As a visual person, I admit to judging a book by its cover way too much. In fact, if a book has a cover I hate, I might not read it at all. And I’ve started reading books that don’t sound the slightest bit interesting just because they’re attractive on the outside. This will be the first in a series of posts where I re-imagine the covers of some of the books on my reading list, and it will go hand-in-hand with the book review posts I do every month or two. If you would like to see the original versions of these covers, just hop on over to my review page where you can also learn a bit about what they’re about and what I thought of them.
I’ll be starting a graphic design program later this year, so this little challenge isn’t only for fun. I’m trying to familiarize myself with the programs I’ll be using, and also learn more about how fonts and colours work together. And if I can come up with some stuff for my portfolio, bonus points. Because this is also my design journey, I will be writing about the resources I used, and the route that I took to get to the final product.
Shore Lodge by Susan Specht Oram
The whole reason I picked up this book was because I liked the cover, so I was intimidated with the idea of trying to make a new design for it. I started by using the AI art generator Midjourney to generate several different images of old ladies because I’m paranoid about getting in trouble from using any image of a model from one of the free image databases. I particularly liked this one because I felt it accurately conveyed the pain the main character feels in the book. I used the content aware fill in Photoshop to fill the rest of the canvas with the background colour. Originally I had planned to overlay a rainy glass effect, but then I found this frosted window template by Sko4 on Envato and it was perfect.
I moved the image into InDesign where I took a really long time playing around with different fonts, and ended up landing on Big Caslon for both the title and author text. I used my usual gradient feather to add a bit of a shine and added a bit of noise, then decided to stagger the two words a bit for a more of an unsettled look. I feel like the end result is really interesting.
The House at the End of the World by Dean Koontz
This one was hard. I really didn’t think I could do a design that was as good as the original, so I decided to just do my own take on it. I noticed when looking at different cover designs for Koontz’ books that his name is always bigger than the book title, which I guess makes sense since he’s very famous. I started there, but obviously didn’t really stick to the plan.
The serif font I used was Adobe Caslon, which is one of my favourites because it always looks super professional. I had a lot of trouble getting the title to look right because it’s so lengthy. I finally decided to use the same structure as the title on the original cover. I went with Open Sans for the title font, which is another one of my favourites to work with. For the image, I started with the idea of doing a double exposure effect using a nature image and the silhouette of a fox (who features in the book) but I wasn’t happy with any of the results. I finally decided to use this image by June from Unsplash, then added some colour filters and toned down the saturation a bit. It’s similar to the original cover, but more moody and minimalistic.
The Troop by Nick Cutter
This book, like Shore Lodge, was one that I didn’t enjoy reading, but I liked the original cover design. The story is about a Boy Scout troop, so I originally wanted the cover to feature a scout badge with the title and author as part of the embroidery on the badge. Since I had no idea how to do that, I decided to go with something a little more simple. I used Midjourney to create an embroidered Boy Scout logo and brought it into Photoshop to play around with. I still had the idea of creating an embroidered effect for the text, but unfortunately I couldn’t figure out how to do that so I just used the bevel/emboss feature and some inner shadows.
My original design had orange text on top of an olive green canvas texture, which I really liked, but it felt more army than scouts. I got rid of the green background and used this image by engin akyurt from Unsplash, desaturated it, added some shadows and changed the text colour to red and white. I don’t think this design pops as much but it definitely fits the story more. I used these handcrafted splatter brushes by Layerform to add a blood spatter effect (it is a horror book after all) and toned down the opacity to blend them in. For the font I used Avenir in black and medium weights.
The Haar by David Sodergren
I didn’t love the original version of this cover so I was excited to play around with alternate ideas. While the original fits the horror genre, it feels dated and kind of amateur. It also gives too much away – we shouldn’t see the monster before we even pick up the book! I decided to reimagine it with a more modern, moody vibe. I originally wanted to play around with a blue/green colour scheme. Since the novel takes place in a scenic oceanside Scottish village, I was really hoping to find a dramatic image of lush green cliffs, but I couldn’t find anything that fit what I wanted to do. Then I found this beautiful image by Mário Silva on Unsplash and thought I’d play around with it to see if it worked. It did.
I added a bit more fog and blurred out the background a little more in Photoshop. I also added a subtle layer of darker fog in the distance to amp up the moodiness just slightly. Then I moved over to InDesign and added the text. Initially, I thought about making the text very large but decided it worked better smaller. I added white gradient overlays to the author and title to make it interesting. The main font family I used was Humnst777+BT in black and light, not because I intended to, but because my curser froze on it while I was scrolling through the list and I decided it was good enough at the moment. Then I realized I actually really liked it so I just kept it. For the additional text I used Abril Display because I liked the way it looked italicized.
Strange Highways by Dean Koontz
This one took a few re-do’s to get right. Since it’s a short story collection, it was difficult to decide whether to go with a theme from the title story, one of the other stories, or just something generally spooky. I chose the latter option. I started with this spooky image by Michael Mouritz from Unsplash and added a hiker silhouette designed by adrianpelletier from Envato. I blended and blurred and brushed and dodged before moving it to InDesign to add text.
I played around with a few different fonts before settling on Carta Marina for the title and adding some effects so it looks like a shadow. I wish I could say this effect was intentional, but it happened by accident. I thought about changing it to be more visible, but I really like the shadow effect. For the rest of the text, I used PT Serif. I don’t love using multiple serif fonts together, but I couldn’t find a sans serif I liked as much. I think it still works though.