I thought I would share a few thoughts on why and how we designed the cover of our book. We wanted our cover to be a central part of the experience of reading it, and therefore we knew the design would be critical. But how exactly could we represent soul?
An obvious place to start was the holonomic circle, our new tool which articulates the meaning of soul in a design, business and branding context. The design of the circles were chosen for their likeness to an ensō, a hand-drawn symbol from Zen Buddhism expressing a moment when the mind is free to let the body create. According to Audrey Yoshiko Seo, author of Ensō: Zen Circles of Enlightenment, “Zen circles, ensō, are symbols of teaching, reality, enlightenment, and a myriad of things in between”.
The circular lines of the holonomic circle are not closed, but remain open, drawing our attention to the way in which the elements of the circle are not to be thought of as separately existing objects or ideas, but rather as fully interrelated. The openness expresses movement, and this is how you can work with the holonomic circle, taking each element as inspiration for dialogues to explore and collectively understand customers, their experiences and the meaning of brands.
While we are really happy with the design of the holonomic circle, simply having an ensō on the cover was not really communicating customer experience, the whole emphasis was on soul. So the search for a definitive image continued.
When writing our first book Holonomics, I came across the artwork of an amazing artist who goes by the name of Jazz Ometeotl Loon. He actually gave Maria and I permission to use this piece titled energycreationbelly – monad for the cover. While the theme of monads is extremely connected with the philosophy of Holonomics, ultimately the challenges of integrating the complex design with the demands and necessities of a book cover meant that it was not used in the end. I returned to this piece while developing our cover ideas, but once again the challenge of adding the book title and our author names was just a little too complicated.
Design began on the cover early last year, and in October Maria and I were invited to present Customer Experiences with Soul at Sustainable Brands Bangkok. I had been searching for various images, creating mocked up covers. One theme I was experimenting with was bokeh, a photograph effect created through the deliberate blur which is produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image. And so for our presentation we used this slide below.
This image comes from Themes.com, and as you can see if you click on the original, I both cropped it and rotated it to allow the area for the title. I quite liked the notion of the out of focus lights, signifying soul and wholeness, not having solidity and merging seamlessly with the other lights in the same vicinity.
In the slide above you can also see how the layout of the title developed. I knew the font would be critical, and we were searching for something elegant and contemporary, whole not being too obvious or currently fashionable. The length of the words also provides a design challenge which had to be resolved, and with the enlarging of the word soul, a solution was gradually arrived at.
In all I must have designed around twenty different covers. I placed them all in a Keynote presentation, and then one day I decided to show all of them to Maria in order for us to be able to arrive at a solution which both of us could be happy with. One cover particularly stood out, and when I showed it to Maria, we both knew that the search was over.
One of the first articles on this blog is Bad Coffee in Good Hotels. In this article I talk about the way in which having a bad coffee for breakfast in a good hotel can impact strongly on the overall experience. I write that:
Goethe, that great poet, artist and master of observation coined the phrase “an instance worth a thousand bearing all within itself”. What Goethe is alerting us to is the way in which sometimes we can find a phenomenon, such as the coffee in a hotel, which contains the whole essence of the brand, the company, the values, the experience as a whole, and when we find this archetypal experience, it is worth a thousand of other less archetypal experiences.
In our book we develop the theme of “an instance worth a thousand bearing all within itself” in detail, and therefore the coffee cup stands a symbol for how the whole experience can come to presence through the parts. We build on this theme using a number of case studies, all of which relate not just to physical design, but to the notion of service in its most elevated sense. So the espresso cup stands as a representation of service, and not just the coffee itself.
In my search for images to use, I came across the double-walled espresso cup which is made by the Dutch company Bredemeijer. While the first thing that really caught my attention was the gorgeous design, I just loved the way the coffee itself sits inside the glass, just as our spirit and essence is contained in our bodies. When I saw this espresso glass I knew instantly that I would no longer have to struggle with how to communicate and articulate soul visually. Here it was in a single espresso glass.
We are extremely grateful to Esther de Wit, the Marketing Coordinator at Bredemeijer Group who gave us their generous permission to use their image on our cover. For us it is an image which symbolises entirely multiple layers of meaning in relation to customer experience, service and soul.
Ultimately though, it is simply not possible to represent spirit or soul, especially using an object in three dimensions. In Holonomics we take a non-dualistic approach to our understanding of concepts such as consciousness, a word for whose precise meaning there is no scientific or philosophical agreement.