‘All Booked Up’ Development

The ‘All Booked Up’ project was a book cover design project. It was the first visual communications pathway project that we’d been set and it ran for the 4 weeks running up to the Christmas break. We were allowed to choose an author from a list and the brief was to design a series of 4 book covers that were similar in style and had a familial feel. I chose Jean Rhys because I have read Jane Eyre and had heard of her book Wide Sargasso Sea which is written as a prequel. I did some initial research into Jean Rhys and also looked up some of the existing covers for her books. I felt strongly that I ought to know what the books were about in order to design faithful covers so I read Wide Sargasso Sea to give me a starting point. I realise now that, in the real world of design, there is not always the opportunity to do such things before starting a project and that I should perhaps have just read reviews, blurbs and synopses online. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed the book and found it extremely useful to have read it for this project.

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My first port of call for research is often Pinterest and so here is my board for this project. I liked the idea of combining photography of the handmade with digital design as well as simple imagery and symbolism. I was particularly inspired by this work by Helen Yentus and Edel Rodriguez for Chinua Achebe’s books. I like the way that their covers are bold and expressive and yet still simple and considered.IMG_9710*SPOILER ALERT* After mind mapping a few ideas, I decided that fire/flame imagery was my favourite for Wide Sargasso Sea. In the book, the main character Antoinette experiences a fire that destroys her home and it is an image that also forewarns the devastating events that involve her in Jane Eyre.

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IMG_9717I ended up becoming really interested in the idea of cutting out silhouettes in black and using them to create typography and images. I was inspired again by the work of Saul Bass and his use of cut outs for image making. I also decided that I really wanted the covers to be hand made in some way, or at least I wanted them to have an element of texture to them. I spent a while sketching little thumbnail drawings of some ideas for layout. By this point I was convinced that black and a contrasting colour would be the way forward. I used watercolours to add colour to the sketches and loved the way that it looked as a background so the design in the bottom right hand corner in the image below became the one to take forward.

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IMG_9720After deciding on the general direction for the designs I tackled the other books that I’d chosen: Voyage in the Dark, Good Morning Midnight and After Leaving Mr Mackenzie. Each one needed to have a background texture in watercolour and a clear image that linked somehow to the content of the book.

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IMG_9723IMG_9724For Voyage in the Dark I went with a feather to represent Anna’s delicacy and fragility and a grey stormy background to reflect her view of London. For After Leaving Mr Mackenzie, it was a pile of coins and a golden wash to highlight Julia’s obsession with riches. And for Good Morning Midnight, I chose a wine bottle and glass and dark pink to symbolise Sasha’s dependence on drink.  I struggled a lot to try to get the pile of coins to work as a silhouette and I wish I had chosen an image that was clearer to identify when it is silhouetted.

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I did a quick mock up of the cover on Illustrator and finalised the design. I also started thinking about the spine, back cover and dust flaps. For the blurb, I wanted the text to be filled with the same image as the background to give the effect of it having been cut out. I spent way too long trying to get this to work as I was still in the early stages of learning how Illustrator works and after much googling I eventually figured out clipping masks and HALLELUJAH it worked!

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When it came to assembling the book covers, I painted four watercolour washes and cut out the words Jean Rhys from black card along with the images I’d chosen. I experimented with cutting out the letters for the titles by hand with a scalpel and although I really liked the handmade quality, I found that it took too much time and my hand ached so I asked about using the laser cutter instead. This worked much better and I really like the way that the titles look when they’re laser cut.

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IMG_2707I was even able to laser cut little penguins which I thought were adorable and really wanted to use but they turned out to be difficult to photograph and so unfortunately didn’t make it into the final covers.

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For each part of the cover, I laid out all of the components and photographed them on the background. I was particularly pleased with the way the cover for Voyage in the Dark came out and it was definitely my favourite.

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I was really excited when I finally printed out the covers and I was able to see what they would look like on a real book- lame I know, but it’s the little things.

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Jean Rhys CollageI am ultimately extremely pleased with the way the covers turned out and I have found that, since this project, my use of watercolour has increased a lot – I love it! Also, this project helped improve my skills on Illustrator enormously and I have felt much more confident since.

R

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