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.
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.*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.
I 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.
After 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.
For 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.
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!
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.
I 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.
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.
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.
I 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.