Your blank canvas is waiting
My name’s Mohnish Soundararajan, and I’m a designer living in Portland, Oregon.
I’ve designed the marketing materials for bestselling authors like Ryan Holiday (a design project that reached over 740,000+ views for his paperback release), Robert Greene (a design project for his #1 New York Times bestselling book launch), and more.
You can turn your blank canvas into something beautiful, something strategic, and—above all—something different.
Because it takes just a split second to decide whether people are going to pick up your book, or (worst-case scenario) jump out the bookstore window.
So with your cover, don’t waste your shot. I’ll show you how.
The bookshelf from a parallel universe*
*The following is a personal project. Think of it like popping into a different universe and checking out the local bookstore, all without the existential panic of actually realizing you’re in a different universe.
fig. 3 — To me, this is Gladwell: random, disconnected stories that — somehow — create one elegant whole. So visually, I wanted to bring that to life. Every disconnected piece of art is a reference to a different story in the book, all adding up to one cohesive collage. Includes: David with the head of Goliath, by Caravaggio; Impression, Sunrise, by Claude Monet; and (though its imperceptible) Bill Hudson’s photo of Walter Gadsden getting attacked by dogs, featured in The New York Times.
fig. 4 — Cal has one, big, juicy idea: stop being so shallow. Start being more deep. So the ocean metaphor naturally had to happen. Plus, Cal’s book is rooted in focus, craftsmanship, and digital minimalism. I wanted the aesthetic to reflect that. The time stamps on the left are a subtle nod to the center of Cal’s productivity: time-blocking your day by the hour (something I swear by).
fig. 5 — This book basically tells you to: a) get a notecard box (visual: abstract rectangle in the background) b) start writing ideas on a ton of notecards (visual: a ton of notecards) and c) start connecting those notecards until your head pops off (visual: abstract lines connecting each word). The notecard silhouette felt like a fresh idea, and I loved putting it together. But — truth be told — it was only after the fact did I realize it’s conceptually adjacent to what the whole book is about: your notes connected are more powerful than your notes that aren’t. Single notecard image from Wikimedia Commons.
fig. 6 — Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner are — not exaggerating here — complete opposites that found themselves on the same tennis court in 1968. These guys are different: from their racial histories to their playing styles to their psychologies, it’s like playing tennis against your literary foil. That’s why I love the hands as a visual metaphor for all of it. Plus, I wanted the typography and illustration to reflect the time period while still giving it a fresh, bold look.
fig. 7 - To me, play doesn’t mean basketball or baseball, painting or running, volleyball or karate. It’s a feeling, a sensation, a way of doing something — and that “way” is what this book is all about. So I wanted the cover to show that. That’s why I kept the art abstract: play isn’t limited to a photograph of a tennis ball. It’s deeper than that. To add: Keith Haring was a key visual inspiration here.
fig. 8 - The (real) print portfolio. If you meet me, you can hold it in your hands. What I love most about this: re-imagining the title itself as art. It felt fresh, it felt bold, and - more than anything - it felt right.
Get in touch
You want a book that feels good in your hands. A book that’s aligned with what you want. And a book random strangers can’t stop looking at.
So if you want to make something beautiful, something strategic, and something different, you’re at the right place.
If you’re interested in a book cover—or other design work—just shoot me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org