This exercise was the first of three briefs that each target a specific audience. For this one, I needed to create a set of client visuals for the front jacket of an educational children's book that would be titled Animals From Around The World. I already had some considerations for how to design for children in the 5-9 age range from the previous exercise, but I needed to treat the 7-11 group slightly differently as although they are still children, this older age group has a higher level of reading and comprehension to take into account.
Children of this age can now read independently and have started to explore connections between subjects. They can ask questions about why the world is the way it is and take part in active discussions around ideas in context. Although bright vibrant images for books in this age group still have a strong appeal, they can now be supported by prominently placed titles and subtitles that together communicate clear information. I started by looking at other similar educational book covers that are on the market for inspiration when developing my own.
These natural history themed books take a number of different approaches that use a combination of traditional, digital and direct photo manipulation illustration styles. Although some designs have made efforts to include these animals into a connected scene, a more common method for these types of covers is to fit in a large and diverse collection of animals as smaller individual illustrations that float around the text. The creatures are each represented with scientific accuracy and are often given clarity by being placed against a white or pale tan background which very quickly suggests to the viewer that these books are catalogues that contain accurate information.
I also used this selection to help me think about what type of book format I should use. Even though any design could be digitally edited to fit a number of formats afterwards, It's useful for me to to know roughly what i'm aiming for ahead of time so that I know how much room I have available for text or any additional information. Younger children’s picture books are usually in either square or landscape formats to make the artwork big and eye catching, but as this was for an older age group and would be an educational piece, I decided to choose an 8x10" portrait format that allowed me some breathing room while also staying easy to handle as a physical book.
Now that I had a format to work around, I brainstormed ideas for the actual content that I could include on the cover. I jotted down as many animals with visibly different features as I could think of in an effort to pick and choose ones for my compositions that would best represent a vertical slice of of the wide biodiversity that the planet has within it's different species.
To support this, I collected related images as a reference guide when working on my roughs and I was already finding the thought of detailing so many animals that represented such a wide range of habitats slightly daunting. To narrow the field slightly I avoided any visually similar subspecies, but this still left me with a large group to consider. I also looked at other common images and symbols of the earth through maps or as visualised from space to see what other shapes I could interpret rather than just a simple sphere.
In my sketchbook, I planned out out six designs that fitted the same aspect ratio as my 8x10 cover and considered arrangements based around three main factors, including where the text was placed on the page, how the animals would be scattered across the design and where the globe or world image would come into play.
Of these options, three stood out to me as the most interesting for taking into the next stage. The variations 3, 4 and 6 were the ones that I moved forward with as I replicated them as slightly larger and more detailed visuals with additional notes and slight changes.
Option 3 - Animals in Orbit
This concept had the main title and author in a traditional position at the top of the frame and below it the main image literally interprets of the ...Around the World part of the title by having the animals orbit the planet earth in a ring. I liked this as something unusual compared with the typical types of covers for these kinds of books and considered that the surreal scene could make it stand out on a bookshelf.
Option 4 - Miniature Animals
This design plays around with scale as the animals are shown in miniature on a classroom desk. The main feature is a central globe that the animals interact with and also divides the image into three sections that I could roughly divide up into the three general environments for land, sea and air based creatures. Once again the text would be placed at the top of the frame, but I was still experimenting with ways that I could manipulate it by including the connectives in between the main Animal and World letters.
Option 6 - Text Focussed
For this design, I took inspiration from some of the other books that had placed the text as the central focal point but with smaller illustrations of the animals floating around the edges. In my version, I could fit them into rows that alternated the direction of travel as the animals parade left and right on their respective planes, with the priority for more vertical shapes such as the giraffe to squeeze in next the the letters near the sides where there was limited space. To use up the space at the top of the frame, I had room to show the earth peeking in from above.
I moved on to adapting these designs into full colour visuals on 8x10" paper using mainly traditional media. I used a 0.5 black ink pen in line work, and gouache paint to quickly apply and blend colours while leaving space for the text that I later added in photoshop after scanning. Up until this point I hadn't planned out any specific colour palettes as I intended to draw and colour the animals objectively. This didn't matter much for designs 3 and 6 with their plain black or white backdrops, but design 4 needed a background for the classroom. I chose a mid yellow for the wall and a dark blue for the table.
I'm still having some issues with my scanner software picking up painted works, so these images are unfortunately not wholly representative of how I intended them to be, but not in a way that detracts from them being informative as concept visuals, so I didn't worry about correcting them too much as I would have done with a final piece of work.
I also varied my font choices to fit each composition differently. In design 3. I used Tempus Sans ITC in green to draw attention to the earth and the shape of the letters is clear but also slightly irregular that adds a slightly more natural to me as it uses less rigid lettering. Similarly, the white text for design 4 in Berlin Sans FB Demi sets it apart from the background. Design 6 instead uses Book Antiqua, a more elegant font that focuses on suggesting scientific value to the title.
Overall I think each cover looks effective as concepts for a children's book, although I wish that I had managed to put in more objective detail into the animals. I still like the layouts that I have come up with, but the animals as they are seen here stayed in the rough phase as subjective placeholders rather than approaching the final art style that I was aiming for.
To end on a positive note though, I do think that my roughs before the colour visuals are some of the better ones that I have done so far as I steadily move away from the chaotic style I used to have and towards more carefully considered lines to express my ideas.
Anthony, M. Everything You Need to Know About Language and Literacy in 8- to 10-Year-Olds At: https://www.scholastic.com/parents/family-life/social-emotional-learning/development-milestones/language-literacy-among-8-10-year-olds.html (Accessed 3/4/2020)