Rachel Frankel
Designer. Illustrator. Letterer. Doughnut Enthusiast.

Book Design: Highways & Backstreets

Back in fall 2016, my then-coworker Klaus asked if I'd be interested in working together on a book project. I had never designed a book before, and decided to change that once and for all. 

Prior to his inquiry, Klaus and I hadn't really interacted too much outside of larger company meetings and functions at CreativeLive. With him being on the Engineering team (also known as the dark side) and my being on the Creative Studio team, our paths rarely crossed aside from his trips near our team's concept wall, where my lettering and sketches were often haphazardly pinned up. Those gritty sketches and lettering drafts became the desired direction for his book, which initially surprised me. As a flexible designer on the brand team, I was almost always working as quickly as possible to meet deadlines, and had developed a rough, hand-scrawled style of sorts that was a bit sloppy, but got the job done quickly and legibly enough. As it turns out, there couldn't have been a better fit for Klaus and his solo cross-country road bike trip along the Transamerica Trail, from San Mateo, California to Yorktown, Virginia.

Over the next year and a half, Klaus and I collaborated (usually hiding in one of the lofts at work, TBH) on this book, piecing together the stories and photos of his 92-day journey. I designed the book chronologically, and in this sense I also felt like I got to experience the story unfold as any other reader would. In reading through his journals and flipping through his many photos, I got to know Klaus on an entirely new level. At the surface, he was an affable, polite Austrian software engineer - but in his stories and photos, I came across a humble observer seeking a challenging adventure, solace in solitude, and comfort in strangers in order to heal from grief and find meaning outside of his cushy tech career.

Highways & Backstreets is a wonderful book full of moments that are both hilarious and poignant, sometimes all at once. The changing landscape from the west coast and mountain regions through parts of the southern United States gave Klaus a first-hand look at the varied demographics, economics, and communities of this country. While initially created as a collection of personal journals, this book tells so many stories at once. You can purchase the book online at Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

More notes on this project here.

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 The tread pattern is a major motif inside and outside the book. It was created with the front tire of Klaus’s actual road bike. Found throughout the book from end to end, the tire marks represent Klaus’s lengthy journey and the grit it took to withstand it.

The tread pattern is a major motif inside and outside the book. It was created with the front tire of Klaus’s actual road bike. Found throughout the book from end to end, the tire marks represent Klaus’s lengthy journey and the grit it took to withstand it.

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 Illustrated map of the Transamerica Trail, including Klaus’s starting point of San Francisco, CA.

Illustrated map of the Transamerica Trail, including Klaus’s starting point of San Francisco, CA.

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 Various illustrated stats from Klaus’s journey.

Various illustrated stats from Klaus’s journey.

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