Iceman Research/inspiration


One of the big inspirations for using the design elements such as fridge magnets in the making of my book sleeve for this brief was a particular line from the blurb of the book.

For 30 years, Richard ‘the ice man’ Kulinski led a double life beyong anything ever seen on The Sopranos, becoming one of the most notorious professional assassins in American history while hosting neighbourhood barbecues in suburban New Jersey.

I wanted to create the idea of how close his family and his criminal life were like this line suggests and make an image that shows how close a murderer was to such an innocent family life. To do this I made the child like images the most prominently placed imagery on the sleeve and had the darker things encroaching on it. The bloody hand claws in from the side reaching up towards the title like it has been accidentally caught in shot. On the back a shadowy figure sits in a living room with a hidden identity in front of its child’s toys. I aimed to create an unsettling atmosphere to tell of the unsettling reality.


Iceman Book Sleeve Development

The Iceman Book sleeve idea had less development to it than the Adrian Mole sleeve. It was an additional piece I did towards the end of year to show variety in the genre of book cover I was capable of creating. However saying this the sleeve does have a couple of stages of rough sketches to it in the penguin random house sketch book. I was particularly interested in integrating the physical objects of the fridge magnets as a font mixed with illustration.

One thing I would lose from using images of fridge magnets was being able to modify it as smoothly as it wasn’t a real font. I considered uploading and creating a font out of the letters I needed but didn’t need too as it was easy enough to manipulate the letters as long as they had space around them on a white background.


I separated the words onto three layers which was the control I needed to position them. I then played with the levels and increased the brightness to get them to the brightness I wanted that would contrast with the rest of the cover.

Because of how long the title of the book is I didn’t use fridge magnets for all of it. It would clutter the front too much and the theme I got from them didn’t need it. The regular text also separates the magnets and the hand print quite nicely.


I experimented with adding blood to the magnets but decided I preferred having the child like elements and the sinister elements completely separate. The blood also sunk the letters too much into the cover when I wanted them to stand out as the title.

For the shadowy figure and the bloody hand I scanned in rough sketches of them in black marker so that they were easy to manipulate into what I wanted digitally. To make the hand accurate I actually drew around mine as a template and filled it in smaller like a bloody hand print would be.


I added a little more to the sitting figure after the space on the back of the back looked a little empty.


First Piece were the only edits were basically changing the colour of the hand to be bloody and using the smudge tool to push it downwards a little. I also added a texture behind the figure that is a picture of my curtain at home to give the impression the figure is in a room not just a white void. At this stage the figure didn’t have a whole lot of character and some feedback I got was they couldn’t immediately tell it was a person.

Curtain texture before edit


The second edit saw me filling some of the inner black sections of the figure to give it a more solid appearance and painting white over the edges to give it an obscured appearance. I also cut in eyes and a nose as basic shapes and made the top of the head white so the curtain didn’t cut into the figure.

Typo in blurb was removed from final piece


After putting in a block to get an idea of how it would look with the spine font I decided to run the black right up to it. It makes the figure fill the right side better, more like he is part of the book and less like he was placed on it. I also added a shadow to the cubes on the back to make them feel more attached to the piece as well.

This piece was mostly done as a one day brief with edits done when feedback was given from various people. It shows how much work can be done when you have the planning and a solid idea of what you want already and just get down to the work.

Adrian Mole Font Choice and Positioning


For the text on the book cover I wanted a handwritten look due to the subject matter being about a diary. The end product of the title is a mixture of handwritten and found font. The smaller writing was done by me. I wanted it to represent Adrian’s own writing so writing a thirteen year old could achieve if they were careful with it. My actual handwriting is really messy so I imagine this as Adrian trying really hard to make his diary look neat but keeping the human error that comes with handwriting anything.
The larger writing is a free font called Helv Children. I wanted an emphasized part of a long title whilst still retaining the hand drawn look. The font looks like it had been hand shading in and when the handwritten and the font are together in the same colour it could all look like it was done by hand.
The two different fonts compliment each other well in balance. If just one or the other was used it would either too overwhelming or have a lot of blank space. The Daily Mail Text at the bottom was the same used as that which was provided with the blurb on the back. It made sense to link the two sides together and the font they used was fine for me.


The spine of the book used the same fonts as the cover just re-positioned as needed. This mostly happened with the smaller writing which wouldn’t fit in the original way.


The blurb was provided on the penguin random house and all that I felt was needed was to size it in a text box to a position that worked for the size on the back.

The paper backgrounds on the piece were scanned in from a notepad I had around. It was given a second texture of a scanned in sheet of screwed up paper and then I cut the edges digitally to make it look torn because of the size of the paper used. Again it was chosen because of the handwritten diary theme of the book. For the purposes of a book cover it added variation and draws the eye to the text and helps distinguish between that and the image. It also makes the spine look different so may make it stand out in a book store.

If I was to work on the text again I would probably work on the hand written element some more. It isn’t an area I am particularly strong in but I think what I came up with suits this purpose but may have limited use elsewhere.



Adrian Mole Parents Character Design

With the parents at some point in my development I thought it would be interesting to have them in the background but give them a sort of anonymity. The book is about Adrian Moles diary and the parents are in the background. By showing only their bodies it suggests they are involved but doesn’t make them a main character. I realise that the dogs face is on the cover but I felt this was fitting as dogs are more intrusive creatures. It is also more difficult to hide a dogs head with the design I wanted.

For the parents clothing I looked up different clothing and people from when the book is set (80s). It is a lot of big, faded looking dresses, big hair, plain jumpers and shirts and suits. Also because of the images being photographs from the time I imagine the colours to be a little washed out because that is how we, looking back see it.


The tv version of the parents show them as wearing loose fitting clothes, so no suits or fancy dresses. They were a poor family so plain, cheap clothes works for them. For poses I wanted to capture an aspect of the story happening with the parents. I decided to have them stood with their arms folded with one of them facing away from the other. This is because their is tension between them within the book, so on the cover they are separated by Adrian in the middle ignoring each other.

These were some of the poses which were chosen as templates from a group. I chose the top left male figure because I thought it looked slobbish, which is a look I thought suited the father. I also drew arm hair on which made it appeal to me more. With the mother I made a pose I liked but wanted to bulk it out a little with a bigger dress. A lot of poses I used as reference to figure out positioning of arms were taken from models which really didn’t fit. The bigger dress was easy enough to add and gives a more ‘housewife’ feel.

The actual templates used taken from the initial watercolour final piece. Colour-wise I was thinking browns, dark reds, dirty whites and faded yellows. Nothing really vibrant. I stuck to the above colours mostly on the final pieces except obviously they were made more solid with different shading methods.

The background figures in their final form. The same methods of colours were used as on the dog and Adrian Mole. A minor difference was the texture on the clothes was from a mono print I made a while ago.

mono 2

This is the mono print texture. I used the areas where some of the white are showing through do get a threadbare sort of look that worked on the clothing. It also meant that alongside the watercolour texture I had different variations.

The parents are the figures I am happiest with on the piece. If I was to work back into them I think the trousers and skirt are the weakest areas. They could do with more detail or better shading. Maybe even some specialized textures for that area.

Adrian Mole Character Design of Adrian

For the cover my design did involve including Adrian’s face, something that isn’t always the case on previous covers. There is a fairly well established look for Adrian Mole in that he has glasses, is a bit bookish and often depicted in his school uniform as his school life is one of the central parts to the story. There are also tv adaptation of the character so I looked at which actors depicted the character for inspiration as well.

This is what I would now consider the usual look for Adrian Mole. It is the most unique look from a tv show adaptation. I think it is because he has made to look like he stands out as a little odd. The big glasses and the smart clothing and the way the hair is positioned just seem like more deliberate effort than a lot of teenagers would make.

Another tv adaptation of the character played by Stephen Mangan, a more contemporary actor. The thing about using this look is when I see this version I see the actor rather than Adrian Mole. He is also a lot older than the character actually is. One thing I considered taking from this version was the curly hair, the reason being is that the ‘standard’ look resembles Harry Potter a lot which the curly hair changes.

Some of the later developments of the character. The one on the left was a combination of established look with curly hair. The image I got kept looking quite old for a teenage boy so I began to rethink it. The sketches on the right were done afterwards going back to the original look and trying to give it more youth. I also changed how I did the eyes moving them to the top of the glasses and enlarging them for the magnified effect glasses would give.

16bb11f995885e5100803a05eecc39e2 (1)

The finished character I used in the final piece. The piece I feel came together once I added shading and smaller details to it which changed it from flat vectors to a piece that is a little more interesting. Features I like are the spots and the streak in the hair which add more character and interest. The piece has had watercolour textures added using masking layers. The original plan was to do the whole thing in watercolour but I couldn’t get them as bold and bright as I wanted the bookcover when I translated it to digital. Rather than abandon it fully I decided to use them this way keeping clean vectors and the texture at the same time.
If I was to go back into  the piece I would probably add more to the clothing and maybe go into more details of the hands but I’m mostly happy that it portrays the character well.

Adrian Mole Dog Design

When looking into the dog I decided to include on the cover for my Adrian Mole Book sleeve I sort of had an open field on what it could look like. The dog isn’t given a breed in the book and is simply described by Adrian Mole when asked as ‘a mongrel’. To me this just brings up the image of a really scruffy looking dog so no bright white fur or pedigree look.

These images are of the tv shows interpretation of the dog. To me it looks a little scruffy and run down. I think one thing that gives it this looks is because it is a long haired dog so dirt catches on it more obviously and with long hair it would be easier to make it look messy.

The search term ‘scruffy mongrel’ brings up similar looking dogs. At this point I was pretty set on going for this look just because I thought it conveyed ‘mongrel’ better than a short haired dog would.

Something I can see as an advantage to possibly using a short haired dog for the look is that the silhouette of the head is easier to recognize as a dog. It would just be a case of mixing this with a dirtier run down look.


These were the sketches I made to use as templates when making the vectors of the dog. For the most part I went for the first dog type that I looked at with the plan on using the templates as a guide to where I would spike out the vectors. I tried a couple of short hair dogs as well but didn’t like them as much when I tried vectoring them.


This is a screenshot of how the dog looks in the final piece. I added several different browns and overlapped vectors in order to show how dirt build up would change the colour of the fur, especially on the white at the bottom being really faded down.
If I was to revisit it I would try and make it slightly more symmetrical, the fur on one side looks a bit weird. I would also add some more colour to the dogs body and maybe have its paws over the paper in front of it.

True Crime Book Covers

Recurring Features in the cover designs 

For the most part the font chosen is usually blocky, sans seriff in nature. Easy to to read. Stylistic choices to do with the font different to this can be seen in No Angel in which the font chosen is a chosen to resemble a licence plate sort of design relevant to the biker gang subject matter. Another example of a different sort of font can be seen in The Iceman were the text has been dirtied up a little to possibly represent a mixture of blood and/or ice from the corpse featured on the cover.
Other recurring themes include the use of red, used as a signifier for the blood found in books about crime and murder. A good example of this would be in an alternate cover of Truman Capote In Cold Blood (will put this at the bottom somewhere). This red often stands out well because of the monotone, noir look crime books go for. Most of the covers do have a very limited palette or are in greyscale with the red blood look (Best examples The Iceman, Helter Skelter, People Who Eat darkness).

The subject of True crime books is also going to be serious so the simple font and limited colour works well and identifies what the books are on the shelf. Whilst the red blood cover is done a lot it does work and is something to consider incorporating for me. The books Helter Skelter and People who eat darkness both use the limited palette but with quite bold eye-catching imagery. I think the combination of the colour palette style and the images used help identify the book in its genre.

More Stylistically illustrated covers

I chose to add these covers just because they were more stylistically closer to how I think I might work. I strayed into fictional crime here as I thought the themes were similar enough that the same thinking could be used. These books all feature signifiers to indicate that they are crime novels on the covers. The polish book and The Adjustment both feature a revolver, a weapon often used as a plot device in murder stories, to indicate the books genre. They do it in different ways, one placing the revolver almost like a logo in the bordering on the book cover whilst the other uses it as the main image of the cover, but in such a way that it almost looks like it is intruding and being forced onto the cover.
Tinker Taylor Soldier spy singles out two characters on its cover by colouring them different to stand out from the crowd they are in. This goes down the route of showing the chase or investigation into another person element of a crime novel, showing there are multiple ways to take and consider your imagery for a cover.



Simple cover I mentioned earlier as the example of the use of red seen on a lot of the covers.