Proposed Book Cover for Peter Thiel’s ‘Zero to One’
I was recently going through an archive of old work and stumbled onto a book cover design that I created back in 2014 for Peter Thiel's 'Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future'. Unfortunately my cover never made it beyond first approval but I remember being pleased with this early, quick draft of the concept. At the time, I was approached by Patrick Gray, a good friend of mine who was working closely with Thiel Capital, about designing the cover (or at least executing a concept for it). Pat provided a full brief as well as a handful of rough sketches with potential ideas — most of which, in hindsight, would have been much better suited for the cover than what I ultimately executed.
While there are many key points and corresponding metaphors in the book, the primary idea — which influenced the book's title — revolves around vertical progress. The following is a key excerpt from the book: "When we think about the future, we hope for a future of progress. That progress can take one of two forms. Horizontal or extensive progress means copying things that work — going from 1 to n. Horizontal progress is easy to imagine because we already know what it looks like. Vertical or intensive progress means doing new things — going from 0 to 1. Vertical progress is harder to imagine because it requires doing something nobody else has ever done. If you take one typewriter and build 100, you have made horizontal progress. If you have a typewriter and build a word processor, you have made vertical progress.”
Looking back on the cover that I created six or so years ago, I've realized that, while visually appealing and fun, the illustrative aspects of the concept were too obvious. Initially the art was meant to reflect the rarity of vertical progress (an abundance of zeros and few ones) and, while that works to a certain extent, the visual movement of the typography is happening horizontally. Furthermore, there is a more literal, binary-inspired symbolism that stands out, which ultimately reflects a dated approach to visualizing the future and/or technology. It reminds me of something you might have seen in 1980 for a book about Y2K — a total contradiction to the book itself.
1 to n.