typeworship:

The Woman In Black, book cover

I was commissioned earlier this year to design the cover for Susan Hill’s gothic horror, The Woman In Black, which has just been republished by Penguin Random House. A Victorian feel was required but the brief was quite open: design a beautiful typographic cover incorporating an illustrative motif.

One of the settings in the book is the ominous Eel Marsh House, which becomes surrounded and engulfed by dense fog from the marsh. I wanted to capture this scene and have the lettering reinforce the swirls of fog. I explored options of the title being suspended in the air or swallowed under the marsh.

Between the letters I drew a line work filigree to depict reeds, roots and key objects from the story; horse skull, wagon wheel and rocking chair.

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Above: Thumbnails exploring various lock-ups of image and lettering

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Above: Sketches exploring layout options of the lettering, suspended in the fog, surrounding the house and swallowed under the marsh.

As wood engraving was a popular illustrative technique during Victorian times the cover adopts this style. The little notches, imperfections and texture create a warm, hand-made feel to further evoke the period.

My first draft (top image) has more elaborate swashes in the title and author’s name, with the final approved cover (last image) has creepier root-like filigree.

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I can thoroughly recommend the book. Regarded as ‘The Classic English Ghost story’, it’s had quite a cultural impact: first published in 1983 it was adapted as a play by Stephen Mallatratt in 1988 and has been running in London’s West End and around the world since. It was released as a film, starring Daniel Radcliffe in 2012 and is a set book for GCSE and A Level curriculums in the UK. 

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Above: The final cover with adjusted lettering and more creepy, root-like filigree.

It’s worth noting that I was approached by Penguin Random House primarily as they had seen my runner-up entry for The Book Illustration Competition run by the House of Illustration and The Folio Society. The 2017 competition is on now. Enter here.