Book Cover Design – Research

‘Your brief is to create a stunning and contemporary cover for one of the 20th century’s most acclaimed authors, HG Wells…….Create cover designs for three of his books, that work well as a set, and establish the books as timeless fiction’


Primary research. I haven’t designed a book cover before, so I decided to look at some of the the books I have at home. Some kindly leant to me recently…

photo 1 photo 2


more booksmore books 2

stephen king 2 stephen king


I really like  ‘Eat , pray, love’ by Elizabeth Gilbert, because its playful. pretty, and very apt. And ‘Under the Dome’ by Stephen King. This book was issued with about 6 different cover versions, all ‘portraits’ of the different main characters. Its very simple, but effective. (I’m probably biased, though, as I love Stephen King! I do wonder if I’d never heard of him, if all the books would appeal on looks alone.)

I think on looking at these books, you can see some styles repeating. Obviously each Stephen King novel features his name, or surname in equal or greater weight than the title.

The other novels are such a mixed group its harder to comment as a whole, but its interesting to see that they aren’t necessarily strongly coloured, but often have very clear typography. I wonder if designing for fiction is about creating ‘mood’?

I also had a look at the books displayed in my local bookshop. It was very noticeable that the children’s books were much more colourful, and even the adult ones had a bit more variety than mine! I noticed a mix of styles, photography and illustration, including some traditional pen and ink drawing. Like this

harold fry


Secondary research. My next step was to look on the internet for information and inspiration.

You Tube has quite a lot of informative videos on book design, one of them was a Ted talk by Chip Kidd. Its very entertaining!

I absolutely love this design. Its the memoir if an alcoholic, and Chip explains he wanted the words to look like a lie. Beautiful.

dry by Chip Kidd

H G Wells 

More than one large publisher has published H G Wells books in recent years. I looked at Gollancz/Orion publishing group and Penguin. This is a screen shot of  the Gollancz 50th anniversary editions of H G Wells’ books. The acid yellow is really striking, unfortunately I couldn’t discover the name of the designer. I think its very cool, and sort of ugly all at once!

orion publishing gollancz


I then moved my attention to Penguin, as I’d like my fictional client to be Penguin (why not?!) They celebrated their 75th anniversary by inviting ‘four of today’s most-renowned designers: Peter Blake, Zandra Rhodes, Alan Aldridge and John Squire”…to produce original designs for various books from the 50’s,60’s,70’s and 80s. I enjoyed looking at how each of these designers tackled their brief!

Design museum comments on the history of Penguin books

The slight snag is Penguin already have some really lovely designs for H G Wells….but I will just have to try! The country of the blind is a brilliant short story, which has  stuck in my memory for years. I really want to work on that title. So, I need to decide which three of his books to design and start on some roughs.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s