Global to Local; Brief two research


For the next two weeks, I have chosen to explore the branding of predominantly hardback book covers of the ‘classical story’ genre (except for Manuja Waldia’s ‘Pelican Shakespeare’ paperback series).

After the research I have conducted today, the four cover designers I wish to explore in depth are:

  • Coralie Bickford-Smith
  • Jessica Hische
  • Manuja Waldia
  • Anna Bond

My practitioners*Practitioners shown in order from bullet points above.

My goal for this brief is to research the cover designs I have discovered from these four practitioners; what were the influences and intentions of their finished designs? Who were their clients? What elements and principles of design are applied to their designs, and why do I think this is?

Then I will choose one of the four practitioners to use as an influence in my own reimagined cover design/s. This will be analysed/critiqued by myself to proceed with a final reimagined book cover.


I first stumbled across Coralie’s work through a Creative Review post, ‘The Casual Optimist’s Book Covers of the Year’. It was here that her fable The Fox and the Star (2015) was showcased for its beautiful handcrafted, ornamental illustrations and design. This is what inspired me into choosing to look at the rebranding of classic story covers such as fables, Jane Austin’s and tales of old like Arabian Nights. Bickford-Smith’s work contains the notions of a classic Arts and Crafts illustrative style in a contemporary design format which is what I am interested in further researching.

F&S examples.jpg

The article mentioned that Bickford-Smith was well known for her collaborations with Penguin over her Clothbound Classics series. From here, I visited her official webpage and found that she has designed 31 covers over four various series of classic stories. On her site, she describes that “these titles explore my obsession to create beautiful, timeless artefacts for people to enjoy, cherish and pass on. Sumptuous, tactile books that evoke a rich heritage of bookbinding while retaining fresh appeal to modern readers; that both stand out in bookshops and have a longevity appropriate to the contents.”

Classic Series 1*Clothbound Classics, series One.

On Behance’s 99U, I discovered an interview with Bickford-Smith regarding her Clothbound Classic designs. She explains how the content of each story is certainly a vital component to the design of its cover. Colour is yet another key element that determines the overall communication of the design.

“Colour is vitally important – the right combination can make a good design utterly compelling…With the clothbound classics, materials and budget dictate that I can only use two colours per book, and there is a further limitation imposed by the range of available cloth and foil. Rather than seeing that as a negative, I love finding the best combination. It’s a time-consuming business but such a major element of the design, and when it works it really takes the cover to the next level.”

When viewing her series, it is easy to see she has followed a specific grid which unifies the collection. She mentions this in the interview and explains that although the grid provides an overall structure, it is the pattern and colour which allow for each title to individually express the content within. In saying this, now would be a good time to examine a few of her covers.

CBS examples.jpg

Above from the left we have The Picture of Dorian Gray, Jane Eyre, Great Expectations and Pride and Prejudice. These are four of the ten covers in Bickford-Smiths first Clothbound Classic series. As we can see, each novel follows a three-columned grid, with the title and author resting in the top and bottom space of the second column. This simplicity allows for a direct and clear readability of the texts as they rest within the negative monotone background. The same attributes are applied to the spine, with the text resting in the negative space of the middle and bottom. Each book is duotone in colour, which provides a clean, clear contrast between the main elements; text and pattern. This in turn allows for the book to stand out on a bookshelf and demand to be picked up and explored further.

The reasoning behind a duotone design resides within the access to materials; cloth and foil colours. Bickford-Smith discusses she only has a limited palette to work with. However, the simplicity seems fitting as it emboldens the pattern which provides a narrative statement about the story within. For example, the peacock feathered pattern on The Picture of Dorian Gray “plays upon the themes of vanity and the superficial”. The chestnut leaf pattern on Jane Eyre refers to the “lightening blasted chestnut tree, a concrete element in the text that serves as a potent symbol of the book’s central relationship.” So, each pattern was made with an intention to reflect an aspect of the content in each story. The patterns have a handcrafted aesthetic to them; almost as though they were cut or carved by hand. To me, this ties into the realms of the decorative Arts and Crafts or Art Nouveau time periods, which essentially brings forward a classic essence to the books. As does the serif font.

In another interview with Design Sponge, Bickford-Smith says that her colour choices were also to capture moods from the stories. Perhaps the yellow and gold of Pride and Prejudice is to represent to the riches of the upper-class and nobility within the story or the riches of the character’s love? I suppose one would have to read and know the story to interpret the connoted colour ‘mood’ as well.


“Interview : Coralie Bickford-Smith {Penguin Classics}”. Design*Sponge. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 Mar. 2017. Retrieved from:

Sinclair, Mark. “The Casual Optimist’s Book Covers Of The Year – Creative Review”. Creative Review. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 Mar. 2017. Retrieved from:

Sherman, Lauren et al. “Coralie Bickford-Smith: The Power Of A Limited Palette”. 99U by Behance. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 Mar. 2017. Retrieved from:

“Work”. Coralie Bickford-Smith. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 Mar. 2017. Retrieved from:



Yesterday, I researched Bickford-Smiths Clothbound Classics and commented how the patterns used in her designs seemed to look handcrafted, which lead my mind into remembering the Arts and Crafts Movement (or even the Art Nouveau) art periods. The art style of this era was to embrace eloquent hand-made pattern and illustration and traditional textile use – work that was unique and not mass produced or made by machines of the uprising industrial age.


Upon viewing her written and illustrated fable, The Fox and the Star on Creative Review, I immediately admired how the type of illustration resembled hand-cut paper crafts and looked as though it were laid out in a collage style. After doing some research on this fable, it was interesting to find that her book had held its own exhibition within the William Morris Gallery, located in London. William Morris was one of the most profound and famous designers within the Arts and Crafts era and held a high influence in reviving the ideals of handicrafts in abhorrence to the industrial revolution.

Reynard...The excerpt mentions how Morris’s Kelmscott Press edition of Reynard the Fox was in fact a major source of inspiration for her own work. Her use of a cloth textile, illustrations that resemble woodcut or hand cut craftsmanship and serif fonts all tie in a beautiful aesthetic resembling this older art period. The layout of imagery and text within the book is very contemporary, resting within blocks of each other or in between the negative spaces of background and foreground. The bright colour and clean digital print certainly remind us that this book is a combination of past and present influence.


After stumbling across Jessica Hisches’ typographic work on Pinterest, I was lead to her official website. It is here that Hische displays the range of her collaborations with Sterling Publishers and Barnes and Noble under the ‘Barnes and Noble Classics’ series. Under the art direction of Jo Obarowski, Hische designed an array of elegant, typographic book covers.

 Each book is leather bound, with the design work being foil stamped in duotones onto the jacket and spine. An excerpt from her website exclaims, “This is probably my favourite project of all time and thanks to Jo the interiors are as beautiful as the covers. Each has marbled endpapers, painted page edges and matching ribbons and headbands.

JH bookspinesUnlike Bickford-Smith, Hische has created a series of covers where the typographic titles are certainly the dominant and celebrated feature. These are then embellished with an array of patterns that are reflective of the Art Nouveau style; curvilinear line-work and not as busy as the Arts and Crafts type of patterning. For example, the curvature of the patterns and typography in Pride and Prejudice allow for the eye to gently drift around from the top left of the book in a clockwise fashion. While Pride and Prejudice contains these softer, feminine elements, we see Hische’s Dracula with a black gothic font, reflective of the story characterisation and period of this tale. The embellishments on this cover are more spiked and sinister in their appearance. Once again, we see the use of duotones printed onto the coloured leathers, the choices are harmonious to one another and represent the mood of each story.

JH Books2.jpg


“Interview With Letterer Jessica Hische”. designboom | architecture & design magazine. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 Mar. 2017. Retrieved from:

Jessica Hische. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 Mar. 2017. Retrieved from:

 08/03/17: MANUJA WALDIA.

Manuja Waldia is a young Graphic Design graduate from the New Delhi and the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. She is now grounded in Indianapolis and was picked up by Penguin Random Housescreative director Paul Buckley to work on a series of contemporary illustrations for the classic Pelican Shakespeare series. This body of work consisted of about 40 titles to design for.


From left: Design: Edward Young, Illustration: Robert Gibbings., 1937, Woodcut engravings by David Gentleman, 1960s–1970s, Design and illustration: Manuja Waldia, 2016

The intention to revive these classics was due to the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. The overall idea with this design series was to illuminate the tale of each story through a sharp, modern graphic illustration on the front and back of each cover.  In the article, New look for Pelican Shakespeare series by Creative Review, it expresses that ‘for each volume, Waldia’s detailed work picks out the theme of the play and intertwines symbolic elements from the plot into a single illustration. Based on the few images of the series that have been released so far, Shakespeare’s tragedies appear to feature a black background, while comedies make use of white.’

 After having viewed her personal website, I have discovered that Waldia provides a brief explanation into the design processes made for each covers illustration. She confirms that the tragedies are in black, the comedies a light blue and histories are maroon in colour. Here are some examples below.


Two coffins show the instruments of death for the star crossed lovers. On the verso is an ampersand to highlight the ‘And’ in Romeo And Juliet. Other symbolic elements include roses, dagger and poison.


Bust of Caesar dripping blood over Rome. He is shown stabbed in the back (sorry about the pun) with Brutus looming over his body. 


From his island, the wizard Prospero raises a magical Tempest to rock his nemeses’ boat. The back cover shows Ariel tied to a tree by Prospero’s magic.

Each image was hand drawn and then redesigned using digital media (most likely Adobe Illustrator, as the images look like vector work). The elements that work to keep the series cohesive are the categorisation of colour for each kind of story, the limited colour palette within the line work, and geometric linear illustrative style playing through. These book covers were designed to bring life and breath into the ancient 400-year death of this famous Bard’s work. These fluid contemporary designs will surely lure the young readers eye in for a curious peek. The overall design demonstrates an air of theatrical movement and playfulness as though the scenes were coming to life before the viewer’s eyes. Yet the crisp contrast between background and image/text of the foreground evoke a sense of power and authority like the very writing of Shakespeare himself.


Brower, Steven. “Shakespeare Book Covers For The 21St Century”. Print Magazine. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 Mar. 2017. Retrieved from:

 “Home”. Manuja Waldia. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 Mar. 2017. Retrieved from:

 Sinclair, Mark. “New Look For Pelican Shakespeare Series – Creative Review”. Creative Review. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 Mar. 2017. Retrieved from:

 “The Pelican Shakespeare Series Design By Manuja Waldia”. The Casual Optimist. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 Mar. 2017. Retrieved from:

09/03/17: ANNA BOND.

Anna Bond is a creative director, designer, illustrator and co-owner alongside her Husband, Nathan, in a business called Rifle Paper Co. With a passion for paper goods and handicrafts, it’s only natural to jump at the chance to design book covers, right?

Anna-Bond-in-bloom-covers So, when Puffin’s Eileen Kreit requested for Bond’s illustrations to feature across a small series of ‘In Bloom Children’s Classics’ she took the opportunity right away. Bond’s illustrations are not only on the cover of each book, they run throughout the whole story. In Publisher Weekly’s Q & A with Anna Bond, she explains her drawing process saying that she began with very rough conceptual sketches. These were then reviewed and improved upon. On the final products she used gouache paint to introduce colour. When asked “What inspired the colour palette you chose?” She responded with, I started with Alice’s blue dress and worked from there. A variety of blue tones was integral to the palette as well as vibrant pinks, reds, and greens. I wanted to evoke the magical, dreamlike quality of the story by using colours that were a bit surreal, such as electric blue tree trunks.”

AB booksThere are two fonts used to title the books; one is of a script format while the other a serif. They are gold foiled which present the stories with a royal air of elegance. Being children’s stories, they also create a sense of enchantment and wonder for younger readers. The colours used on the jackets are bright primary and secondary colours, of complimentary or analogous tones. Both allow for harmony to coincide despite the multitude of colour that pops off the covers. The illustrative style is more contemporary; a simplistic cartoon style that is quite popular amongst illustrators today. However, the use of floral patterning suggests an influence on the Arts and Crafts Movement, as well as the collaged placement.


“12 Classic Covers Reimagined”. InDesign Skills. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 Mar. 2017. Retrieved from:

“About”. Anna Bond. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 Mar. 2017. Retrieved from:

“Anna Bond Of Rifle Paper Co.”. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 Mar. 2017. Retrieved from:

“Q & A With Anna Bond”. N.p., 2017. Web. 16 Mar. 2017. Retrieved from:



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