A children’s book cover

Trying to create an out of the world book cover for 7-11 year olds!

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Book research

My daughter aged seven, not long ago at the library picked up a book titled Aesop’s Fables retold by Elli Woolard and illustrated by Marla Altes.
The fact she picked this up as she liked the illustration gave me a very early (and lucky) start, I had a direction in terms of appealed to a seven year old!
having children in the target age group means I could get some market research for the intended audience. So I asked on my social media what animals from all over the world / colours do 7-11 year old think of? and got some great replies.

I’ve also been reading and making notes from two books of late, “illustrating Children’s books, creating pictures for publication” by Martin Salisbury and “Illustrating children’s books” by Martin Ursell. Which I think will be useful for the exercise as it makes me think more “outside” the box.

I wanted to avoid using the Globe / Earth in the early stages of the design, the reason for this is I wanted to think outside the globe! and try something different. I have found so many sources of inspiration for this exercise and reference, many being by Usborne books and Aquila and I was able to find and pick illustrators I could research.

Aquila (UK) Kaley McKean

Artist/ Illustrators of interest

Kaley McKean, I first spotted her work in Aquila, Mckean is an illustrator that uses bright, minimal colour palettes. I’ve found an interest in textures and putting together digitally over the course unit and for that reason I was drawn to Mckean’s work.

Sam Falconer

Sam Falconer, his work is what inspired me most for one of my ideas for not actually adding a earth / globe. It was his cover for Aquila that made me stop and think “can I do this differently”.

My Pinterest board for the Children book cover, I looked at images by the above illustrators, from that I did research into books already out there and then found styles/ colours / textures and compositions within the works of others for inspiration.

I needed images for the animals of the world, I wanted shape and movement and the animals to be known by the age group on sight so I was very selective within my pins for this reason. Based on this and my sketches I will be able to narrow down visual elements for my book covers. I wanted to tackle this very differently then the normal technical animals that appear on the front of educational books, inspired by the exercise where I created a mock up and discovering that I can push illustrations more.

My original three ideas / shortlist were
A black hole / twist / twirl with animals going into the centre
A sort of circle with landscape lettering (like the earth from space) with animals silhouetted
Making the Os into Earth and moon and having animals in space suits around.

However I replaced the third as I started to put together as I felt maybe aiming too young and I felt all three had a similar feel, so wanted to throw a random idea I had into the mix.
Which involved animal prints / torn almost like a diary

The size, I picked a square and size for all the books as wanted to compare them to each other. The original reason I picked square was it fit nicely around a circle, I did later come to regret this a little as felt by picking the shape it makes the book seem younger.

Sketchbook pages

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Sketchbook page 1
The early design stages I had a design in the works I wish I didn’t drop, as I felt when competed my designs this could have been a “safer” choice. The reason I didn’t explore is I was inspired by the other designs thinking of what 7-11 front covers would like, and made a mistake of overlooking this in the early stages to take forward.

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Animal mood board and sketches

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Personal sketch book sketches

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Personal sketch book doodles and sketches.

First stage coloured thumbnails / rough client visuals

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This was a new idea I added after thinking wanted a more journal cover. (think diary of the wimpy kid)

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I dropped this idea as felt it was too illustrated and very story book.

Second stage coloured rough mock up / client visuls – (Sketchbook pages)

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Pattern / textures / animals (and dismissed work)

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I created patterns for the background using different methods (ink / watercolour /gouache) I wasn’t to worried about getting the colour hue/tone perfect as I’m planning to place together digitally.

I had a lot of trial and error with my animals designs as wasn’t turning out quite right at first, I wanted to show movement and shape more than the “perfect” animal drawing.
I got there in the end using watercolour and inked lines.

The part I loved was the animal print patterns which I created with watercolour/masking fluid and ink. I think if the design failed I’ve scanned these in so can use in the future for personal projects / patterns. I will be doing this technique again.

I was trying hard not let it get too illustrated and kept it almost loose.


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I competed placing the images together to create a better idea of the visual, all of these would need more work if a client picked it.
I also asked children again on social media aged 7-11 which they prefer and feedback, which I’m glad I did as was an interesting evening and gave me great insight to what 7-11 year olds were seeing looking at these!

First book design (Final draft/mock up)

OCA - Children book cover design 1

Most children liked (including my own) this design the most and even had a useful feedback to try if I was to explore this design more. This is also the idea that was mostly inspired by aquila which is an educational magazine and that is the “vibe” I wanted.

“Because it is like the universe and it’s showing that the animals are different around the universe”
Leon aged 7
“The background is really awesome and the animals are all swirling around in a pattern and I like that”
Mitchell aged 9
“I like this one, but could you draw the animals in a circle, around an actual globe”
Isla aged 7

Second book design (Final draft/mock up)

OCA - Children book cover design 2

Only a couple of children picked this one, I can understand why it isn’t what I was aiming for and envisioned? This one is also the least relevant to the objectives and the client.
I could explore maybe having the animals as the prints ? or the text?
Make it more colourful and eye catching.

“I like this one the best, I don’t know why, but I just like it”
Daniel aged 9

Third book design (Final draft/mock up)

OCA - children book cover design 3

This one I was thinking outside the box and inspired by a couple of skillshare classes about seeing things differently, almost a diary / journal.

This was the second most liked, mainly due to it being bright and colourful.
Could I somehow transfer this colour / print into the first design?
Such as have the twirls from animal prints?

All the patterns from the animals and it gets you into the vibe of the book”
Lexie age 8
“It is bright and colourful”
Sophie aged 7

I really enjoyed this exercise, I had chance to explore three possible designs and the subject even if I made mistakes. I took a risk of going down a more illustrated route for two of the designs as could end up looking more story book than educational, I took this risk to make the book stand out more and to be related to the subject, but I do question if I did go too far down the illustrated route that it may not relate to the inside! unless the style of artwork is carried though the book.

To be fair it is a question I would ask the client and check if this was something they wanted to explore as would think it would need to relate to illustrations inside, so if had a sort of Aquila magazine feel, which I feel is fresh and modern for today audience then this would work for number one. Number three would work best if the client had a more journal feel on the inside, such as post it notes and looks pictures clipped on to the page etc.

Number two I don’t think works as all, so I dismiss that one myself. I wish I explored a more detailed illustration of the animals to cover all the bases in place of this one.
Here I made a mistake and should have given three very different covers to include a more technical piece, giving the client a better choice.
If I was to redo I would do this a large portrait, which I think is more suitable for the purpose of the book.

Next time I would need a better balance between client / target audience / book contents!
I liked the technique in the end to create the backgrounds / animals.

I may rework another option, I like one and three but I’m very aware it depends on the style of writing/ contents if was to work!

Credits, references and research

https://www.aquila.co.uk/
https://www.kaleymckean.com/

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