Exercise: Judging a book by it’s cover

For this exercise we were asked to chose a book by an author we were familiar with and create two covers for it, one created using illustrations one by using type. I chose the novel ‘The Horse and his boy’ by C.S.Lewis.

I started by researching cover versions or artwork based on the novel within Pinterest. Here’s a link to the board:

https://www.pinterest.com/ariseandshine/the-horse-and-his-boy/

I also started some brainstorms of themes within the novel that could provide basis for visuals on the cover:

The Horse and his boy themes

The Horse and his boy themes

From this I picked up some ideas for visuals and then broke down ideas in categories based on method, so ‘photography, Illustration, type’ and brainstormed around those:

The horse and his boy method ideas

I then took these ideas a step further and drew thumbnails sketches to test out some layouts:

The horse and his boy thumbnails

The horse and his boy thumbnails

Close up of thumbnail designs.

Close up of thumbnail designs.

I’d had a variety of ideas for each possible method, and some of the photography ideas seemed pretty fun (namely an idea that involved making a set out of toy animals and felt), but I felt in the interest of keeping within time constraints I’d better make an illustrated & type based cover. I’m slightly more practised with creating illustrations so this seemed like a more reasonable option!

I focused in on bringing to life one thumbnail image (you can see it in the photo above, middle thumbnail at the bottom of the photo). I chose this design based on a couple of factors. Firstly the kind of book, ‘The Horse and his boy’ is a classic, fictional story, that was written for children (probably early teens), but that is also considered a important literary piece for adults. It is one of the ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ series, and as such sits within a well loved, classic series. Part of me wanted to completely push the boundaries and create a very modern pared back looking cover to try and give new life to the book. But I decided this was unwise, as part of the books charm or selling point is it’s classic nature, my visuals needed to carry that same message.

Secondly, I considered the nature of the story itself. The story is a tale of adventure and an exploration of two very different worlds. It centres around two human characters (Shasta & Aravis) and two talking  animals (Horses named Bree & Hwin), all of whom discover more of their nature and destiny in the process of an actual journey from one nation to another. These nations, and people seem like opposites, I wanted to try and display this visually, linking character’s to their country or place of familiarity.

 Cover designs:

I began by creating a watercolour sketch in my sketchbook of the thumbnail design I’d liked. I picked a muted colour palette with some accent or bold colours to highlight points of difference in the worlds seen. For instance, the blue tops to the buildings in the foreground are a deep but brilliant blue to make you think of places like Morocco or the middle east. The girl in the foreground, is wearing a top of the same colour to visually link her to that place (in the story the girl, Aravis, comes from that city). The boy in contrast is in duller/lighter coloured clothes to try and link him visually with the mountains, as in the story the land beyond the mountains is where he actually originates.

I felt like the medium of watercolour suited that classic feel I was hoping to achieve, it suits an novel that’s been long established and has a sense of age as well as quality.

Water colour sketch of thumbnail.

Water colour sketch of thumbnail.

I was happy with colours and general effect created by the watercolour and pen combination so decided to create an expanded version of the design that cover the front, spine and back cover. I felt it would be easiest to do this in stages, so first creating a background layer of watercolour, then a pen drawing layer. I painted the watercolour layout in my sketchbook before scanning it onto the computer and using Photoshop to try and sort of the colour/brightness levels.

Whole cover watercolour painting in sketchbook

Whole cover watercolour painting in sketchbook

Whole Cover watercolour scan

Whole Cover watercolour scan

Whole cover watercolour after Photoshop adjustments.

Whole cover watercolour after Photoshop adjustments.

You can see from the images above I had some trouble with the quality of the scanned image, and tried to rectify this using Photoshop. I’m not sure the adjustments actually gave it the same quality as the original watercolour but it did improve the visibility of certain colours.

I then created a pen drawing over the top on tracing paper, I scanned in the tracing paper to then convert it into a vector image in Illustrator.

Pen drawing of cover on tracing paper.

Pen drawing of cover on tracing paper.

Whole cover vector trace.

Whole cover vector trace.

I then set about bringing the two elements together in illustrator:

 

The Horse and his boy v1

The Horse and his boy v.1

I used a script based font for the title – ‘Alex Brush’ and a serif font for the blurb text – ‘Bookman Old style’. I tried to keep a link between the front and back cover by continuing the line of the mountains, desert & grass onto the back and by using and oval shaped backdrop for the blurb text.

The only difference in version two (see image below) is the choice of fonts. I used one font for the title and the main text – ‘Bodoni MT’. I just wanted to see what it would look like using the same font and a serif font rather than a script one for the title. I think the script font is more effective as it feels a little bit more special/fancy, the serif font gives the feel of an important document rather than an special story.

 

The Horse and his boy v.2

The Horse and his boy v.2

For version 3 I decided to changed the background layer from one based on a watercolour to one made up of fabric textures/fabric scans.  I guess I wanted the texture of the fabric as well as the colour or pattern to come through and add a little more interest/youth to the cover.

Felt/Fabric Pieces for scanning

Felt/Fabric Pieces for scanning

The Horse and his boy v.3

The Horse and his boy v.3

I kept the same oval shapes featured in the first couple of versions, but I only provided type for the title to keep things moving. I like the texture and sense of movement the fabric fills bring to the background but I’m not sure about the colours. Scanning the fabric altered the colour of the fabrics slightly so they pop a lot more than they do in natural life. It makes the version look a little bit bolder than I’d intended. I used a script font, this time I tried – ‘Pacifico Regular’.

For version 4 I kept the same fabric based background but changed some of the fonts and shapes present. I used ‘Pacifico Regular’ for the tile and ‘Century Gothic Regular’ for the blurb. I think it’s more effective a combination than the previous versions. I also prefer using the rounded rectangle shape for the blurb to sit on, it just adds a little bit more interest, but still keeps a similar style to the oval shape on the front cover. I also like the orange pink colour for the title, it adds a little contrast against the background.

The Horse and his boy v.4

The Horse and his boy v.4

The fifth version (see image below), was similar to the forth version asides from changes to fonts. I used ‘QumpellkaNo12’ for the tile and ‘Century Gothic Regular’ for the blurb. I also tried a changing the font colour to white across the whole cover. I think it gives a clean, clear look but I prefer the colour of the fonts used in version 4 they seem a little more inviting.

The Horse and his boy v.5

The Horse and his boy v.5

The sixth and final illustrative version of the cover was a change again. I decided to change all the fabric fills to plain colour fills in illustrator, I just wanted to see what the cover looked like in simple clean colours without the texture from the fabric. I made the colour palette much more muted, and subtle, part of me thinks it suits the classic nature of the book more. But then another part of me thinks it looks too dull for a children’s story. I kept the same fonts as in version 5, and kept the colour to white.

The Horse and his boy v.6

The Horse and his boy v.6

 Type cover

I think I may have misinterpreted the brief for the type based cover. The brief does say using type only, and my design features silhouette shapes which the type sits inside of, so perhaps this is off brief?

Anyhow I based my design on a simple drawing of the head/bust of a boy, (meant to make you think of the character Shasta). I scanned this image in and turned it into a vector drawing, then used the negative as a shape for the text to sit within…

Original boy shape/drawing

Original boy shape/drawing

Vector trace/drawing

Vector trace/drawing

Horse and his boy type v1

Horse and his boy type v.1

 

I used an odd choice of font for my first version (see image above), in that I used a San serif font. I didn’t expect it to work (and it didn’t) but wanted to see if it worked as I expected. I used ‘Questrial Regular’ for the title and blurb. It comes across as very formal and text book like, not the look I wanted.

So for version two I tried a serif font which is also (or strongly resembles) a script font for the title and a sans serif for the blurb. I used ‘QumpellkaNo12’ for the title and ‘Questrial Regular’ for the blurb. I think the title font is a vast improvement from the first version, it has just enough of a sense of movement or flair, whilst keeping legibility.

Horse and his boy type v.2

Horse and his boy type v.2

For the third version I played with the size and arrangement of the title text, making it much larger to utilise the space created within the white space (see image below). I prefer the third version to the second as it grabs attention, but keeps the classic feel. The font works well enlarged.

Horse and his boy type v3

I also drew a Horse shape to try and create a cover version using that motif, but in the interest of time it felt right to leave it there:

Horse Silouette

Horse shape

 

Favourite versions:

The Horse and his boy v.6

The Horse and his boy v.6

Horse and his boy type v3

 

 

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