Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Cover Design - Turning Point

I recently had a very interesting and new-to-me project come my way. No doubt you've seen the ebook collections out and about these days, where authors with similarly-themed books package them together and sell them digitally for one low price. These "box sets" (quotes because they're digital so not technically in a box, LOL) are a great way to try out new authors along with ones you already know you love.

And as a designer, they're super fun...and rather find an image for!

Jill Williamson contacted me about designing such a box set for her and 6 other authors of inspirational young adult novels. The genres in the set range from contemporary to fantasy to science fiction. We have both male and female protagonists. Very different themes and styles. The thing they all have in common is that they focus on a turning point in the characters' lives.

That's the title of the collection: Turning Point. And here are the front covers of the 7 books that are a part of it.

As you can see, the covers are as diverse as the styles. I certainly couldn't just take a color or image common to them all and run with that. So instead I considered that Turning Point theme. What would capture the idea of a turning point in an image? A few thoughts sprang to mind or were suggested by the authors:

~ A road
~ A crossroad sign
~ A shot of someone wearing Converse shoes, standing beside an arrow drawn onto the road
~ A gate

The authors were open to either a graphic style or a photographic style, so my options were wide open. I played with a few of these ideas, like so...

But the group agreed they wanted brighter colors, so I set that particular background aside and went on the hunt for color. I was pretty stoked when I found this one.
I liked the bright colors, and also that it was at street-level, with that road in the forefront and the horizon in the center. That left plenty of room for me to insert some teens. Going off that first image above, they liked that both genders were there but that they didn't look like a couple--some of the books have romance but some don't. They suggested perhaps even adding in a third teen.

So off I went on the hunt for teen silhouettes. I found these 3 at the beach.
Feeling confident that these two images would give the group of authors what they were looking for, I put them together.
The general idea is there in this, though the teens look more like they're floating above the road than standing on it. The solution? A shadow. To create a perfect one, I duplicated their image, flipped it, skewed and stretched it, and then faded it out to about 60% opacity.
Muuuch better, right? I even bent the shadow a bit where it went over the leaves in the foreground.

So there's the main image. Now for the font. I wanted the title to be a huge part of this design and tried several different fonts before I found one everyone liked. We ended up with Pretzel.

Looks pretty standard, right? But it has nice, thick letters, which was important to my plan. Because, you see, I wanted to turn those words so they looked like they were sitting on the road too.
I achieved this by rasterizing the font layers so I could I alter the perspective of each word. I also applied a gradient to the layer to make the words darker near the ground and lighter up higher, nearer the light source. Then, mimicking what I did with the silhouettes, I duplicated those font layers, flipped them upside down, and stretched and skewed them so they, too, have a shadow.

The only thing left for the front was the subtitle!
So there we have the front cover of the box set...but yet to be done is to make it look like a box set. ;-) I knew from the get-go that the authors would like the spine of the books to have their cover down at the bottom, and then of course the titles.

Now, in some of the box sets like this I've seen, each title is written in the same font...but I thought it would be fun to match the font used on each book's cover. Fun--but a bit of a challenge! Luckily, I've become graphic-design-minded enough that I'm always taking note of fonts and trying to identify them, so I already had mental notes on what a few of them were. A few of the authors knew what font was used on theirs. One I actually hand-drew, LOL. Otherwise, I found exact or very-near matches on

I then took that sunset-y street image to use as a background for the spines, dividing it at regular intervals. I put on the titles, the author names, and the thumbnail of each book cover. Then I flattened the image, selected each 1/2 each spine segment, and saved it as a separate file. Here's an example of one.

Then off I went to my 3D software that lets me create a box. After determining the right sizing, I built 7 books into it, adjusted the widths correctly, and put each spine onto one of the books. Here's the result! 

I had a lot of fun on this one, and my hope is that I managed to capture the personality of each book with those individualized spines, and yet draw the all together with the vague but compelling cover image...and give it little extra twist with the treatment of the title font. What do you think?

Pre-order Turning Point on Amazon!


  1. I think you did an awesome Roseanna! It caught my eye when I first saw it on Jill's blog because it's colorful and simple.