Alef Betty: Modern Hebrew Arts

Sign up for the Newsletter

Get updates, friends and family specials, and lots of love in your inbox monthly.

Email *



Of course your email address will never be shared, and you can opt-out easily at any time.

Haggadah B-Sides

A look behind the scenes at the making of the Urban Family Passover Haggadah.

The best designs seem inevitable in hindsight, but the path to them is often circuitous and painstaking. Many ideas go through several rounds of sketching or get fully developed into finished directions, only to be abandoned. Curious to see covers that didn't make the cut? Here are a few outtakes from the design process, straight from the cutting room floor:


I took a lot of photographs of pins and thread in various configurations, thinking I might use them either for the cover design or the interior illustrations.

The circles were inspired by the seder plate:

I also tried creating shapes with thread strung from the pins:

I ultimately used that last shot in conjunction with a photograph I had taken of a seagull to make a cover design. I was playing with the theme of constraint and freedom:


Another direction for the cover started as a physical collage and later became a digital collage. The first sketch I made was a series of lines sewn into paper. This idea later became a line illustration for the interior, but it was first considered as a dimensional element to be used for the cover:

I used printing ink and a roller to create the ground for this collage, and then added pieces I had painted with gouache before sewing into the composition with thread:

I decided that the color from the collage was vibrating too much, so I digitally constructed a similar layout:

Bold shapes

I tried incorporating traced letterforms to give a feeling of the hand:

I also experimented with bolder artwork – I was trying to capture the energy of seeking freedom. This was the collage I used to mock everything up:

And the finished flat:

A small circle of trusted advisors saw all of these covers, as well as the one we ended up using. The feedback was nearly unanimously in favor of the one that made the cut. Arielle and I were too close to it at the time, but now that we've had some time to live with the final design, it seems so obviously right!

« Back to all stories