I gave the cover design more thought than it probably required. Here are some of my considerations. In the end Princeton University Press took my ideas and very professionally turned them into a front cover that I find attractive. The back cover, of course, comes entirely from the marketing side of things. I will confess that I never gave the back of the book a moment’s thought.
1. I started by wanting something abstract so that a reader would need to use their imagination to answer the question “what’s going on here?”
2. I did not want to represent a particular species or particular anatomical structure.
3. I wanted to focus on the developing nervous system, not the whole embryo.
4. I wanted a dark background and a limited palette to convey that this is “a serious book for serious students.”
5. I wanted something with multiple elements to reflect the cellular and molecular nature of the experimental study of neural development.
6. Early on I became fixated on schematic depictions of neuronal lineages, but in the end decided that these were boringly two-dimensional. I then violated my own precept 2, and came up with some depictions of the distribution of fasciclins in Drosophila embryos. I found these images simultaneously nostalgic and exciting, but it turned out no one else did.
7. I finally asked a non-scientist friend who is a professional scenic designer to give me some advice. He sketched out several ideas that incorporated three-dimensionality and implicit movement, which he thought captured the dynamic nature of development. In the process of trying to show me what he meant he found a version of the Shutterstock image similar to what was eventually used. The professionals took it from there!