Penguin Book Design: Process & Evaluation

From doing all of my research I started to think of ideas and sketched them out.

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I began by remembering a quote from the book being; ‘solitary cloud slow dance…’ with the cloud being used as a metaphor for Callum. However, I started thinking about what a cloud symbolises… a cloud on its own could symbolise isolation and loneliness, in general they symbolise dreams and being lost in thought. Some clouds are calm, whilst others are stormy and although they are always there, they can never be grasped. I thought all of these worked well in relation to the story of Noughts and Crosses and therefore I started playing with the idea of using clouds for the cover.

However, I started thinking that just having clouds might not make sense to a younger audience and would not be that eye-catching. This lead me to think of using colours and textures in order to make the cover more eye-catching to the target market. This got me to think of using ink and having colours clashing together in order to highlight the clashing of the two sides within the story.

I considered using two models and using mark-making to cover their faces or manipulate elements of the image to try and show society fighting to keep them apart. I worry this idea is too literal and gives too much of the story away?

I also considered creating typographic covers, playing with hierarchy and using some words to partially conceal others and making certain elements more prominent. I had a few variations for this idea that could have potentially been explored further. But from doing my research I noticed a lot of teen book covers were typographically based and so I thought of maybe trying something different first with this being a second option.

There are a few other ideas that can be seen within the images above but the one I kept getting drawn back to was the one with the clashing of the ink. I feel like it covers a lot of the themes within the book, being the opposing sides of the noughts (white) and the crosses (black) and the often violent interaction that occurs between the two sides but as well as this shows the interaction between Callum and Sephy; the two main characters and the passion and world wind of emotions that felt between the two. Using coloured ink at the point of interaction will also make the cover visually interesting and stand out amongst other books in my opinion.

I therefore refined the idea and decided to work with it.


From this I decided to pour ink into water and photograph it, take that into photoshop and manipulate the images to create the desired effect.

Below are the original images:

Although I am pleased with the outcome of the images because they are themselves visual interesting. When I went to work with them on Photoshop, I realised that I couldn’t get one colour to flow into another naturally and it simply looked awkward.


I therefore went back and decided to to physically pour ink on to paper and play with it. It took numerous attempts because the black ink would completely dominate the other colours making it difficult to get an equal flow from both sides.

Eventually I managed to get one piece that I was happy with. As it was done late at night, the photograph was of poor quality, but I worked with it in order to gain a sense of whether it would work as a layout or not. I also did it ready for the next day in preparation for group crits.

First Draft:


In response to my first draft, I am relatively pleased with the outcome. I definitely think the image needs to be re-taken as the quality is not great. I think the type needs to be reworked slightly, particularly the quote on the back and a few other areas that are suffering from legibility issues. I also think the title on the front cover needs to be played with more and needs more consideration. I think the variation in scale works well and highlights what the book is about and I like that the ink comes over the word ‘Nought’ but it is covering it too much and is therefore difficult to read. Otherwise, I think that it is eye-catching and and interesting cover and I think it is a different take on the narrative of the book.

Group Feedback:


All of the feedback I received from my peers and Ian I felt were all valid and didn’t come as a surprise to me. I was told that some of the type had legibility issues, which I had already noted and that the title needed slight reworking. Ian however pointed out that the black ink was too dense and unpleasant to look at and if looking at the front cover alone, would not be dynamic. He suggested using the outline of the ink to form a shape of some sort, which is an idea I will definitely try as it would make the cover more interesting visually and aid in giving an insight into the story.

Overall, I was pleased with the feedback I received and felt all the points were valid and are things I will go back and work on.

Final Book Cover:

After making various edits, below is the final outcome of the book cover.


As mentioned previously, I have re-taken the photograph, worked with the type further and re-worked the title.

On the whole, I am much happier with the outcome of this cover. The image quality is much higher, meaning the black ink is less dense and has more textures within it, meaning it is  more interesting to look at. I have also subtly added an outline of two faces, one white and the other black within the ink. I can only hope that people will notice them but they are not designed to stand out blatantly. I am much happier with the title on the front cover also, it is much clear to read, but there is still that sense of the black ink creeping over it and a feeling that it is inferior to the ‘Crosses’.

Overall, I have enjoyed this project, despite how quick the turnover was – which was a challenge. I am pleased with what I’ve created and no matter what the outcome of the competition is, I feel I have gained a strong portfolio piece. I also thoroughly enjoyed seeing other people’s interpretation of the book and this has really shown how different we all think and perceive things.


Penguin Book Design: Market Research

As part of my research I went on to Waterstones’ website and took a look at the books found in the teen & young adult section to gain a feel of the type book covers that are designed for that age group.

Above are just a small sample of the books that can be found. What I noticed from looking was that a lot of books seem to use a hand rendered typeface, which although I definitely think they have their place, feel slightly overdone – more so the covers that have solely used the type. Although, I do think it is something to consider because they are able to help add to the mood and atmosphere the cover is trying to create.

With that, I feel that illustration is a favoured option for covers within this age range. I think they are a more appealing way to convey the contents of a book, making it more fun and engaging for a younger audience. However, this style does not work for every genre as can be seen above. The darker and more serious books have darker backgrounds and generally feel darker, often using photography.

Photography is another technique I have seen used, this is not as prominent as typography and illustration. However, what I’ve noticed with photographic covers is that they either try to capture some form of texture or are collaged with other visual elements such as other images or illustrations in order to create a more visually interesting cover.

As mentioned previously, textures are also used on covers, not as much, but they do appear. An example of this can be seen above with the book; ‘This Mortal Coil’ the book photographs powder that has been thrown towards the camera. By using this and working it with the type it helps to create a sense of depth and mystery. The colour red indicates some form of danger or passion. It is a simple technique, but has the ability to create a lot of meanings based on the story.

Overall, what I will take away from this research is that many young adult books use a lot of hand rendered type and illustration and I question how I can use these techniques to make my book cover stand out. I do like the idea of photographic covers, but I wonder whether this is strong enough to capture the minds of teens and young adults? I personally don’t think it is – I do think there is a potential with using textures to covey meaning. But again there needs to be something appealing and eye-catching with this technique. I think with thought and consideration to the story there is potential with this technique and I think it would be nice to explore them and perhaps an alternative to what has already been done.

Penguin Book Design: Design Research

I have completed relevant research into book cover designs in order to gain some inspiration and to also understand what it takes to design an eye-catching book cover.

Example 1: Frankenstein


The cover on this book is extremely simple with just the use of typography sitting on the cover with a large amount of negative space sitting above it. However, I like this design because of the way the typography has been played with. The designer has used actual meat and stitched into it to create the letterforms. This simple act reveals just enough to the reader as to what the story of Frankenstein is all about. The surrounding negative space allows all of the focus to be kept on the type and allows the reader time to dissect it (no pun intended) as the visual link is attached to the title itself.

Example 2: Jaws


This is another favourite of mine, again for the playfulness of the typography and how that has been intertwined with the visual element of the cover. Everyone knows the story of Jaws, but even for those who don’t, the simple act of having the tip of the ‘A’ coming out of the water automatically creates a link with sharks and the way their fin emerges from the water. The fact that the rest of the letterforms have been cut off at the edge of the water emphasises the visual element of this cover even further by making the letter ‘A’ the focus point. Again having such a large amount of negative space works well here as it allows the focus to be kept on the type. The fading of the colour blue creates a dark and unsettled undertone that sets the atmosphere of the book – that it is filled with suspense; again, another simple but effective technique that works well here.

Example 3: Columbine


I chose this because I find it to be extremely intense and thought-provoking – and that’s just from the cover. The book is about the shooting that took place at Columbine High School. It is of course a devastating event that took place in 1999 and the photo used clearly conveys that. The use of having so much cloud in the image creates an almost abandoned feeling, as if it is a place that no-one wants to be near. There is an eerie atmosphere with the choice in type adding to that. The designer has clearly considered the content of the book in great deal and has executed the mood and atmosphere effectively with the use of one image. It is direct and clear that this is a serious book looking into a serious event that has taken place.

Example 4: The Psychopath Test


I have had the pleasure of reading this book and would be one I highly recommend. The reason I selected this cover as an example of good work is because I think it gives a clear insight into the subject matter of the book. Psychopathy is something that is heavily discussed throughout the book, through both a criminal nature and business related. There are many traits and elements that determine whether one is a psychopath or not, but these traits can be hidden and therefore there are many layers that make up a Psychopath. The use of the rip to reveal a hidden layer creates a link to Psychopaths. It also shows that it is not black and white and there are many arguments and theories explored throughout adding to the idea of layers. The covers creates a sense that the reader is gaining an insight – and that’s exactly what the author; Jon Ronson does.

Example 5: Resistance


I like this cover due to its simplicity. The book is called ‘Resistance’ and so the designer has wrapped the book in elastic bands. A material that is resistant to stretch and force is required to stretch it. The simplicity in realising the link between the material and the title of the book is brilliant in my opinion. I like how there has been a clear consideration to the placement of the type and bands have been placed in such a way that they work with type and do not feel like two separate elements.

Overall, what I have found throughout my visual research is that the strongest book cover designs for me are the ones that are at their simplest form and have a clear coherent link with the content of the book. They are not blatantly obvious, but give enough away that it creates an atmosphere to give the reader an insight into the sort of thing that they will experience throughout the book.

Penguin Book Design: The Book

For this competition I have decided to opt for Malorie Blackman’s, ‘Noughts and Crosses’. This is a book I studied at school and is one I remember enjoying. I have not visited the book in a number of years and therefore thought that this would be the perfect opportunity for it.

So what is the premise of the story?

Sephy is a Cross – a member of the dark-skinned ruling class. Callum is a nought – a ‘colourless’ member of the underclass who were once slaves to the Crosses.

The two have been friends since early childhood. But that’s as far as it can go. Until the first steps are taken towards more social equality and a limited number of Noughts are allowed into Cross schools… Against a background of prejudice and distrust, intensely highlighted by violent terrorist activity by Noughts, a romance builds between Sephy and Callum – a romance that is to lead both of them into terrible danger…

This book undeniably looks at the issue of racism with dark-skinned being the ruling class and white-skinned being the inferior class. It turns what we know racism to be, on its head by reversing the circumstances. The book explores the issues that erupt from racism and force the reader to take a step back and think of the consequences laid out before them.

However, as much as the book explores a world of divide, hatred and ruling, the reader is forced to view such a world through the eyes of two teenagers, one being nought and the other a cross. Although we see them grow up in a world that forces them to lead very different lives, we also see a friendship that blossoms between the two. This friendship later grows into a romance. Despite the differences in their circumstances, which leads them to make some questionable, even stupid decisions, the love they have for one another is unquestionable. They always remain hopeful that the world can change and fight to make that change take place. They do not view each other based on the colour of their skin, but see each other as individual people, with likes and dislikes.

What I love most about this book is that it shows just how destructive ideas can be on society, and on people – as we see with Callum and Sephy. Yet throughout all of this, the two characters remain hopeful and love defies all in the end, they don’t listen to what society tells them what they can or can’t do.

This book is as much about love, hope and will for change as it is hatred, divide and racism. It is easy to focus on the negatives but a focus must be placed on the positives to allow change to take place within the world.

Research into the book:

Here is a quote from the Q&A section on Malorie Blackman’s website:

I wanted the society in my book to be viewed from two different points of view (Callum and Sephy’s) to show how our perspectives colour our thinking. The adage, ‘you can’t really know someone until you have walked in their shoes’, is like all clichés mostly true. That I think was the idea I had in mind when I sat down to write Noughts and Crosses. I think it was Nietzsche who said, ‘There is no truth, only perspectives. And the more perspectives you have, the closer to the truth you get.’

What I like here is that Blackman realises that racism derives from looking through a single lens and that it is only through engaging in a range of perspectives can we really make informed opinions. This book uses two perspectives from both sides and that leads the reader to see their world from two angles.

Whilst their relationship is explored through these life changing events, it is the moments of quiet intensity between them which are particularly evocative. Even though society and prejudices have tarnished both their lives, their love for one another and hope for equality is inspiring.

– review from Paperback Worlds

The story focuses on their relationship, which is frowned upon by society, and explores the discrimination they encounter at every turn. By reversing traditional racial stereotypes and presenting the White population as the oppressed race, Blackman has cleverly shown racial prejudice from a different perspective.

As well as being a compelling tale of love and friendship, this is an outstanding and thought-provoking exploration of the futility of prejudice. A contemporary classic.

– review from Book Trust

Themes found within the book:

  • Racism
  • Discrimination
  • Violence
  • Friendship
  • Courage
  • Hope
  • Betrayal

Existing Book Covers:

Above are the existing covers that can be found for Noughts and Crosses. All three covers make a blatant use of the symbols for noughts and crosses, with two of the covers relying on the colours black and white and the clear divide between the two. Those two covers portray a very literal interpretation of the story and in my opinion are not very interesting to look at. The third cover is the only one that uses colour on the cover which instantly makes it more visually appealing and forces the viewer to take more time to try and work out what it could mean. The title and author’s name are in red, a colour which relates to both danger and passion – which we see within the book. The symbol of the nought and the cross have a mix of colours within them which I think represents Callum and Sephy who like each other for who they are and not the colour of their skin. The black background is then used to create a dark and uptight atmosphere. All three covers have also used a textured effect for the two symbols, which I think creates a raw and gritty feel, something that the book also creates.

From looking at these covers, I want to try and avoid obvious imagery, such as the nought and the cross symbol and the use of black and white in a blunt way. I think if they can be used in a different and imaginative way, then I will be pleased, but I want to avoid the obvious. I want the viewer to be visually engaged and to take a moment to think of the relationship the image has with the story.

Morocco: Collaboration

As a group we have finalised that our idea will focus on the senses through creating a book of some form to contain the work.

We had a tutorial with Helen in which we discussed the book and how that could potentially take shape, what size should it be? Will it be bound? Translucent? Will the shape relate to arabic tiles and structures? What about the presentation? Should we make that an experience also? If so, how?

These were all questions that we had not considered and therefore the tutorial was extremely useful in giving us a direction in what needed to be discussed and worked out. We therefore sat down as a group and discussed what we wanted to achieve and what would really be achievable within the time frame that we had left (which was a week). From our conversations we decided that we wanted to focus on the content of the book more than the book itself, we therefore bought the book and decided to fill around 10 pages each.

Freya decided to work on the audio and also textiles, though dyeing the fabrics and stitching into them. Nuw decided to also stitch using different materials and fabrics. Ffion decided to create a separate editorial booklet that would accompany our multisensory book to give some background and research – providing the work with context and also stitched patterns into existing photographs. I decided to focus on creating a new typeface that could sit on both the editorial and within the book itself and also created more drawings and textures to go inside the book.

I created a typeface inspired by arabic writing. I wanted it to resinate with people that it had a arabic feel to it. I created numerous sketches before developing an entire alphabet and then digitalising it.

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Here is the final digitalised result:


Here is an example of the typeface in use:


Below are images of the completed multisensory book:

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Overall, I am extremely pleased with the final outcome of the book. Although I do think if we had more time we could have considered the book itself in greater depth and perhaps created it ourselves. But with the time frame we had, we had to be realistic with what we could achieve and I think as a group we made the right decision.

In regards to working with each other I think we collaborated extremely well. Although most of the work was completed individually, we kept in constant communication with one another and when needed, came together whenever a group decision was needed to be made. I think that we each delegated roles out evenly and played to our strengths as well as working in areas that were completely new to us, thus allowing us to develop a wider range of skills – just as field encourages us to do.

I think that the presentation itself went well and we each spoke about our individual roles and how that played within the group. I believe we were prepared and were able to fully show the audience what our work was all about in an engaging manner.

On a personal note, I was unable to attend some of the group meetings due to medical reasons meaning I have struggled with time even more throughout this project. Nonetheless, I believe I have inputed a great deal into the project and am pleased with what I achieved within the time frame.

Freya, Nuw and Ffion have all been fantastic people to work with and I feel this great bond is reflected within the work created. We have each learnt different skills from one another and I believe each of us will take these skills back into subject to enhance our work further. I for one have learnt that not following rules or structures can still result in beautiful pieces of work being created – just like our ‘book’ that had no direction or structure applied to it, it is an adventure for the individual to experience.


Morocco: Research

For our group collaboration project we have decided to focus on the senses as the basis of our work. We want to create some form of a book that will encapsulate all of the five senses with materials from Morocco to give the audience an insight into the sort of things their senses would experience whilst roaming around the wonderfully unique country.

Although this is very much based on our personal experiences from the trip and bringing them together in one place. I tried to do some research into the senses and how they are being used within art. Through this I came across an interesting article on Art News titled; Scents & Sensibility. The article focused on the sense of smell more than the others because as Verbeek states; ‘Smell has a big effect on visitors to the museum, because smell is linked to memory. Smell enhances the sense of reality, and smell enhances emotions.’

It is interesting to think that artists have not focused on the sense of smell in comparison to the other senses. It is common for artwork to focus on sight, touch and even sound. But smell is often forgotten about and it is such a powerful sense that can conjure so many memories to an individual.

“People can stop and smell and maybe dream for a second or have a brief moment outside the busy city,” Stathacos says of the piece. “It becomes this effect of going to another place, maybe a memory of a garden or of someone bringing you flowers, maybe a memory of healing.” For this reason, The Wish Machine has often been included in exhibitions on AIDS and recovery.”

This idea that a smell can transport someone to another place is exactly what we want our project to allow people to do. However, we are aiming to do this with all of the senses combined and working together.

Taste is the other sense that is rarely found within art, however, this is understandable as it can be difficult with safety such as allergies etc. We would like to incorporate it through potentially flavouring sugar paper, however, it is unsure how realistic this will be within the time frame we have.

Through further research I came across the Multisensory Met. The idea of including all of the senses when visiting a museum is what is at the heart of this article. The author; Ezgi Ucar, talks about how museums use neutral smells and sounds to allow the individual to focus on the artwork itself. But all of the senses are a part of the experience and through this consideration; the Multisensory Met was born.

“I initially thought of making a multisensory booklet for visitors to carry around as they view the art. The booklet would feature pictures of artworks in the Met’s collection that are equipped with touch-activated sounds and smells so that the visitor can view each artwork and interact with the corresponding activity in the booklet.”

This idea of the multi sensory booklet is something that we as a group have appealed to as we can all add to it and combine the work to create an overwhelming experience, to replicate the sensory experiences felt in Marrakech.

“I created these scratch-and-sniff paintings using powdered fragrances, incense, and spices. I stuck them on different parts of a photograph of a painting using a stamp pad so that different parts of the painting would give off different scents. For example, I used floral, salt water, and spicy-cocoa scents for Claude Monet’s Garden at Sainte-Adresse to make all the things in the painting smell how they might in real life.”

I think the idea of adding scents on to art work which will then combine both the visual element along with the smell will heighten the experience for the individual even further and is definitely something that can be applied to our work.

Overall, my research has led me to see that it is rather recent that artists are realising the impact that incorporating all of the senses can have on audiences. All of the senses work together to create a memory, it can cause past memories to emerge and experiences to be re-lived. It can transport them to that place and really bring it alive – far more than just through photographs alone for example.

Morocco: The Journey

Morocco, a country found at the northern point of Africa. A country rich with heritage, history and culture.

I recently visited the country, particularly the city of Marrakech on a study trip and discovered the culture for myself.

Getting ready to go out there I was extremely apprehensive of what to expect because I had been told by so many people to be careful, to not wonder anywhere on my own, to expect men cat calling, to barter when buying things and so on. The list felt endless and it was all about making sure I was careful, aware and safe. This in itself had made me even more anxious.

Nonetheless, I was still excited to go and discover, meet new people and find out for myself what Marrakech is really like…

So what did I discover? 

I found Marrakech to be one of the most juxtaposing places I have ever visited. The streets and markets are full of chaos, noise and life. From horse and carriages to motorcycles to cars all shouting and beeping at one another. The markets full of people trying to gain the attention of potential buyers over their neighbours. Your head was constantly turning with different things stealing your attention at every possible moment. This would then completely disappear the minute you stepped foot inside a Riad or Palace. As our tour guide said, they really are;

‘hidden Kingdoms’

The noise from the busy streets simply vanished and you were greeted with a gentle peace and quiet, with only the birds singing to disturb the silence. All of the chaos of the outside disappeared along with the dusty streets and peach coloured buildings, instead beautifully decorated tiles and interiors emerged. Intricate patterns and beautiful colours were used in true Moroccan style, keeping in line with their culture. And each day everything was intricately cleaned with a great level of detail.

One thing I really did notice throughout my time there was the amazing hospitality from almost everyone I met. They really wanted to make you feel at home and made you their number one priority. Yes, although I understand that everyone secretly just wanted money, you would never expect the same level of service from people in the UK for example. Some of the shops would invite you in, sit you down, talk to you and even make you tea. It was like an art form.

Even more impressively was the vast number of languages they spoke. From Arabic to French to English and I’m sure there were many more added to that list. One gentlemen I met when visiting the Secret Garden said that he had not long graduated from university and was currently working two jobs, one in the day and the other in the evening. He could speak five languages in total and had only been speaking English within the last six months, despite telling us about the history of the place in incredible English. It really was astonishing and I think shows a level of depth to their character.

So in conclusion, Marrakech truly is a city to be discovered. I have gained a multitude of new experiences that will never leave me, from the people I met to the things seen. My senses were well and truly pushed to the extreme from all the flavours of the tea and tajines to the smells of the spices and scents in the markets, to the constant head turning from things to see, the bombardment of sounds of people shouting, cars, horses, bikes etc. and finally from all the materials I felt, from the beautiful fabrics to the smooth tiles.

On an individual basis, my confidence has flourished. Before leaving I was apprehensive of what to expect, but since returning I can now see that it was just about getting to know the people and the place. I realised how quickly we can adjust to new surroundings and get to know a place, despite its differences with where I consider to be home. The creative within me was filled with curiosity, but the tourist in me was filled with anxiety. This in itself made me realise that the role we take when visiting a place can really alter our perceptions of it.

More importantly, how has the trip altered my practice? I went out there wanting to explore the use of colour – an area I feel needs improving on within my work. What I found was more than just the use of colour, but their approach was all handmade and with a great eye for detail from the carvings within the palace’s to the painted bowls. It didn’t feel uptight and constrained by rules, yet looked just as beautiful. In myself I definitely think I stick to rules to create my work to give it structure and I think occasionally this can be relaxed, to be a little more free flowing and work with bold colours and to have faith that it will work.

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