Exercise: Book cover design

Your brief is to design a stunning and contemporary cover for one of the 20th century’s most acclaimed authors, HG Wells. Known mostly for his science fiction writing, HG Wells also wrote social novels that are still relevant today, covering topics such as the mid-life crisis, class, feminism, materialism, consumerism and love. Your challenge is to create cover designs for three of his books that work as a set and establish the books as timeless fiction.

The books will be published in a paperback format and need to include the title, author’s name, publishers name and trademark. You only need to design the front cover and spine.

Making notes in your learning log:

  • Identify the research you might need to undertake and the gaps in your knowledge. Can you identify any primary research that will help you? What resources could you use to undertake secondary research?
  • • Use the mind mapping technique to explore your keywords. Explore both extremes of obvious and radical solutions to the brief; what’s the most obvious way of responding to it and what radical creative solutions can you come up with?

When you have a range of ideas, as well as the notes in your learning log, make some rough drawings or sketches to show your ideas. You can do these on paper or on a computer. If you are using a computer don’t forget to keep some of the tryouts and early ideas. Call them something like idea #1, #2, #3 and keep them in a separate folder. You may well want to come back to them later and use some of the ideas that you didn’t use this time for another exercise.

Research on HG Wells:

Wells was born in Bromley in Kent. United Kingdom. His mother worked as a maid for the upper classes. His father was a shopkeeper and professional cricket player. Wells  was forced to leave school at fourteen and became apprenticed to a draper. He won a college scholarship and studied science. He did not graduate at this point. He obtained several teaching posts and eventually completed his science degree. His varied positions and sporadic studies provided him with material for his books.

He was a prolific writer and wrote  in many genres, including the novel, history, politics, social commentary, and textbooks and rules for war games (1). His early novels were science fiction but he also wrote factual and biographical books. The first of these being Kipps. His two volume The Outline of History (1920). He wrote a shorter version of his history entitled A Short History of the World (1922). A list of his non-fiction can be found here (2)

I bought and re-read The Misery of Boots and The Story of  Great Schoolmaster. A Modern Utopia is online so I will peruse this.

Research on Book covers:

I looked at a lot of book cover images. I realise that I never buy a book by its cover but always by recommendation or reading a review. I found this research quite eye opening. Many of the covers of the books I have read seemed, to me, to have nothing to do with the book content. I then looked at the 16 ‘best’ book covers of 2016 (3). These were amazing.

I then looked at the 50 Coolest Book Covers Ever. (4) I was really happy to see many of my best loved books and authors represented. It was interesting as I have just had new book shelves built and I was replacing my books on them. I stopped to check many of the covers and one that really jumped out was Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar, which I had read many years ago and the cover had lodged in my memory. Also covers which appeal to me tend to be very simple, many abstract and with few colours. I am not sure I would be convinced to buy a book on the basis of the cover as I have never, to my knowledge, done this.


Book 1: This Misery of Boots


Book 2: The Story of a Great Schoolmaster


Book 3: A Modern Utopia




I did not use Thumbnails for Book 1 and 2 but I did for Book 3. I made a couple of covers for the first two books and will put these in my log book. Below are the the thumbnails I made for Book 3. I really liked this process and will use it more in the future.


After my research I created the following three book covers.

Book 1:



I could not find the logo of The Ball Publishing Company. They seem to only publish gardening books now.

Book 2: The Story of a Great Schoolmaster


Book 3: A Modern Utopia

Despite having done the thumbnails I liked my first idea, created in Illustrator, best.

Modern Utopia


I have a lot to learn about Illustrator and In Design! I was unsure, in some cases, which publisher to use as these books have been published and re-published by several publishers.

I can see the difference in sharpness between the Photoshop covers and the Illustrator one (Book 3).

I am not sure if there are conventions about where to place publisher information but from my own library it seems to be on the spine, mostly. For This Misery of Boots the publishers name was so long I put it on the front. I was also unsure if I could split the name in several lines.

I do not think the three covers make a great set but I could not work out how to make them form a cohesive group.

Many things to be learned but much more to learn.


.. You’ve managed to put together your book jackets proficiently with new digital skills. The overall type you’ve used is nicely laid out and begins to help you to theme your three books (though you shift to a seriff font for your final book?).. 

Of the three books, the third seems to satisfy your own tastes towards more abstract and simple. For this cover, I wonder if you need that red line around the objects (do you know how to remove the ‘stroke’ in illustrator? Perhaps one to look up if not!). 

I changed the typeface to Gill Sans and removed the stroke:

Your mock-up of a chalk board for the second book is a great graphic concept. However, your own handwriting is beautiful and rather scholarly in form; I feel there’s a missed  opportunity to have used some of your own photographic skills to mock this image up on a interestingly lit chalk board in real life. 

I could not get my hands on a small chalk board to re-work this cover.


  1. Wikipedea. H. G. Wells. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H._G._Wells. [Accessed 3 October 2016].
  2. Works by H.G. Wells – non-fiction (no date) Available at: http://freeread.com.au/@rglibrary/HGWells/NonFiction/NonFiction.html (Accessed: 26 September 2016).
  3. pastemagazine.com. 2016. The 16 Best Book Covers of 2016 (So Far) :: Books :: Galleries :: Paste. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/07/the-16-best-book-covers-of-2016-so-far.html. [Accessed 06 October 2016].
  4. ShortList. 2016. The 50 Coolest Book Covers Ever | ShortList Magazine. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.shortlist.com/entertainment/the-50-coolest-book-covers#. [Accessed 06 October 2016].