Here’s a little Sunday morning, behind the scenes graphic insight for you. For me, the best graphic jobs involve working with historic photos.  I learned to love the intricate detail in emulsion layers that only a chemical bath can produce. The processing is what makes analog photography so rich looking, and enhances details you’ll find lacking in digital photography. If you scan an old photograph at super high DPI, go scrounge up a magnifying glass and then compare the digital scan with the original print. You’ll be able to tell immediately which is which.

One of my clients wanted a book cover based on a historic photograph of a street scene. After doing some research sourcing the right photograph, sent a few candidates to the client for selection. I started to work on my layers with the chosen photograph, a 1930 street scene of the Feast of the Assumption in Little Italy on Mayfield Road.

Cleveland Press Collection

A beautiful street scene, but foreground clutter and other elements need edited to make room for book cover graphics. There are banner elements and iron work that I can reuse in more layers to develop a composite image. A draft of elements for the feature graphic is below, with many more steps to go to clean up the assembled graphic elements to go.

Draft of work in progress…

Once the client approves the direction of a graphic like this, I’ll move on with adding author, sizing, and developing the complete layout for front, back and spine. The final cover can’t be completed until the book text has been laid out and the total number of pages has been determined. It is the number of pages that dictates how wide the spine, and therefore, the complete cover will be.



Burning River Design is a Northeast Ohio creative company with support and consulting services in photography, design, publishing, research, curation and archives.

  • Photography (asset documentation, catalog and museum)
  • Graphic design (refreshing, restoring, and recreating images)
  • Publishing projects, including layouts for book interiors, covers, and illustrations. Read more about why you should hire a book designer…
  • Research of all kinds, such as genealogy assistance, company histories, photographs sourcing, and library crawling of all kinds. When we do the research for you on specialized topics, you can focus on your overall project.
  • Primary asset archival treatment, digital asset management, archives organization. We have over 15 year experience in archive management, digitization, and other special collections needs.

Lynn Bycko, the company founder, is a historian, curator, archivist, photographer, author, speaker and instructor with over 20 years experience.


As businesses and organizations continue to migrate analog imagery to digital, sometimes they realize the only copy of an important graphic is painted on a wall, embroidered on a shirt, or part of a piece of stationary. It’s time to freshen those images up!

An example of recreating, rebooting and refreshing came with a graphics project from a cathedral, to render a bishop’s coat of arms with a new background. This new version is intended for printing on canvas banners.We’d love the opportunity to help with your project. Contact us for a quote!




In today’s edition of “things that go boom in the archives” we have a set of nitrate negatives. These were donated by a guy who stored them in his garage in a paper envelope. What makes them go boom? Cellulose nitrate! It is the material that makes the film base that is printed on with the silver emulsion. When cellulose nitrate isn’t happy (too hot, humid or lots of climate fluctuations) it decomposes to a brittle, sticky bubbly mess. The best part is it can spontaneously combust! Tune in sometime in the future for a new edition of “Things that can kill you in the archives” where we discuss why my tetanus vaccination is always up to date.