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I’m happy

How did you get started drawing all those cute animals on the covers of your books?

I've always wondered. Also, do you let the authors pick their own animals?
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  • I’m happy
    6
    The cover designer, Edie Freeman, wrote an interesting article about the animals at . The key bit:

    When I was first approached by O'Reilly to propose new covers for their books, I was immersed in the VAX/VMS world of Digital Equipment Corporation. I had heard of UNIX, but I had a very hazy idea of what it was. I had never met a UNIX programmer or tried to edit a document using vi. All of the terms associated with vi, sed and awk, uucp, lex, yacc, curses, to name just a few, sounded to me like words that might come out of a popular game called "Dungeons and Dragons." I developed a mental picture of the UNIX programmer as a "Dungeons and Dragons" player. As I started to look for imagery for the book covers, I came across some wonderful wood engravings from the 19th century. The strange animals I found seemed to be a perfect match for all those strange-sounding UNIX terms, and were esoteric enough to appeal to what I believed the UNIX programmer type to be.
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  • I’m happy
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    I missed the question about choosing own animals, sorry. In theory, no. In practise, you get some input but you don't get final say. Just ask poor James Duncan Davidson who started *two* open source projects with titles specifically for the O'Reilly book (ant and tomcat) and neither book wound up with the animal on the cover!
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  • What Nat said. There's also another piece on the history of the animals that's on the O'Reilly site at http://www.oreilly.com/news/lejeune_0.... The article is by Lorrie Lejeune. Lorrie used to work for us as an editor, but also on the side as an illustrator -- she actually created some original animals as pen and ink drawings -- most are from 19th centruy natural history books.

    In terms of picking your own animal, authors can make suggestions, but literal suggestions like Duncan's usually don't fly. There's always a backstory to the animal, a subtle reason for the choice that isn't obvious. The one story we tell is about the Perl camel, which was, as it turned out, by author request.

    A lot of people said, "Oh, Perl, you have to have an oyster." Edie said, "Give me a break!" But when Larry Wall asked for a camel, and she asked why, he said (as variously reported), "Perl is ugly but it can go long distances without water," or "Perl is ugly but it is perfectly adapted to its environment." Now that's a perfect backstory for an O'Reilly animal, deeply meaningful, but not obvious.

    I have to say, though, that the problem of choosing the right animal with a great backstory has gotten much harder over the years now that there are many hundreds of animal books.
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  • Perhaps the next round will be books with plant life illustrations?
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  • Tim,

    I'd like submit my 16 year Red Lori named Skittles (she's in the picture to the left) for a cover animal. If you need a symbol for some software that is beautiful, fun to work with but will bite the crap out of you without warning, she's your bird!
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  • I’m shocked
    Hi Leslie's mom. It looks like they've already used the lory for a book cover. Some would say VB is beautiful software. And even more might say that Microsoft products will bite the crap out of you without warning. All in all I'd say the MCSD exam book is a pretty good fit ;)

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