Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Assignment 2

My preparation for this assignment is becoming quite drawn out. The brief is to design an image for a book cover - for a book chosen from a set list. The cover needs to be all my own work (obviously) and the image needs to be conceptual rather than literal in nature. The task didn't seem too difficult. After all the notes point to some pretty amazing examples of covers already available and I felt quite inspired. That is until I began to unpick the assignment and I realised that what looks to be fairly effortless, with numerous possibilities for creativity, is in fact bloody hard to do.

I began by having a look at the set list:

Choice - Renata Salecl
1984 - George Orwell
Farenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury
The Outsider - Albert Camus
The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
Far From the Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
The Dice Man - Luke Rhinehart

I've only read one of those novels (1984) and that was over twenty years ago. Although bleak I did enjoy it and thought that some of the more personal themes in the subtext could fit with my overall aims for the assignments for this module - this one is a contender.

I've seen the film, Remains of the Day, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Though I didn't feel much of an urge to make a cover for this book - not as much as 1984 anyway. I do like another novel by Ishiguro though. Never Let Me Go is a story that gripped me when I read it a while ago and I've also seen the film recently too. I became quite obsessed with using this book for the assignment for a while even though it's not on the list and would need my tutor approval to proceed. I mulled the idea over and decided the set list is extensive enough and I should really read some of the other books before asking for special exemptions.

I've read other work by Ray Bradbury and enjoyed it though the synopsis for Farenheit 451 seemed pretty similar to 1984 in many ways - and that book was already top of my list.

Far From the Madding Crowd - Yuk!

I've not heard of The Diceman. The synopsis on Amazon states that it has a bit of a cult following. The book sounded intriguing and I plan to read it at some point but again didn't particularly feel the urge to make a cover for this book. If I were a commercial photographer then picking and choosing would not be an option but as I would be relying on a spurt of creativity I wanted to give myself a fighting chance and pick a novel that I would be interested in making an image for.

The Outsider by Albert Camus I'll come back to.

So I began putting some sketches together for "1984." I also picked up a copy from the library for a re-read. Being a bit of a Science Fiction reader the future/retro mechanical elements of the novel (such as the two-way screens, speak/write and pneumatic tubes in Winston's cubicle at the Ministry of Truth) fascinated me. I also wanted to incorporate elements of the oppression that hung over the characters daily lives. I started with the idea of acquiring some cogs or flywheels to photograph and creating some sort of geometric design that would incorporate the slogans "War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength." I soon went off that idea as it seemed too obvious, simple, and not conceptual enough.

So I played around some more and came up with an more complex idea based on a chapter of the book. It is the part where Winston Smith is incarcerated and the reference is made about Ingsoc being a party that sees its vision as that of "a boot stamping on a face forever." I thought that that image was pretty powerful and would fit with the overarching theme of the evils of a futuristic Totalitarian State. I could also conceptualise it more by incorporating the boot and face into one by using the mechanical "cogs" concept from my previous sketch. So, I did another sketch and even went as far as to mock up a quick Photoshop image to get a feel for what I wanted.

Now I'm not so sure. Is it too obvious? Is it conceptual enough? I'm dithering now and don't want to go down the path of collecting props and spending a lot of Photoshop time on the computer if I'm not sure.

So. "1984" is currently on hold. I had another look at the book list and chose "The Outsider" by Albert Camus as a possible contender. It arrived from Amazon yesterday and at just over 100 pages it should be a fairly quick read. Only then will I make my final decision.

Update: 24th May

I have finally made a decision. After reading the novel I've decided to do a cover for "The Outsider." I found one of the early events in the book very powerful and it set the tone for the rest of the novel. This is where the main character Mersault sits in vigil over his mother's body the night before her funeral. The scene also foreshadows Mersault's trial at the end of the book. The way the vigil scene was written was very vivid to me and I wanted to capture some of the elements in the writing.

Here are my notes:

The cover image would require a studio shot, some props, and some equipment for the backdrop. Once I had everything together I did some test shots to check that all the elements that I wanted to include came together in the composition as can be seen below:

After some adjustments I then made my final shots a few days later with my model dressed for the shoot. I'd also made some images of interior doors for the back cover and then moved to post processing and research for text and graphics. I've followed the layout format for the original book quite closely but chosen my own fonts and sizing. The cover images of course are completely different to look at. For the post processing I've also put a coloured treatment across the front and back cover to bring a cohesive feel to the images. When I was researching book covers I realised that they can be quite colourful to catch attention on the shelf and therefore needed a treatment that is more commercial than I would usually apply.

Here is my final cover:

Here is the original:

Edit: 5th August.

Further work on this assignment can be seen here.

Assignment 2 - revisit


  1. I can feel myself chafing re having to choose from a set list but I guess that's a good method for standardisation at assessment.

  2. Oh? Very nice!!
    I particularly enjoyed this assignment, it took me ages to finish it, because I enjoyed it so much!