The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson – Riverhead


Art direction by Helen Yentus


1. This book is equal parts hilarious and alarming. It should be read. I’m a slow reader and I polished this one off in two days between juggling work at Motown as well as other freelance assignments.

2. Jon Ronson wrote the book. He also wrote The Men Who Stare at Goats and is a guest commentator on This American Life on NPR. Although this is far from a thorough encapsulation, Ronson, in essence, profiles an imprisoned leader of a former foreign death squad, a patient in an asylum for the criminally insane and a wealthy power lusting CEO and arrives at some uncomfortable parallels with regards to how a psychopath (and psychopathy) is defined and applied in modern society. I am not a power lusting CEO, (nor am I leading a death squad, nor do I live in an asylum), but if I was hired to design this jacket based upon personal behaviors which matched the types of psychosis explored in the book, then things do not bode well for my domestic situation.

3. Riverhead did not skimp on the production touches for this one. They sprung for a combination gritty matte finish (which covers the white paper portions of the jacket) and a shiny gloss for the yellow/magenta “crazy” half, thereby giving your sense of touch a noticeable edge if you find yourself blindly scanning your shelf for this book in a dark room (which I have done). This treatment was handled beautifully. Thank you, Alex Merto.


4. As is the case with most other incredibly rewarding projects, this one did not come together quickly. Helen and I explored enough directions that by the time we arrived at the final, predatory treatment which became the approved cover, we were both sufficiently confident that no stone had been left unturned. Helen’s guidance was key. Disregarding the wholly separate directions which we tried on, a sampling of different versions of the final direction are below.

Various alternate comps










After much as-yet-documented exploration, arriving at the bunny vs. jungle cat combination bore one of those rare moments of consensus in which designer, art director, publisher and author all shared equal enthusiasm for the final direction. Once all was approved, proofed, printed and bound, this unsolicited note from Jon definitely didn’t hurt:



…and exhale.


  1. May 10th, 2011 | 11:22 am

    super sick yo. Love how the fucker wraps and splits that Riverhead logo. If that ain’t psychopathic I don’t know what is. Props.

  2. BrEt GoLdStEiN
    May 13th, 2011 | 10:58 am

    Bravo on the cover. However, you should just tell the author that anyone he believes to be a psychopath should simply be sent to me to be appropriately Vetted. Or we could just put them in a room with Hank and they would be nuts after ten good solid minutes.

  3. December 1st, 2011 | 7:53 pm

    Those are all really excellent book covers.

  4. June 26th, 2012 | 2:27 pm

    What a great cover! Fantastic!