3.3 Illustration & typography

The purpose of this exercise was to select and analyse a variety of illustrated book covers to breakdown how text and image work together and examine the success or otherwise of different design decisions and approaches.

Key words from the brief:

  • Look at a range of book or magazine covers that use illustration
  • Pick a range of examples and discuss how the relationship between image and text works.

Approach

In order to give some context to my book cover selections and to frame the research, all of the examples I’ve chosen are from the The Official List of Harper’s Fall 2019 Young Adult book covers.

I thought it would be a more interesting exercise to look at contemporary examples of book covers all aimed at the same audience.

Examples where the illustrator has created space in their image to accommodate the typography

Cracking the Bell by Geoff Herbach

This is a clear example of where the illustrator had designed an image to combine with the book title; the title taking up the whole upper third of the cover.

Cracking the Bell
Fig 1 – Cracking the Bell (2019)

How does the typography of the title, author and other details interplay with the illustration?

The interplay between the head of the character in the foreground and and book title gives more depth to the image and highlights the connection between the two.

One of the main functions of the text layout and choice of bold typeface is to reveal a another image underneath giving another layer of meaning.

The illustrator has created a dark almost black space in the foreground for the authors name in white. This makes this text stand out somewhat more than the book title, albeit the text is much smaller in size.

What’s the relationship between type and image?

The type and image work harmoniously together.

My criticism of the cover is that the foreground figure made me believe the book was from a science fiction genre, whereas it’s about the experiences of a teenage American football player. That might just be a cultural misunderstanding on my part i.e. not immediately understanding the American Football reference.

Unpregnant by Jenni Hendriks, Ted Caplan

This cover is well designed and effective on a number of levels. As a reader I get to understand the theme of the book almost instantly. The bright pink makes it stand out and the expletives on the pregnancy test results and chipped nail polish add additional narrative context.

The book deals with social realism, unwanted pregnancy and the story of a girl coming to terms and living through what that means.

Unpregnant
Fig 2 – Unpregnant (2019)

How does the typography of the title, author and other details interplay with the illustration?

The design allows a lot of space for the book title, a subtitle that helps to qualify the meaning of the book, and the names of the authors.

The book title looks handwritten with the rest of the text in a handwritten style typeface.

What’s the relationship between type and image?

The illustration is quite lose and informal, and this is supported by a handwritten type.

Examples where this relationship is less successful

Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake

This is a Game of Thrones type fantasy novel full of intrigue and the power plays of kings and queens.

Five Dark Fates
Fig 3 – Five Dark Fates (2019)

How does the typography of the title, author and other details interplay with the illustration?

The choice of headline font is quite dramatic and stylish but the way it’s been set, with huge gaps between three short words makes it look thin and weak against the background image.

The interplay is not productive or by design.

What’s the relationship between type and image?

It seems to me like the design of the cover was not art directed; the title of the book is awkwardly spaced over the coat of arms image in the least disruptive way possible. It looks like the illustrator/graphic designer were briefed separately, the the graphic designer struggling to fit all the text information around the edges of the underlying image.

All the Things We Do in the Dark by Saundra Mitchell

The cover of this book doesn’t work well with the deeply dark and disturbing story. The choice of colours and the way the orange hand-drawn roots are twisted around the dark tree silhouettes in the background photograph gives an impression of halloween which seem rather kitch and out of place.

All the things we do in the dark
Fig 4 – All the things we do in the dark (2019)

How does the typography of the title, author and other details interplay with the illustration?

The title of the book is handwritten/illustrated and centred on top of a space in the image left for this purpose. The subtitle and author name are in the same machine font and positioned over a black space left at the bottom of the illustration.

The hand illustrated title is in the style of the other hand drawn elements.

What’s the relationship between type and image?

Whilst the illustrated elements work together, they don’t work with the background photograph in a way that’s consistent with the story. In other words the relationship between type and image doesn’t work in the context of what’s being illustrated.

Examples where the type and image are pulling in the same direction

When You Ask Me Where I’m Going by Jasmin Kaur

This is a really good example of where text and image support each other in a multi-layered illustration.

The design consists of simple blue shapes cut into a flat cream background.

When You Ask Me Where I’m Going
Fig 5 – When you ask me where I’m going (2019)

How does the typography of the title, author and other details interplay with the illustration?

At first sight the illustration looked to me like a map of a river giving a sense of travel and movement. The title of book, ‘When you ask me where I’m going’ follows the contour of the river supporting the idea of something moving or ‘going’. On closer inspection it becomes clear that the blue layered cleft is made from the contours of a woman’s head and upper body.

The same typeface is used for both the book title (all in capital letters), and the authors name (all in lowercase).

What’s the relationship between type and image?

The meaning of the text is reinforced by the illustration. The simple composition and use of colour have an immediate pull for a reader, and this increases when the layered nature of the image becomes apparent.

Butterfly Yellow by Thanhha Lai

Butterfly Yellow is a book about a Vietnamese brother and sister that get separated and meet many years later in America.

Butterfly Yellow
Fig 6 – Butterfly Yellow (2019)

How does the typography of the title, author and other details interplay with the illustration?

The illustration and title text work beautifully together and share the same subtle fragile visual style. The magenta colour of the text has been carefully chosen to work alongside and against the yellow butterflies, with the butterflies fluttering in front of and behind the text.

The illustration of the girl is beautiful in it’s simplicity.

The authors name and a line of marketing text use the same font using a different combination of all uppercase  and upper and lowercase.

What’s the relationship between type and image?

The illustration has been designed to integrate with the headline text that is an integral part of the image, and the strapline and authors name fill a space deliberately left at the top of the page.

List of illustrations

Figure 1 – Marek, Lauren (2019) Cracking the Bell [Illustration] At: https://www.epicreads.com/blog/fall-2019-young-adult-book-covers/ (Accessed on: 03.11.19)

Figure 2 – Breiling, Laura (2019) Unpregnant [Illustration] At: https://www.epicreads.com/blog/fall-2019-young-adult-book-covers/ (Accessed on: 03.11.19)

Figure 3 – Dismukes, John (2019) Five Dark Fates [Illustration] At: https://www.epicreads.com/blog/fall-2019-young-adult-book-covers/ (Accessed on: 03.11.19)

Figure 4 – Gabbert, Connie (2019) All the things we do in the dark [Illustration] At: https://www.epicreads.com/blog/fall-2019-young-adult-book-covers/ (Accessed on: 03.11.19)

Figure 5 – Ojala, Eiko (2019) When you ask me where I’m going [Illustration] At: https://www.epicreads.com/blog/fall-2019-young-adult-book-covers/ (Accessed on: 03.11.19)

Figure 6 – Xuan, Loc Xuan (2019) Butterfly Yellow [Illustration] At: https://www.epicreads.com/blog/fall-2019-young-adult-book-covers/ (Accessed on: 03.11.19)