Book Cover Design Project #3 – Inside The Beltway


Inside The Beltwayis a phrase used to characterize parts of the real or imagined American political system. It refers to the Capital Beltway (Interstate 495), a beltway that encircles Washington D.C., and is meant to invoke matters that are important primarily within the offices of the Federal government, it’s contractors, lobbyists, and the media which cover them.

Today’s book cover design is based on the expression “Inside The Beltway.” As I was reading through my list of words and phrases Colleen instantly said that I should use that one. So here it is. I was not sure I was prepared to take this one on quite yet but I gave it a go and I am glad I did. I am pleased with how it turned out. I actually feel like doing some modifications but perhaps I will save the ideas for another day.

The thought process leading up to this one was exciting for me. Initially I could not shake the idea of using a highway. Way too literal and not creative thinking by any means. As I forced myself away from all thoughts of using a road or a highway the idea of a circular barrier stuck with me. I of course thought of the monumental buildings which are prolific in our nation’s capital. I thought about the capitol dome and utilizing it’s curvature in a design. “thats a circle, at least in part.” I thought. I considered placing imagery inside the capital dome which would symbolize the thought process inside the political arena. Outside the capitol dome I would place imagery that would symbolize America, or “We The People.” Of course these two ideas would be in stark contrast and juxtapose one another. I thought and I thought…

book cover design project 3 - inside the beltway

Then I had a spark. I thought of my website momentarily. I use photo of a cheap souvenir paperweight on my website. The paperweight is a diamond-esque shaped, clear acrylic piece. Contained within is a three dimensional silhouette of the our nations capital featuring the Capitol building and the Washington monument. Shortly after conjuring this image I thought of a snow globe, which is circular in shape and separates whats inside form the outside world. “I found the perfect metaphor I do believe,” I thought to myself and began working on the design.

The metaphor – The idea here is to illustrate how the atmosphere inside the beltway is worlds away from the people it ought to be supporting and representing. We all look at our nation’s capital with an idealism that seems to be lost in reality. Inside any snow globe is a magic, perfect world. We gaze into it and delight in whatever magic and perfection we perceive to exist there. But after the snow has fallen we always come to realize that it is artificial and we must return to our real world outside the bubble.

Politicians do not have this luxury. I believe that most politicians gaze at the snow globe that is “inside the beltway” early in their careers honestly believing that if they could just get inside they will be able overcome the facade and make a change for the benefit of the people. However, once they get inside they are trapped by a glass dome that is made up of lobbyists, special interests, bipartisanship and other agendas designed to centralize money and governmental power (not what the founders intended). The more powerful those centralized forces become, the less powerful “We The People” become. Every election cycle we get the opportunity to shake the snow globe, but what’s inside never really changes. Once the snow flakes settle we come to realize that nothing is changed.

The rest of the Design – I used patriotic colors – red, white and blue. However, I tried not to read into the colors too much. Of particular interest is the title. I chose to subtly repeat it in the background, much like the phrase is repeated in our media. We hear it constantly in the background noise of our lives but never think about what the words mean. When we do stop to think about politics, it is almost like we need to step back and strain ourselves to understand. This feeling is indicated where the title stands out in white by forcing the reader to read the words from right to left instead of left to right. This is unnatural and uncomfortable. After struggling to read the title, most of us will simply rest our eyes on the image of the White House inside the snow globe and stop thinking about the words. To be sure, trying to stay on top of the facts in the political realm is tough work. The above aspects of the composition corresponds to how politicians and biased media outlets make the truth so difficult to understand that most of us simply learn to ignore and become complacent regarding politics, even if our individual liberties were to become jeopardized somehow.

Perhaps the thesis of this book could be a study of the above phenomena throughout our nation’s history. Perhaps an examination of how the founding fathers might view today’s Federal government.

See you all tomorrow.
Sean

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One thought on “Book Cover Design Project #3 – Inside The Beltway

  1. Wow that was excellent… both in design and in explanation. I truly enjoyed reading about the design and understanding how much thought you put into its creation. Once explained, the cover design is a perfect reflection of “inside the beltway.” I will never think of the expression the same again. Thanks for the insight!

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