This entry was posted on Sunday, March 29th, 2009 at 12:29 am.
I built a book cover.
I recently came across the blog FaceOut Books, which covers lots of terrific book design. The amazing work posted there inspired me to try my hand at it.
My grandmother gave me her copy of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House before she died. Bleak House is long. Really long. Like, intimidating. But once I buckled down and started reading it in earnest, I sort of fell in love with it. It’s an amazing, intricate, moving story.
The copy I have is hard bound and published in the 50s; it’s been shelved much of its life, so it’s in good shape, but it lacks a sleeve. I decided that that’s what I’d do for this week’s post–put together a sleeve for it.
Victorian classics like Dickens’ books are typically dressed in traditional, stoic typography with some sort of painting framed appropriately in the center of the front cover. While these are elegant, classical design solutions, they’re not exactly appealing to viewers, say, in a book store. They’re not even appealing to students who have to read these books for school.
The sanserif above isn’t exactly what I mean (that minimalism is actually pretty slick), but you get the idea.
So I decided to go in the opposite direction. The cover I designed is inspired by brush lettering on posters of decades past. The edges are kept rough intentionally; the story is a long, passionate one, so I thought rough brush lettering appropriate.
The window and birds are a depiction of a pivotal, moving scene in the book, which you’ll have to read to understand.
This is my first (real) attempt at brush lettering. I’d like to try to get better at it, actually. This week I came across my mother’s old pen and ink/calligraphy set, so I’ve got some hardware to work with now. That’s exciting.
It took several pages of sketchbook to get the lettering where I wanted it. I started off using pen nibs for a more clean look, but ended up digging out an old cheap Crayola watercolor brush and dipping it in India ink and going to town. I wanted the letters to have rhythm, but also some level of emotion, so I blotted the brush slightly dry and left the edges very rough. I’m pretty happy with the results.
Futura rounds it all out on the spine, the author’s name, and the inside flaps.
I did the whole thing away from my office, where I have lots of resources on hand-lettering. In fact, this was totally blind–as in, no typographical reference–I just sort of went by feel with the lettering here.
I tried taking pictures of the final product wrapped around a book, but they didn’t come out…I’d like to try again once there’s daylight.
When I got the idea and started sketching, I imagined the lettering raised and the birds embossed, but we do what we can with what we’ve got, I suppose.
Anyway. Enjoy. Till next week!
(Also, if you happen to have a copy of Bleak House that needs a cover, I’ve uploaded a PDF and an AI version. These were produced on a Windows machine, Mac users. If your book has different measurements than mine, feel free to resize and everything. Heck, if you see I’m doing something stupid in my file, tell me. Always looking to improve.)