese is currently working with UT Press on creating an interior design to complement the cover.

Shmerler says the experience sparked her students’ interest in book production.

UT Press is planning on making the competition an ongoing partnership. In addition, they are currently in the process of creating an internship that allow students to explore similar concepts in depth.

“There is a lot to book design, and we are very excited to continue working with the School of Art on how we can incorporate unique real-world projects into student work,” said Gray.

This article originally appeared in TN Today

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034,