About the Project
My project is a speculative book cover for John le Carre’s The Night Manager. Its an university project I made to practice illustration competition briefs, in this case, the Penguin Student Design Awards. The goal was to design an eye catching adult fiction book cover that appeals to contemporary readership.
The brief was to design a contemporary, clever and fresh book cover for John le Carré’s novel, The Night Manager while trying to avoid the spy and crime tropes that characterise the book’s genre.
I researched book covers from the spy thriller genre, of course, and I drew a lot of inspiration from how conceptual illustrator Karolis Strautniekas builds his mysterious visual metaphors, whose image making I greatly admire.
I used a sketchbook to explore initial concepts and then brought my favourite idea to Procreate, where I used a variation of grain and calligraphy brushes. I used multiple layers to create the illusion of smoke.
I started with drawing lots of thumbnails trying to discover how the main character’s portrait could look like. I soon realised drawing Johnathan Pine can’t be a straightforward task and I should find a way to depict his elusive persona through a visual metaphor.
I sent an initial version of this book cover to an art director for my first real industry feedback. I was convinced it was my best work to date but the feedback I got was quite rough. I revisited the project, took his advice and focused on overall design and better drawing, which resulted in the current version of the cover.
I think this project was an opportunity to learn a little bit about design and how to marry design and illustration in a successful way. Also, it showed me that often times, the work you’re most fond of doesn’t necessarily communicate the way you wish it did and you can use negative feedback to better your project.
I was a final year, full time illustration student when I did this project.
This was a 3 week project initially, but I ended up spending more time on it. I ended up not submitting it for the Penguin competition. I used up one A4 sketchbook, tested around 20 typefaces and went through at least 10 digital variants before finding a favourite.
I would probably slightly increase the letter size for the blurb, but besides that I’m pretty happy with how this project turned out and I wouldn’t like to make any major changes to it.
I’ll write the advice I received from someone far wiser and more experienced, that I try to strive towards and apply to the extent of my capabilities. Don’t create vague images. Find a concise visual resolve for the subtle meanings and messages you want to convey.
My plans for the future are to get back into illustration, as I took quite a long break from it in recent months. I got an exciting product label design in the pipeline, and a long term project using art for psychotherapy that I hope to complete in a year’s time.
My dream commission would be a graphic novel about the incredible migration journey of the North American Monarch butterfly. It would be a surreal story about life and death that I already began sketching for during university.
Favourite Thing to Draw
Plain circles, portraits, lovers
My studio space is currently the small balcony of my apartment. I love the big windows there that allow lots of natural light. Its crowded, but it has everything I need at hand and sometimes I even turn it into an improvised photography studio.
I deeply thank the judges for seeing my project. I am happy to say I’m truly proud of it and its an honour to find it among so many incredible works from all over the world. It feels surreal to have won. The book and drawing Johnathan’s portrait meant something really special and close to my heart and I’m glad this translated somehow. I also feel I must thank the person who helped me push this project by giving me honest, no rubbish, professional feedback.