Cult of Mac book designer embraces ‘think different’

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cover of Cult of Mac 2E
The Apple inspiration doesn't stop with the cover.
Photo: No Starch Press

Designer Derek Yee asked himself why there weren’t any books about Macs that looked like MacBooks.

So when the assignment came across his desk to design The Cult of Mac, 2nd Edition, he thought that making the upcoming book’s cover look and open like a silvery MacBook Pro was a winning idea.

His colleagues at No Starch Press weren’t so sure.

To prove his point, he made a video. It showed a pair of hands pulling the book from the laptop compartment of a backpack. A hand opens the cover to reveal a keyboard.

“There definitely was pushback,” Yee told Cult of Mac. “The video sold it. I think it is one of the biggest projects where we really pushed what we could do creatively while still making sure we didn’t alienate readers.”

The Cult of Mac, 2nd Edition, written by Leander Kahney and David Pierini, is now available for preorder on Amazon for $39.95. In stores Dec. 17, this primer on Apple fan culture is a follow-up volume to Kahney’s 2004 book, The Cult of Mac.

Yee, the creative director at No Starch Press, also designed Kahney’s first book. That book’s cover, showing the back of a man’s head sporting a shaved-in Apple logo, became iconic. (It became the logo for this website, which Kahney founded shortly after the release of the first edition.)

Just say no to shaved heads

Yee came up with a similar cover for Kahney’s 2009 book, The Cult of iPod.

“The image of the shaved head is so tied to Cult of Mac,” Yee said. “You have to have the guts to say, ‘That worked. Now let’s do something different.’ To me, that’s something Apple would do.”

The Cult of iPod is another Cult classic.
Another Cult classic.
Photo: No Starch Press

With the cover for the new book figured out, Yee considered what inside design touches would be a nod to Apple — and could be understood by the reader. Yee challenged the reader on the page following the keyboard diagram.

The text is askew, forcing the reader to angle the book to read the line straight across. Each page that follows displays elements at a new angle, forcing the reader to turn the book again and again as they flip through the opening section. Finally, a few pages in, the rotation from horizontal to vertical (à la iPhone/iPad) is complete.

“With the elements turning, the printer thought it was a mistake,” Yee said with a chuckle.

A chapter about music feels like being inside Garage Band. The display of photos for a chapter on iPhone photography hints at scrolling through a Camera Roll.

A Mac-inspired music chapter in The Cult of Mac, 2nd Edition got a design inspired by Garage Band
Garage Band inspired the design of a chapter on Mac music.
Photo: No Starch Press

Cult of Mac book designer: An early Mac fan

Yee seemed destined for a career in design as early as kindergarten, when a teacher noticed his artistic skills. But Yee says he was a contrary kid and was “not going to do what the adults said.”

By the time he reached college at California State University, Hayward, Yee was on a business track that included marketing and real estate. With the personal computing revolution just starting, Yee became intrigued by the Macintosh.

He began “messing around” with the first versions of Photoshop and Illustrator. And he came across a job listing for a newspaper looking for someone to do layout and advertising illustration.

“I thought the job sounded fun,” he said. “I applied and got it because I knew how to use a Mac. I did not want to do what I studied for. I took design classes at night. I did things backward.”