New Work: ‘As Texas Goes…’
A new book by New York Times columnist Gail Collins, As Texas Goes…: How The Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda, hits bookstores this week with a cover designed by Pentagram’s DJ Stout. Collins, who’s been writing about national politics for nearly 40 years—17 of those at the Times—conceived of the book during Rick Perry’s quick burnout as a Republican presidential candidate. Perry’s anti big government stance and brief flirtation with the idea of secession prompted the witty East Coast columnist to write frequently about the state of Texas and its coyote-slaying governor during his short campaign and gave her the idea for her new book. In As Texas Goes… Collins explains her theory that the second largest state in the union, in both population and square footage, influences the American agenda in ways that are deeply rooted, important and not altogether positive—and she doesn’t hesitate to take a few swipes at the Lone Star state to get a few laughs along the way.
The book’s New York publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, commissioned Stout, a fifth generation Texan and the former Art Director of Texas Monthly magazine prior to becoming a partner in Pentagram’s Austin office 12 years ago, to design the book jacket. (Texas Monthly contributor James Henson pans the book in the magazine’s June issue.)
Stout welcomed the commission—and then found it hard to resist the state’s familiar visual associations. “When the contact from Norton first called me she made the case that because of my strong Texas connections, I was uniquely qualified to develop a fresh, authentic approach to the cover design,” says Stout. “But what ultimately got published was the most cliched Texas thing I could think of.” Stout, working with designer Stu Taylor, came up with the simple concept of placing a “big-as-Texas” cowboy hat on top of the Washington Monument. An antique postcard of the iconic symbol of our nation’s capital gives the jacket a distinctive, vintage look.
“I’ve always said if you want to make something Texan, just put a cowboy hat on it,” says Stout. “There are plenty of cowboy hats in other neighboring states, but for some reason the cowboy hat, as a symbol, has been co-opted as our own. I guess you could say, ‘Texas has hijacked the western-wear agenda!’”
Project Team: DJ Stout, partner-in-charge and designer; Stu Taylor, designer.