Thursday, April 29, 2010


Ok so the questionnaire I designed a few posts down, I started interviewing people with it and it wasn't really any good. Here are the answers:

Do you read a lot of books?

Why/why not?
Because I have other hobbies.
What is your favourite book?
The hobbit.

I enjoyed fantasy as a child and it sparked creativity and imagination.
Do you have a favourite genre?
Religious Thrillers (NOT THE DA VINCI CODE)
Do you remember what any of the covers to the books you read look like?
No. they were all bad. Bad photography on the front. Not engaging.
Do you have a favourite album cover?
Beck- The information.
What do you like about it?
Colour choices. And admires collage.

Do you read a lot of books?

Why/why not?
Not enough time.
What is your favourite book?
Lord Of The Rings
I really enjoy fantasy books. As long as it is, the language is really simple to read.
Do you have a favourite genre?
Do you remember what any of the covers to the books you read look like?
Lord of the rings special edition packaging all 3 together. I remember the foil blocking on the hard back bit.
If so, what did you like/dislike about them?
I liked the hardback bit rather the the paper cover. I'm a huge fan of the material it's printed on and the foil-blocked type.
Do you have a favourite album cover?

Rage Against The Machine (self titled) Incubus Morning View
What do you like about it?
The imagery sticks out most, both photographic. Resonate because they're some of the first albums I bought.

As you can see, a lot of it's difficult to answer and unnecessary, for example, asking them if they read or don't and why not, really doesn't inform my design practice, nor is it easy for them to answer in any meaningful way. The only really important bit;s of information are the 'Do you remember any book covers you've seen... why?' section. It allows me to evaluate what's successful and what's not in book cover design. so I stripped the interview to these questions, asking:What is the best book cover you can remember seeing and why?
What is your favourate album cover and why?

I asked the last question for those who aren't really into books, ideas about imagery and even finishes/paper stocks might come from this. Here are a selection of answers:
What is the best book cover you can remember seeing and why?
-It was for the 'Mozipedia'. The design had an illustrated portrait of Morrissey on the fron with nice hand-rendered type instead of facial features and the hair was spot varnished which looked sick!
-It was a book called 'sharp teeth' a hardback, it had a picture of a dog on the front, it was black and white on red stock and the imagery and type sat together so strongly.
-It was an old print for the Great Gatsby. It was a woman's eyes against a city backdrop. It carried a real weight and levity to it.
-I'm a big fan of the very traditional pelican books, they use a very limited colour scheme and very simple design to very striking results.
-It was a cover for the Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. It had an ambigous silhouette of a woman photographed through a bell jar and it was very striking. The photograph summed up the plot really well and the words over the fron were really contemporary looking in a pink.
-I love vintage most things so the penguin classics are all appreciated. There's something at once very dated and very timeless about them.
What is your favorite album cover and why?
-It's the cover to 'The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me' by Brand New. It was printed on a really nice cardboard sleeve and the photograph was so ambiguous that it was intriguing.
-The artwork to 'Infinity Land'- Biffy Clyro, mainly because it stinks of ink still.
-I loved Laura Marlng's 'songbox' a package released with her album that had a load of artwork and 'presents' in it. A special edition package is always lovely.
-I like the Abbey Road artwork, there's something so iconic about it, yet so simple.
-Modest Mouse, the Moon & Antarctica. It's a well chosen colour pallette and the central imagery is like a rorshach test even though its obviously antarctica. It's a well balanced composition too.

Things I have learned from this:
What people had to say was interesting, often the imagery stuck out for it's simplicity or it's ability to communicate an emotion. It was interesting to note that someone preferred the actual hardback cover to the paper sleeve that covered it. I think I'm in agreement on this issue. I liked the comment about the special editions, with all the promotional material you get with them. I think it's important to remember this and try and package some high quality materials in with them to: Postcards, posters? it's worth thinking about. I also liked the comments from actual design students who loved things like spot-varnishing and foil blocking. I think these things are great and I fully intend on at least trying them out, but the awareness a designer has compared to general book reader is interesting to note. Other things I've noted are the importance placed on paper stocks for the album covers. i think the significance of having something quite tactile and beautiful is very significant for those looking at investing in a special edition.

John Steinbeck covers:

I decided to look at the way other people have specifically tackled John Steinbeck novels. As a collection, I can honestly say they, collectively are some of the worst covers I've looked at. A lot of the time they're going for a classic look, which I guess suits the literature, but they're quite simply, awful. The attempt at being radical on Viva Zarata looks really messy and the vibrant pink is a little garish. Others like the fantasy-style artwork for the pearl just evoke a really amateurish feel.

Below are some covers that I can't find a credit for, however they're really contemporary and really appropriate illustration techniques. It might be worth adopting something like this to however, it being special editiong, I might need to do things such as adding spot varnish or foil blocking to make it look mroe expensive and one-off-ish.. or collectible and desirable.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Books working as a series:

Christina Bazzoni:

Christina Bazzoni uses a band with the book title and author name to create a continuity between these books, allowing her to use very different imagery for every book whilst still keeping a coherant series. The design it's self is strong, however it's a little too dry for my own design tastes and perhaps even those of my target audience.

Jim Tierney:

I really like this series by Jim Tierney. It manages to tie the series together simply by keeping a similar aesthetic through out and using the same decorative font and positions of the author's name. This allows him to play with very different illustrations, appropriate to the individual novels and very different colour schemes even, whilst tying the books together.

Jamie Keenan:

This series of Stephen King books by Jamie Keenan has a very strong visual identity, keeping the colour scheme to one colour plus black. Using very similar layout throughout, changing only the imagery and the 'one colour' to make it appropriate to the individual novels. I think they work reasonably well, however the font for the author''s name isn't really to my tatse and I'm not a fan of the way it goes beyond the boundaries of the cover.

Penguin classics (traditional):

I just put these up to show a very simple colour based series. The layouts and the type choices are what keep this working as a series, and I think it works very successfully as a set, however, again, I don't think it's appropriate to my potential target audience.

Herman Chong:

This series looks amazing. Very simple minimalist layout with different vector art to illustrate the subject of each booklet. I think this is strong but again, might be a little dry in terms of visuals I'm going to look at.

Ed Cornish

These work because of the same font used throughout and it's desire to use only black and white. Other than that, the covers are very different in terms of layout. Personally, I don't find the designs too pleasing on the eye, although, I can appreciate they are successful and work. I think they're just a bit cold and lifeless for me.

Charlotte Strick:

I choe this example to show how books can work in a series through clever packaging. I think the art work for this is beautiful and I really enjoyed how the typography spread across 3 spines, I thought it was very clever. The ilustrations themselves are also beautiful and full of character. I think these are beautifully successful.

I thin that book covers work best as a series if they have 2-3 things in common with each other from the following list: Colour, layout, font, illustration. Too many things in common and oyu have exactly the same book, too few and it doesn't work very coherently.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Targeting my audience

I'm going to list a load of questions that I might ask my demographic (16-25 year olds), in order to get useful information, hopefully I'll end up with a set of questions I can ask when interviewing (i.e. not a blanket questionnaire.)

Do you read a lot of books?
Why/why not?
What is your favourite book?
Do you have a favourite genre?
Have you read any of the following titles (titles from the books in the series.)?
What did you think of them if you did?
Do you remember what any of the covers to the books you read look like?
If so, what did you like/dislike about them?
Do you have a favourite album cover?
What do you like about it?

Right I think that's a good start. I'll go in to the crit tomorrow and perhaps ask if there is any other questions that people could potentially think of. I asked about the album covers because music is something that the demographic engage in more than literature and it's be good to know what they like/look for in album artwork. I also think that these questions would be a bit difficult to answer just in a questionnaire so I'm probably going to lead a series of interviews in order to take more control of the answers I get out.

Contemporary bok design from

Tom Petty

I thought 'd show this one because it's a really great use of embossing that creates the idea of ghostly-ness i.e. it's there, but it's not there really. This guy isn't even a graduate yet so there's no reason I can't reach this level of professionalism.

Stewart A. Williams

I chose to look at this one because it's really, really hand done and lo-fi. However I don't particularly like it, whilst one colour plus black is a nice simple combination, the messy artwork against the yellow seems to conjour up images of accidents and ticker tape. I personally don't think this is a good thing.

Sam Webber

This imagery for Lord of the Flies is really strong, using the idea of Piggy's glasses from the book to create a very strong visual identity, however, I personally feel that leaving off the title from the front cover may be a bad choice in terms of communicating what the book is properly. Some nicely set type underneath would be a good addition, to clarify the book.

Meg Paradise

I've chosen Meg Paradise's work mainly for Florian Del Cassonetto. I really like the idea of using handmade typography, it's becoming somewhat of a specialty, so it's good to witness it working so successfully in a book cover setting.

Dave Pearson

I thought that this was a wonderful combination of illustration and properly laid out typography. I can also imagine this as a series of different books using different background colours and appropriate silhouettes.

Christopher Brand

I chose this again because of it's use of handmade typography. I like the simplicity and the colour and imagery choices really suit the content (16th Century literature)

Book City Jackets

These book covers serve no real purpose, they'r enot for a specific book, they're just there to hide ugly book covers, which I think is hilarious. The illustration is of a high quality and I like the simplicity of one colour plus stock and the way it works.

Alan Trotter

I like the contrast between typography and very handmade type on the covers to illustrate the Government and the Resistance of the novel. However I don't think this works for a few reasons: The cover doesn't really communicate what it is, and overal, the cover is just insanely busy.

Atlantic books

This is unfortunately not properly credited. I love the combination of intricate illustration with proper typography and well thought out layout and the simple colour choices work beautifully.

Nick Podpisany

I think this is a really good example of a way that the book cover designs can be applied to the e-book/i-phone/i-pad formats successfully. They still appear tactile and handmade and desirable even though they're flat images. I think it's important to remember that I can use a system like this when applying my designs across to a digital format.

Deciding content:

20th century American classics:
The Great Gatsby
To Kill a Mockingbird
Gone with the wind
Catch 22
Of Mice and Men
The Grapes of Wrath
Brave New World
Animal Farm
Native Son
The Catcher in The Rye
For Whom The Bell Tolls
The Bell Jar

From these, I've decided to pick ones I have read and ones I want to read (I can read them as part of the project, giving me an excuse to devote time to it.)

I've read:
Of Mice and Men
The Grapes of Wrath
To Kill A Mockingbird
The Catcher In The Rye

Of Mice and Men is far too small, so I'll use the grapes of wrath, Steinbeck's other novel form the list, which is considered his masterpiece.

I want to read:
The Great Gatsby
The Bell Jar

I have to include at least one female author, it's only fair. Gone with the wind is ridiculously long and so wouldn't fit, Sylvia Plath's the Bell Jar is a better fit.

Conclusive list:
To Kill a Mocking Bird –Harper Lee
The Catcher In The Rye –J. D. Salinger
The Grapes of Wrath –John Steinbeck
The Bell Jar –Sylvia Plath
The Great Gatsby –F. Scott Fitzgerald
Catch 22 –Joseph Heller
I think it's quite coherant list, they all deal with very human and very American issues and I'm looking forward to reading the 3 I haven't read in order to inform the content.

Next I'm going to look at book covers and possible ways to deliver it digitally.

Finding a context for my brief.

Ok, so I know I want to produce a series of packaging, whether it be CD artwork or book covers, so I need to find this context and really nail it before I can progress.

I thought about what I'm interested in and the following options presented themselves:

A series of special edition factory record re-releases:

I'm really into music of the era, and to create a special edition release or a series of special edition releases would keep me enthused and allow me to apply a range of designs to very different applications.
A lot of the artwork in CD's is part of the public consciousness about these classic releases, to then redesign the packaging would sort of contravene a public understanding of the artwork, if I was to do this I'd have to honour the imagery and type of the classic records. This means that half of the work would be done for me and it's also very limiting.

A series of classic old school hip-hop releases:
Theres alot of artwork for old school hip hop, which is a little shonky, even though the records are great, giving me room to redesign in a way that's positive to fans rather than perhaps betraying them. Also, alot of traditional hip hop covers use illustrated type, whic is something I enjoy and can play around with.
Again, although a lot of the artwork is bad and I could redesign it, I would probably have to pay homage to a few, creating a potential mixed bag of outcomes and a difficulty in creating things that work as a set or series.

A series of 20th Century sci-fi novels:

Potential content:

Sci-fi novels really have an interesting range of cover designs and I like the challenge of appealing to a sci-fi market etc. Also book covers are a lot less sacred than album artwork, allowing me to be really creative and exercise creating a set/series a lot more fully than with cd artwork.
I don't really have a detailed knowledge of sci-fi novels, that I think would be really useful to aiding the production of type and imagery that communicate narrative and themes of the book.
A series of 20th Century American Literature releases:

I have already read a lot of these novels and have a really strong interest in literature of this genre, allowing me to keep enthused. Again, book covers aren't so sacred so I can really play with them. Also I think it's a genre of literature that isn't really read by a younger audience, and I think it should be so theres a potential audience to market to, there.
Theres been a large range of cover designs for these classics already, it's going to be difficult to come up with something truly unique.

This has helped me clarify that I can't really do album artworks for special editions if I want to come up with something unique, so it's bets to go with book covers still. I think that given my interest in 20th century american literature, this is the best to go for.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Additional Type as Image research

Sarah Watts

I think the key to this is the successful interaction between type and image, as well as appropriate and muted colour palette as well as a nice paper stock. things to bare in mind.

J Galiana

I really like this and the way it's been contextualised, I'm wondering whether it's worth just doing some contextual quotes of my typefaces, not to print necassarily, but just to see them function.

Julene of designworklife

I just liked how ornate and beautiful this was, not to mention the extreme craft that went into it.

Astrid Chesney

I chose this because o the delicate way it's displayed and it's colour choice does make it very much 'blue' and it's something I should bare in mind when doing my type

Andrew Smith

Apart from having an awful website layout, he does amazing hand drawn type, here are a few examples I like, I think they work because of their bold colour choices and well thought out typographical layout. I think I need to bare in mind what these typefaces are goin to look like laid out.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Negotiated brief research part ii

So this is the part where I look at the words I've picked and try and match type characteristics to them. I can use this to identify typefaces I could use as a starting point to draw from.

-sans serif
-large counters
-Upper case
-No counters
-lower case
-small counters
-sans serif
-upper case
-sans serif
-lower case
-upper case

I also think it's important to find imagery I can work into the design:

This work by Jonny shows how gooey or a similar aesthetic can be made using texture to create a dripping effect:

Similarly, fonts used for horror films have a similar quality that I can draw from.

Both these by Jon Contino are appropriate to gooey.

I chose this example by Edgar Reyes because of the words 'Fiesta' and 'en mexico'
it's angular and sketchy nature makes it look quite aggressive to my eyes.

Again, big bold angular type seems to say aggression to me in this piece by Stuart DBDD


This piece by James Gulliver Hancock may seem a little odd, but I think a serif font thats very thin could work quite effectively to demonstrate melancholy and I think I'll use this as a starting point.

I also think that working in textures like the ones in this piece could give a sort of delicate, melancholic feel.


In this illustration by Fiodor Sumkin. I think the words 'Grind' and 'out' have a nice qaulity to the serifs they use, if I use a similar amount of serif embellishments but make them even more angular, I can make a very sharp, hopefully citrus-like typeface.
Again, the manipulation of serifs in this piece by Nate Williams makes the font appear quite sharp and I could easily manipulate smething like this to make it seem 'citrus'.

This piece by Jade Sibley sort of suits cowardly in that it's a little wobbley and there are no counters, which kind of suggests it's closed off. If I were to manipulate something like this to make it look like it was shaking and perhaps make it a bit smaller too, then it might work effectively to demonstrate cowardice.

Jon Contino, the way the word 'ghost' is written with it's shakey lines could be quite representative of cowardice too.


Again, the font above is created by Jon Contino, the script style and serif embellishments really create a feel of royalty and luxary.

Similarly, the embellishments on this piece by DiR also create a feel of luxury.