Penguin: Contextual Research

After getting down my opinions and research about the novel, the next steps were to do some contextual research. On the Penguin website the judges said they wanted to see new and imaginative ideas that shows contextual research from this field. This is why I wanted to look into 3 subjects of book design: first being already existing covers of A Short History of Nearly Everything so I can see what is already out there and how I can stand out. Secondly, general research into book covers that I find inspiring. I’m doing this so I can gain some research of the field and get inspired and thirdly, previous winning entries from the Penguin Book Cover Awards so I can see what has won in the past and what the judges like to see. I feel like all this research will put me in good stead for creating an interesting concept and professional looking cover.

Existing Book Covers for A Short History of Nearly Everything

Above are 3 published covers for the novel. Off the bat I immediately notice the repetitive use of the earth as the symbol for ‘everything’. I also noticed the use of these subdued dull colours. The covers feel very masculine to me and aren’t very exciting. I also don’t see the wit and humour that is expressed throughout the novel. They don’t convey this personable nature that Bill Bryson takes when writing his books. I feel like this is something that should be included in my covers as a representation of the book. On these covers it just seems sciencey without the witty conversation part. To help my cover stand out against these already existing ones I will need to consider having a more exciting, colourful cover that not only shows the educational part to this book but also the tone at which Bryson writes with. I hope this will then be more inviting and exciting for new readers but also be relatable for readers who already love this novel.

Book Cover Inspiration

I picked out these book covers for several reasons but mainly because I found them fascinating in different ways. Some, for instance Visible and Quietness, use type in a really powerful way. The black type against the stark white background is very powerful. The designers have adapted the type to fit the narrative of the words meanings which I think is so clever and striking. Other books, for instance The Leopard and The psychopath Test, use a bold colour and imagery to convey the tone of the book and what it may be about. These too are very striking and stand out against the rest. I think the use of cut out paper mixed with existing imagery to make one whole image is so creative. Its imaginative and a really unique take on these covers. Lastly, I really enjoyed the cover for The Kama Sutra, I thought the imagery used is incredibly striking and easily lets the audience know what this book is about. The digital artwork using negative space to create these two characters is beautifully done. It is obvious what the scene is but leaves just a little up to the imagination, I find it to be a really beautiful cover. Overall I found these book covers really inspiring and I felt this to be really helpful for my creative process. However, it is quite hard to find inspiring books with the whole cover. I may do further research to find this later on in the project.

Previous Winning Entries for Penguin

There are plenty of amazing winners for this competition on the Penguin website, the 3 above are all different but incredibly successful. The first thing I notice about all 3 of these book covers is how professional they all look. All 3 look like already existing book covers and are done extremely well. Each are quite simplistic in nature but express parts of the stories that are told within. I think these were picked as winners for their unique looks, professional finish and interesting concept that really relate to the book. These are things I should consider for my final book cover. Professionalism is something I think I lack sometimes to this will be the real challenge.

Overall, I think I have learned a lot about what I should consider when creating my cover for A Short History of Nearly Everything. I will take into consideration what I have already seen from previous covers of the novel, for instance the overused earth image, subdued colours and lack of witty tone. The inspiration from other book covers has given my some thoughts and motivation to start creating. Lastly, while looking past winners I know that I should have a unique but relevant concept while producing a professional looking outcome. I feel I’m now ready to start putting down my ideas and start making.


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