19. Judging a Book by its Cover

This exercise asked us to design two different book covers for a novel of our choice one with only type the other with illustration or photography.

My downfall in this sort of exercise is spending far too long faffing about choosing what book to do, so after some initial indecision I choose “The Universe vs Alex Woods” a book I’m fairly familiar with after reading last summer.

After researching some of the book cover in my other post and looking at Random House I think it was fairly important I was fairly familiar with the plot ( don’t you ever read books and quickly forget about them even although you remember the gist of the story).

The current covers for the book are below (one is the UK edition the other the US – I think the third is a the kindle edition)

Looking at the current covers they all feature some type namely “A tale of an unlikely friendship” which perhaps tells us something else about the book, in addition to images of both characters which are pretty small in comparison to the complete cover as they sit against a backdrop of a grass mound – one with a tree ( which isn’t featured in the book particularly but does suggest longevity / life stability friendship.

Type is sans serif all caps – warped to fit the shape of the mound and in the UK version arched.

With a bit of research I discovered the images were provided/ constructed by Matt Walford a Commercial Photographer based in the UK. His images are really striking – full of colour and very imaginative. I find it hard to work out which elements of these are photographs and which are Photoshopped.

Matt is a highly creative Commercial Photographer based in the UK. With a meticulous eye for detail and colour, Matt has been producing striking work for Editorial, Commercial and Private clients for the past 5 years. A lot of the imgaes seem to features nature and include flowers and plants.

Matt Walford 2014 http://www.mattwalford.co.uk/# All images [Accessed: 8th March 2014]


The novel centres around the unlikely friendship between the boy Alex and Mr Peterson.

The son of a fortune teller, bookish, and an easy target for bullies, Alex hasn’t had the easiest childhood. Alex is somewhat notorious because as a young boy, he was hit by a meteor and recovered after a two week coma, but not without consequences. He gets severe epilepsy, enough that it keeps him out of school for a year and means hes often the target for the school bullies.

Alex is a very genuine and likeable character and is in the process of learning about life and literature, about how to control his own unsound brain and how watching someone he loves die.

Alex learns from his friend, Mr. Peterson, an irascible war veteran who’d rather be left alone. Alex and Mr. Peterson rail against each other in a way that’s very endearing and humorous but are united by their love of books by Kurt Vonnegut. He often makes lists of things — such as ways he doesn’t fit in or how his friend Mr. Peterson needs help making a critical decision.

Alex has such a strong narrative voice that you get to see the world from inside his mind, feel what he feels and get very indignant when everyone else misunderstands his motives.

So when, aged seventeen, Alex is stopped at customs with 113 grams of marijuana, an urn full of ashes on the front seat, and an entire nation in uproar, he’s fairly sure he’s done the right thing …

Themes/tone/ visual ideas

– Serious subject matter but with real humour – I found myself genuinely laughing out loud at various points, endearing, serious subject of euthanasia, the friendship between the two characters transcends age,  being different / special

Images in my mind from the book

Alex loves Diet Coke – drinks litres of the stuff ( how relevant would this be does it say anything about the character/ novel/ plot)

The meteorite hes struck by

Curious incidents, astronomy and astrology, the works of Kurt Vonnegut and the unexpected connections that form our world.

Garden shed

Image of the characters

Mind map inside a head/ brain – would this look too technical and intense for what is quite a humourous book?

Universe?/ world

Silhouette / outline or image of the two central characters something showing there friendship?

Some sort of lightning bolt or meteorite across a sky

A collection of items – urn, Diet Coke, Novel

Type – something handwritten as if Alex has written it – flowing or very thin

The novel is published by Hodder books so I had a look at some other house cover designs from them .

Hodder books 2014  https://www.hodder.co.uk/ [Accessed 15th March 2014]

I thought I would note down how the components of each cover to get some notions of how to illustrate my cover.

Picture integrated with text – doesn’t really tell you a lot about the book

Illustrated sans serif text outlines – carefully considered colour scheme, silhouettes, quite visually appealing

Image and text. Makes me think this is quite a sort of standard happy ending womens novel – not that quirky

Illustration – looks quite humourous


I also created pinterest boards for inspirations thinking about the different types of covers.


After sketching out ideas in my sketchbook  I set to work in Photoshop/ Indesign trying out various ideas. My thoughts behind the covers is below each image.

epilepsy space3

Meteorite coming towards a brain (image is of an epileptic persons brain scan)
Would this be obvious to anyone looking at it or is it a bit unclear what it is ? Does it need to be clear – hidden context?? Langdon text – looks quite space like with the text drop shadow. Coloured backdrop gradients applied

epilepsy space2

Different positioning

uwaw 2 copy

Simple background – outline silhouette of a boy with the meteorite coming towards him- epileptic brain seen in his head. Sans serif and script font to with handdrawn stars to add a personal touch. Not sure about the outline shape- is this all too much!

uwaw 2head

As above different head shape – better silhouette

eplieptic head only space and plain backdroppsd

Tried to strip things back again and take influence from some classic covers I’ve viewed. Serif Bodoni font – space effect background with epileptic brain – has some promise – should font all be same size/ colour?


Taking influence from the Kurt Vonnegut novels that I looked at space effect. Triangles in blue used to draw the eye down. Does look quite like a cult book/ sci-fi but would it appeal to a modern audience/ readership and is it appropriate for the tone of the book?

Newspaper style

I quite enjoyed photomontage and like some of the quirkier covers I’ve come across which are put together as montages. Tried to pick some appropriate meteorite articles and the images are appropriate and refer to some scenes in the book. Font needed a stroke to stand out against the cuttings


different fonts headwith warped housesdark.

Trying warped / script text to show the human element. Thought the red text would stand out but is it too garish. Added in an illustration of the street – makes it look perhaps more appealing and less space based – brings a character element to it.

different fonts headwith warped houses.

As above different house colour

uwaw 4 copyno text

uwaw 5

Different text effects

wee hooses versionown text

My own hand type – made too look like constellations – but is it thick enough? Bringing in characters and the street below which I quite like


I think this is the most promising image version

wee hooses versionBODONIt

Feel that this works better mix of Bodoni and hand scrip looks a lot more streamlined

Final wee hooses versionBODONIt

As above

Back final wee hooses

Back cover with added text – extending houses and universe backdrop

Text only versions

uwaw 6

Franklin gothic with clipping mask space backdrop – thinking about covers I’ve seem that have white backdrops –

tesxt only 1 gills and frankin

Gills sans and Franklin Gothic – quite like the font but not sure about the centre layout

colour text

Left aligned coloured text – too much colour – sometimes colour like this can work othertimes it looks cheap and garish!

colour text gradientlangdonLeft aligned

Langdon left aligned feels better with clipping mask of universe. Think the text looks appropriate and modern

uwaw 5   colour text gradientlangdon

final text version

Text centered Langdon with script font to contrast – takes up full front cover without need for an image- but does it need a background colour?



Back final text only

Back version of text only – clean and simple fonts

After tutor report

My tutors comments reflected more or less what I thought myself – that the text only ones were more promising. With a few revisions to the front and back – changing some colours on the text gradient, adding a colour shape to host the text on the back. I think this works quite well although I do think that some of my other covers had promise and it does come down to preference.


colour text gradient front

Better use of gradient but is the blue still getting lost in the sky. Radius gradient

colour text gradientATR

Linear gradient means that colours aren’t getting as lost + I think this shows the difference and “versus” between The Universe and Alex Woods

book cover back after tutor

Addition of shape to host the content on the back makes the text stand out better


book cover after tutor


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