Judging A Book By Its Cover: An Artistic Analysis Of Going Rogue

As mentioned earlier, the cover of Sarah Palin's memoir, Going Rogue was released today. Since we don't yet have access to the idiocy that lies beneath, we decided to take a closer look at the cover, from an artistic perspective.

Sarah Palin's cover is very simple, almost deceptively simple. We've got blue sky, red fleece, and not much else. However, Palin's book jacket clearly comes from a long history of portraiture. It is possible to compare this image to anything from Velasquez's grandiose portraits of Philip IV to August Sander's humble photographs of German citizens. Every great leader has, at one point or another, had a photograph or painting done of them almost exactly like this one, but despite the relatively restrained design, there are a few notable things about Palin's choice. This book shows us exactly how Palin wants to be viewed by the public, so let's see what subliminal messages are hiding in plain sight on the glossy jacket.

The composition of Going Rogue immediately brings to mind photographs of another famous maverick: Amelia Earhart. Earhart is frequently shown framed against a vast expanse of blue sky, hair tousled by the wind. Palin, too, stands against a background of nothing but clouds and sky, staring gamely at something far away, something above the viewer, that only she can see (Russia, perhaps?). Palin is the entire foreground-we see nothing but her brave figure silhouetted against the open Alaska sky. The aviation symbolism is clear: Palin is ready to take flight. Tired of being hemmed in by lame-duck governorship and the twistings and turnings of the liberal media, Palin is ready to fly off on her own, forge her own path into the future.

Palin would no doubt like her audience to think of her as the continuation of a long line of fierce female warriors. Perhaps it is merely a coincidence that her book cover is so reminiscent of WWII recruiting posters. Many of these posters feature a single woman from the waist up, standing against a background of either blue sky or Old Glory. Like Going Rogue, for the most part, these women are not shown straight on, but rather from a slightly lower angle. The viewer is placed below the figure, which adds height and stature to their slight feminine frames. Unlike the images of Amelia Earhart, these women are all dolled-up, lipstick-on and ready for battle. While Palin is not dressed quite as sharply as her predecessors, her hair is flawless (as is, naturally, her lipstick). Luckily, she managed to pose for this photograph on the most windless day in Alaskan history, because nothing short of Photoshop could explain such perfection, and since we all know how much Palin appreciates truth, it is doubtful that she stooped to such low measures to manipulate her image.

In a similar vein, the color scheme of the cover brings to mind another set of propaganda posters. In the 1960s, Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong commissioned a series of posters and "large doses of didactic politicized art" in an attempt to "inoculate" the peasantry. These images show Mao looming large against a red and blue sky. Like Palin, he does not deign to make eye contact with the viewer, but looks out at something in the far distance. However, the most striking similarity between these images appears in the colors. Palin is surrounded by a white and blue, with her jacket as the sole bright spot of red. But notice that this is not one of her fancy, several-thousand dollar jackets: Instead, Palin wears a humble fleece. (Maybe she wants to remind us of her "Real America" roots. Certainly she doesn't want her customer base thinking of her as Designer Barbie Palin. Especially since, as Amazon shows, her biggest fans are currently too busy preparing for the end of the world to worry about fashion. Customers who bought this item also bought: How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It, Catastrophe, and, because everyone needs a little light reading, Glenn Beck's Common Sense.)

And, finally, one of the most important features of any book cover is the font. As typophiles know, the font sends an important message about the quality and type of publication. While we might have expected Palin to choose a bold and unadorned font like Impact (or perhaps Comic Sans), Palin's team went instead with Linotype Didot. According to Typedia, the Didot family of fonts comes from the Didot family, who lived and worked in Paris in the 19th Century. While Pierre Didot published books and prints, Firmin Didot designed the typefaces. Linotype Didot was added much later, drawn by Adrian Frutiger in 1991. Typedia informs us that this font, with its vertical emphasis and bold strokes, is the "right choice for elegant book and magazine designs, as well as advertising with a classic touch." However, as Anna notes, for all its elegance, Didot is only one "i" away from idiot. And you'd think that is one association she'd rather avoid.

Going Rogue
Linotype Didot [Typedia]