Book cover design

The brief for this exercise is to design a contemporary cover for HG Wells. The task is to create three covers that work as a set and establish the books as timeless fiction.

Firstly I’ve identified the research which I’ll need to undertake.

– Find out more about HG Wells – background / history

-Identify / research his novels.

– Pick three novels which I think would work as a set. Identify the themes/ main topics of each novel and bear this in mind when designing the cover graphics.

Research methods – Primary research – read the books or at least a few books or look at summaries. Are there any movie versions available?

Started to read a few of his works after getting them from the library. Found the language very old fashioned and for speed decided to read summaries of some of his books to select which would appeal.

Secondary research  look at Internet for background  info, look at different book covers of his identifying different styles, read book reviews, collect visual swipes of other covers I like of his.

Visual research – Thinking about some of the elements I want to include in my designs then exploring the background to them. For example once I’ve identified themes and colours look at colour associations and the cultural association.

Consider how I will choose the three books – which appeal to me the most.

HG Wells background info

Born to a shopkeeper H.G Wells took a two years’ apprenticeship in a draper’s shop, tried teaching, studied biology in London, then made his mark in journalism and literature. He played a vital part in disseminating the progressive ideas which characterized the first part of the 20th-century. He is most famous for his scientific fantasies such as The Time Machine (1895) and War of the Worlds (1898), and The Island of Dr. Moreau and wrote a range of comic social novels which proved highly popular, notably Kipps (1905) and The History of Mr Polly (1910). Both kinds of novel made successful (sometimes classic) early films. A member of the Fabian Society, he was often engaged in public controversy, and wrote several socio-political works dealing with the role of science and the need for world peace, such as The Outline of History (1920) and The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind.

I began to then have a read at The History of Mr Polly but to be honest was finding it quite hard work so reverted to reading some book reviews and synopsis to get an overview of some of this works. Whilst reading the book reviews I identified several that potentially appealed and that I thought might work well together to design the covers for. I did some sketches / ideas in my sketchbook thinking about the themes and potential ideas for graphics.

The History of Mr Polly

The novel tells the story of Mr Polly a middle aged man who is fed up with his dead-end job as a draper and his wife, Miriam. He decides that the only option is to burn down his shop and kill himself. However, things don’ t quite go according to plan and he is given a new chance at life after becoming a local hero which his failed suicide attempt which wins him insurance money that save him from bankruptcy . He abandons his wife and his shop


Lack of opportunities for the lower classes, stuck in a rut, hope?

Toro- Bungay 

The main character George is persuaded by his ambitious uncle to help develop the business of selling Tono-Bungay a patent medicine. He devotes seven years of this life to the production and manufacture of the product which he believes to be a “damned swindle” as Tono-Bungay is nothing more than a pleasant-tasting liquid with no positive effects.  As the medicine becomes a sudden success as clever advertising convince society of the products merits.Later as the story progresses a downturn in fortune and with the business near to collapse, George tries to come to the rescue by stealing quantities of a radioactive compound called “quap” but is unsuccessful. His nephew engineers his uncle’s escape from England in an experimental aircraft he has built, but the ruined entrepreneur turned financier catches pneumonia on the flight and dies in a French village near Bordeaux, despite George’s efforts to save him. The novel ends with George finding a new occupation: designing destroyers for the highest bidder.

Themes/topics – Scepticism, English society, corruption

Love and Mr Lewisham

The story follows Mr Lewisham a new teacher at a boys’s school in Sussex. Here he falls in love with Ethel Henderson who is visiting relatives. His involvement with her causes him to lose his position, but he is unable to find her when he moves to London. He then in this third year of study becomes a socialist, declaring his politics with a red tie and is an object of interest to Alice Heydinger an older student.

But chance brings him together again with his first love Ethel and his strictly regimented existence is thrown into chaos. Driven by overwhelming desire, he pursues Ethel passionately, only to find that while she returns his love she also hides a dark secret. For she is involved in a plot of trickery that goes against his firmest beliefs, working as an assistant to her stepfather – a cynical charlatan ‘mystic’ who earns his living by deluding the weak-willed with sly trickery.

They marry, but Mr. Lewisham is forced to abandon his plans for a brilliant scientific career followed by a political ascent.

Themes/topics – Love, decisions , faith, hope

Ann Veronica

Set in Edwardian London, the novel follows Ann Veronica a strong female character who is determined to rule her own life. Her father forbids her from attending a fashionable art school ball and from studying science so she decides to leave her family home and make a fresh start in London.

Borrowing money from an older man and putting herself in a compromising position she enrolls to study biology and its here she meets the brilliant Capes – a married academic. She escapes the stodgy suburbs to London, enrolling as a student of biology and immersing herself in a world of intellectuals, socialists, and suffragettes. Soon, however, she finds that freedom comes at a price, when she meets the brilliant Capes, a married acad emic, and falls hopelessly in love.


Love, woman’s suffrage movement, feminism

Secondary research

Moving on I then decided to look at other examples of HG Wells book covers and also to look at the work of Book Designer Coralie Bickford-Smith a graphics designer for Penguin Books. Coralie studied Typography and Graphic Communication and her work has also featured in numerous magazines, newspapers. The work  she did for the Penguin Classics series was particular popular.



The Penguin Classics novels above like Great Expecatations and Oliver Twist all follow the same format. A simple background colour with repeated patterns which often reflect the main theme or an aspect of the novel eg Alice and Wonderland – Flamingos, Snowflakes for a Christmas Carol, key for Nortanger Abbey etc. Other examples of her work show how often very simple graphic and colour choice can be most effective and I’m sure to look at her work in more depth as the course progresses.

All images online  and accessed 6th August 2013

I then decided to work in my sketchbook thinking about some of the major themes / topics in the HG Wells novels and put together some cuttings from other examples of how his works have been illustrated.

From these ideas I then moved to Illustrator and Photoshop to experiment.

I decided to try out as many ideas as possible to fully explore the brief although I did end up with a lot of different potential outcomes.

I considering having the front covers very abstract based on the concepts of the books. Mr Polly – red , flames ; Ann Veronica – freedom, with free flowing curves/ watercolour, Tono Bungay – green and yellow almost like a toxic potion.

I’ve been working my way through the Graphic Design Essentials recommended reading and have found it really useful at thinking about things like colour choice, getting to grips with the software and typography. I decided to keep the text a mixture of sans serif and serif as the book suggests that using contrasting fonts in one piece can have a greater impact. I didn’t want to over complicate the image with text so kept the fonts very readable and timely in that they are modern but I don’t think are likely to date.

Looking at the work of  Coralie Bickford-Smith I decided to see if I could develop a simple/ illustration which would represent the main concept/ theme of each novel. Mr Polly – bike, Toro Bungay – medicine bottle, Love and Mr Lewisham science symbol etc

I considered the placement of the repeat pattern and was aware I didn’t want to just do a Photoshop/Illustrator repeat pattern but wanted the repeats to be more considered yet appear random.

Other ideas which I had were to have a suit (representing the Drapers in Mr Polly coming out of a match box and in my wisdom I experimenting using a Ken doll and some matches but figured this didn’t look right so tried the same concept using photographs and one of my illustrations.

I also experimented in illustrator with the idea of having a male suit coming out/ rising from the flames.
I think both of these ideas have some promise.

If I had to narrow it down to three covers which I think are the strongest/ work the best I would say that the repeat patterns work most effectively at being contemporary, bold and reflecting something about the novels with a timeless appeal. I’ve tried to select appropriate typography using some tried and tested formulas and think that the covers would be relatively timeless in their appeal. I’ve enjoyed experimenting in Photoshop and Illustrator and this exercise has made me really think about images and their appropriate for purpose. As I’ve just studied Illustration I think I’m still thinking I need to draw everything but I think the strongest covers in this exercise are the ones from images and I want to try use more of my own and found images in future projects and continue to be as experimental as I have been here thinking about colour, styles, placing of objects, line and typography.

Favourite images

Stamp effect think this is stronger

larger variations in size of repeat

Colours more muted think this suits a classic novel better


With Spines

Tono Bungay with spine Mr Polly bikes 2 with spine1 Love and Mr Lewishamgraph pink with spinepsd


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

%d bloggers like this: