Assessment Piece 4 continued- Areas of Illustration: A Children's Book Cover (Revisited)

I chose this exercise to revisit because it was one I was looking forward to but really struggled with at the time.  Out of the three ideas I produced at the time, my tutor felt the map idea in particular was strongest, so her advice plus my interest in map illustration made this a perfect choice to revisit and develop further.  

I decided to create three designs based around this map idea rather than three completely different designs as I did before. This enabled me to explore colour options and composition and layout in more depth.  To set myself a brief, I referred back to the advice given by Penguin referenced in my original post; the original brief and feedback from my tutor.

My brief

  • Produce colour client visuals of three design ideas for the front cover of a natural history book for children aged 7 - 11 entitled ‘Animals Around the World’.

  • The audience are modern children aged 7 - 11 and the cover needs to appeal to them.  

  • The cover needs to clearly communicate its genre and what the book is about.

  • Make sure the title is clearly readable.  Consider the hierarchy between title and illustration.

  • Think about the book’s place in the market for this genre.

  • Choice of media is open.

  • Size is open.

  • Format is open.

I left size and format options open because it was something I had originally felt was problematic with this design idea and I wanted to try out different shapes and sizes.

My original design ideas all featured the text placed over the top of the illustration because at the time I felt that it gave the cover a modern look. However after advice from my tutor and my own reflection and reference back to my initial research, I realise that it appears confusing to the eye due to a lack of contrast. There is no hierarchy as neither the text or image catch the eye first, it just appears as a jumble. The audience are children so it immediately needs to be eye catching and engaging. It was suggested that I further analyse the relationship between text and image on Owen Davey’s book covers to build on my original analysis. He uses a sans serif modern looking font that suits his graphic illustration style. It is placed in a bubble for contrast and the bubble is set in the illustration which ensures it looks incorporated, not just added on as an afterthought. In ‘Fanatical About Frogs’, I feel that it is the illustration of the red eyed tree frog that captures the eye first, with text lower in the hierarchy, while the text captures the eye first in ‘Bonkers About Beetles’. This is perhaps because the colours beneath the white bubble are darker than the paler blue in the frog pond, creating more contrast.

With this analysis in mind I created some thumbnails to see how I could make the text more part of the design, rather than over the top. At this stage I felt that the text in a semi circle around the top of the globe was a strong design. My tutor had suggested a square book format and this works well with this design. I tried it in a landscape format but felt there was too much negative space to look effective.

With the landscape map of the world idea I tried the text in all different positions including in bubbles as used by Owen Davey.

I kept the age of the children in mind when choosing animals to include on the cover. For slightly older children I felt that I needed to include animals indicative of living in each part of the world but that weren’t the most obvious. They needed to be recognisable and engaging but also ignite a curiosity in children making them want to find out about an animal they may not know so much about. I made a mind map to help me work out which to include on each continent. I also wanted to include a range of animal types, not just mammals.

I then drew each animal from observation before illustrating. When illustrating, I was mindful to try and achieve a balance between making the animals appealing, but without using too much distortion as it is a non fiction text. The artwork is mixed media using mainly gouache, coloured pencil and wax pastel. I made each as a separate image so I could then scan and assemble in photoshop.

The map background was created using watercolour and gouache. I wanted the animals to stand out so I didn’t want the map to be too brightly coloured which was the mistake I made in the initial exercise. I made two versions of the background, one with grey land masses and one with green and grey. I kept the sea quite a dark blue in each. None of the colours were heavily saturated because I felt this would lessen the contrast between map and animals. I did have to use a darker colour around the edges of the land in the grey version though in order to create enough contrast between the colour of land and sea.

The next step was to add the animals in photoshop which gave me the opportunity to resize and flip as I wished in order to create interest for the viewer. I felt it was important to have the animals facing different ways to maintain interest and I had considered this when creating the artwork, but photoshop allowed me to make extra adjustments. The three designs without text are shown below. I think I have a good mix in terms of type, shape and colour of animals, as well as the direction they are facing. The animals are clearer on the green map where the outline of the land is not so saturated with colour.

I explored the book background colour and text together to ensure I created enough contrast to make the title clear enough. When thumb nailing I had chosen a curved text as the strongest and the one to develop. However, in practise, using curved text limits the size it can be, therefore limiting how well it stands out. I think that the first and final colour combinations are the most striking in terms of contrast. I like the white writing on a dark background. I chose two different sans serif fonts after trying out a few different ones. I think sans serif gives it a modern look and is most unfussy when trying to attract children.

I went back to my thumb nails to look at other options for text placement and created the designs shown below. I think the text stands out well on these designs. It is what catches the eye first before allowing it to explore the illustration. I also tried out other brighter backgrounds with children in mind but don’t really think they work.

When working on the landscape design, I started by trying out the text laying over the empty part of the map at the bottom but this just wasn’t clear enough.

To make the text stand out clearly and lead the eye, I decided to try using a coloured banner on which to lay the text. I started by trying out white text on coloured background because that is what I felt worked in the globe design. I then tried out different coloured text on a white background which I think works most successfully. Using the eyedropper tool in photoshop I was able to match the text colour to colours in the animals on the map.

Below are my choices for the final three designs. I think I have fulfilled the brief I set myself. I have considered hierarchy in design and have ensured the text is clear and is what initially catches the eye. To compliment this I think my design invites children to look closer and gives them a clear idea about what the book is about. My artwork and colour choice is much improved ensuring the animals are clearer than in my original designs. Revisiting this exercise has also improved my skills in photoshop. I have learnt how to successfully remove backgrounds in order to assemble illustrations of of multiple elements which will be a very useful skill in the future.