Penguin: Outcome

In my last blog I spoke about liking my book cover, I just wanted to add more of that witty nature that Bryson has in his books. I thought about using the stars in the background to link up and create images that are relevant to the novel. For instance he uses a sandwich metaphor to simplify a theory. I included this to the piece along with a few others and I feel it is a much better representation of the book. I am quite happy with it. I did make the stars a little smaller too and lighten the colour.

Penguin: Design Developments

From my last critique it was said that my maze idea for the title could be interesting, so I took this idea forward. This is such a quick project that I feel as though I have to take the best idea and run with it. I just have to do my best. Below are the first mockups I made for the cover. I used the title as the focal point for the cover. For the background I decided to create a space image that looks like it has been scribbled or ‘rushly’ drawn. This to link back to the childlike learning that I wanted to show through the cover. I used the dark purple so it still signified space. My tutor did say I might consider lightening the purple so it is brighter and I think it looks much better. My tutor did also say it needed some sort of light to this piece to brighten it up and draw us to the front. So I did add a light coming from the middle of the maze which I think defiantly brightens up the cover even more.

After this critique I feel as though I am in good stead for this project and I enjoy the cover. I just think it could reference the book better. Bill Bryson writes with a lot of wit which isn’t really shown in mine. This is something I do need to add for sure. I also think I could shrink the stars a bit and perhaps match some up to create an image. This could be my wit. Overall I’m relatively happy with the cover, I think the type hierarchy on the front works. I just need to add those finishing touches to reference the novel better.

Penguin: Idea Generating

After doing my research I wanted to get some of my initial ideas down and start to think of concepts for the cover. I need the cover to express the content of the book well. I initially thought about how the book is simplifying complex topics and how I could visual this. I thought about using kids learning tools which simplify learning for example building blocks or puzzles. These both could represent the learning that goes on through the book. I also thought about using a maze to represent the journey through the book. This maze could then be filled in to show the author simplifying the knowledge of ‘nearly everything’. In my ideas critique, this same day, my tutor said he liked the idea of the maze as its different to what he’s seen. I also showed him my quick sketches for example mazes and the text maze. He said the title as the maze could be a really good focal point for the book and represents the content well. My tutor suggested playing with perception with the maze to give depth. I felt happy leaving my critique and am exciting to start putting this onto the book cover template. My only worry is this project is so short, it has to be done pretty quick.

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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Penguin: A Short History of Nearly Everything

For this brief its really important to know the book you’re working with, this is why I need to look further into it and see what it’s about. So to start with, A Short History of Nearly Everything written by Bill Bryson was first published in 2003. It has since had numerous awards and had numerous favourable reviews including Aventis Prize for best general science book,  EU Descartes Prize for science communication, shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and being on the Sunday Times Bestseller list. It is said to be the bestselling popular science book of the twenty-first century.

In summary, Bill Bryson challenges himself to take subjects that are so complex and perhaps boring to read about, like geology, chemistry and particle physics, and write about them in a way that is accessible and interesting for the general public to understand. “It’s not so much about what we know, as about how we know what we know.” (Penguin, 2020) Questions such as, how do we know what is in the centre of the earth or what is a black hole?, are just some of the questions that are explained in this novel. Throughout his travels he encounters a collection of “astonishingly eccentric, competitive, obsessive and foolish scientists” (Penguin, 2020) who help as Bryson reveals things that otherwise, we the public, may never have comprehended.

“Bill Bryson describes himself as a reluctant traveller, but even when he stays safely at home he can’t contain his curiosity about the world around him. A Short History of Nearly Everything is his quest to understand everything that has happened from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization – how we got from there, being nothing at all, to here, being us. The ultimate eye-opening journey through time and space and reveals the world in a way most of us have never seen it before.” (Penguin, 2020)

After listening to the audio book, Bill Bryson’s novel is incredibly informative and witty. He speaks about topics from physics, chemistry, geology and many more. The title really does stand up to the content, the huge amount of history covered in the book is amazing. The way Bryson manages to put these complex theories or workings into a comprehendible way is brilliant. It is accessible to everyone which I think is a really important factor in the book and its why this novel has become such a well loved book. I also found it to be incredibly inspiring, to see how much effort and dedication some researches put into one subject. These people have done so much for science and some are not even known about today. Overall, this novel has certainly given me a good overview of many thought provoking topics. It certainly helped that it was written in a humorous and personable way.

From carrying out this research, there are some important aspects that I think I need to include when creating the cover. For instance the tone of the novel, which is informative and scientific yet comprehensive and humorous. It is a mix of these that are so indicative to this novel that I feel should be represented on the cover. In the novel Bryson doesn’t just focus on one subject so I think it’s important to show that and not favour one over the other. I will need to remember the title of the book and keep that in mind at all times as its a perfect explanation for the contents. This research has given me lots to consider when thinking of initial ideas.


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Penguin Brief 2019

Our starting project back from Christmas break was a small one just to get back into the swing of things. The project being Penguin’s annual student design awards in which we have to create a book cover for 3 different novels. This is the second time I’ve done this project, so I’m feeling much more confident. I also have previous knowledge on what needs should be met for this project so I’m quite looking forward to this quick fun brief.

The 3 novels that have been chosen this year to be redesigned are: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson, The Night Manager by John le Carré and Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian. I have heard of all of these and have some prior knowledge on them, however, I have never read any. Coming from the Penguin website, The Night Manager is a Triller set post cold war. It follows Jonathan Pine the night manager at a luxury hotel who involuntary gets himself involved in a “chilling tale of corrupt intelligence agencies, billion-dollar price tags and the truth of the brutal arms trade”. The author creates a fascinating unpredictable world in which no one can be trusted. Goodnight Mister Tom is a children’s novel set in Second World War, which follows Willie Beech who is evacuated to the countryside. “A sad, deprived Willie slowly begins to flourish under the care of old Tom Oakley – but his new-found happiness is shattered by a summons from his mother back in London.” The author has created a classic that children have loved reading for decades. Finally, A Short History of Nearly Everything is a non-fiction novel in which the author, Bill Bryson, breaks down complex learning about science and attempts to make these accessible to the general public. A Sunday Times Bestseller and multi-award winning book, this is the bestselling popular science book of the twenty-first century.

Considering the basis of the novels and what initially stood out to me I feel as though I would like pick A Short History of Nearly Everything. This novel really stood out to me as I can remember my dad reading Bill Bryson all through my childhood as its one of his favourite authors. I also haven’t designed for a non-fiction novel yet as last year I did the fiction. I find the wide topic fascinating and I think it would be interesting to learn more about the complex world around us. The topic is something quite different for me so I thought it would get me out of my comfort zone and it could be a unique piece for my portfolio. It also means I can pick my dads brain to see what his thoughts and opinions are about the novel.

Before I start the designing I wanted to recap what the judges at Penguin are looking for. This is important if I want to not only meet their needs but also impress them. From the website, the judges talk about looking for a smart but accessible book cover. “It should not look like a textbook you read at school! This is a science book with popular appeal.” They go on to say that is should feel timeless, confident and appeal to a new generation of readers. Other aspects of a winning design including:

  • have an imaginative concept
  • be an original interpretation of the brief
  • be competently executed with strong use of typography
  • appeal to the broadest possible audience for the book
  • show a good understanding of the marketplace
  • have a point of difference from other books that it will be competing against in the market
  • be able to sit on the shelves of a supermarket or ebook store as easily as it sits on those of more traditional bookshops 

What I have taken from this is that the final book cover needs to be clever and imagination while still being accessible to the general public. I should consider other book covers, for instance previous covers of the novel and other novels in general, when designing in order to make mine stand out again the millions of others on the book store shelves. This will all start with a good understanding of the book which I will be looking at next.


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Penguin – Final Updates and Outcome

We had our last critique today I managed to make the changes to my cover and incorporate a design on the back, which I feel does connect to the front. I’m liking where the cover is at this point but I still feel like it could be more refined. In my critique my tutor said he liked my overall cover and that it really encapsulates the mood and feel of the book. He said I could play around with the colour and swap them around to see if I like that better. My peers said I should include all three of the main characters on the back as it would make more sense. Plus having the same illustration on the front and back looks a little lazy so I want to change it up a bit. I didn’t get too much feedback so I can focus on getting the cover to a really good standard ready for the competition deadline.

Below are two of the new colour ways I tried out. I think getting rid of the darker pink makes the cover stand out more. It also looks more refined which I wanted. I prefer Toru being the darker purple as its like he’s a wall flower just watching the world go by, I think it represents his character well.

Personally I didn’t like Toru’s head I didn’t think it fit his body. I drew out a new head more in-style of the body and I like it so much more now. It still keeps the organic simplistic style but now looks like part of his body. I next moved on to the back illustration. I followed the same style as Toru and kept them simple. I changed their position to face forward’s and kept the line across their eyes. It’s there to show how they can be blind to the things around them and if they took a step back they might realise what’s most important to them. Below is my final piece and I’m really happy with it. I think it is a good representation of the book without giving too much away. I really like the illustration it gives me confidence to maybe try this again on another project. I was quite daunted with the project as first but I have learnt a lot from it and I enjoyed it.


Penguin – Updates

This is my updated book cover it has changed quite a bit from my draft. First change was the colour, after printing my draft I noticed the colour was very dark and not the colour I wanted. So I lighten it quite a bit, it feels a bit more emotive now. I then was thinking of how I can incorporate the title to the cover. I wanted something hand written as it feels personal, it could also reference the handwritten letters Toru writes to Naoko while she is in care. I created the title in Illustrator I wasn’t sure whether I was going to keep it but my tutor said he enjoyed the imperfect nature it has as it encapsulates some of the characters in the book. I did however spell Norwegian wrong so I do need to fix that. Below the type I added a roots/veins to symbolise the reference to the wooden in the book but also it makes the body feel more human. The veins help blood to flow around the body keeping us alive and shows that Toru is alive and that he has emotions. It could be taken in a couple of different ways and I like that the audience could make their own reasons behind it. I changed the spine typeface to something more polished as it would be easier to read when the book is on its side. It’s also more practical like this and matches the back bringing the cover together. Lastly I layed out the blurb and quotes on the back, making sure not to have an rivers. I took inspiration from the 1967 copy of Molecular and Cell Biology and had the names adjacent to the main body as a different way to separate them. I like the squared very neat nature it has, it reminds me of Japanese writings so I think it plays in to the theme of the book. Looking at it now I can see the type is too small to read so I think this could be put up a point or two and I should play around with the leading and tracking for a more unique look.

I had a quick chat with my tutor to see what he thought of my cover so far. He said that I need to figure out the back cover design as its very simple. I need something that connects it to the front making the cover as one. He also said that the text wasn’t visible enough and needed to be made lighter and larger. So I have a couple things to do mainly figuring out what goes on the back cover and some technical things as well to do.

Penguin – Mock Up + Critique

So after doing some more book cover research I feel inspired to start creating. Below was just a quick draft I created to show my ideas for the upcoming critique, I hadn’t worked out the text but just input all the information. I started working with the image of Toru where he is decapitated. I used the original sketch because I like how it was organic, it feel more personal just like the book which is a personal account from Toru. This is also why I wanted him on the cover rather than one of the girls. I was going back and forth on the idea of having a string coming down from his head like a balloon to show his mind wondering but it didn’t have as much of an impact. I want the cover to be quite jarring which will give an insight into the book. I also think keeping the cover simple will help to give the book a modern feel while also creating the negative space around Toru to show how disconnected he was from everyone around him. Lastly I quickly put in a little sketch on the back cover of three tree stumps to signify the three main characters. Two having a hole cut from them to show their loss and how they are broken.

In my critique I was given some really helpful feedback from my peers. One of the first things that was said is that they love the colour scheme. It stands out from the other work and also gives this melancholy feel which is also throughout the book. They also liked the image on the front and said it was striking and represented the character well but could be played around with to make it look more refined. Also on the front is the type which they liked being in Japanese but I still needed to include the author and title. I wasn’t sure where to put it when creating the draft so this is something I’ll definitely have to figure out. My peers said it should be a bolder colour too as it doesn’t stand out at the moment. Lastly my tutor said he didn’t know about the back imagery. He said it felt disconnected from the front so I think I need to come up with something else. I want to keep continently through the cover so creating something for the back should flow nicely. I’m super happy with how the critique went I have plenty to be getting on with.