Hi, I’m Maria, the designer at Walker Books who worked on our new UK editions of The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare. Earlier this month we ran a blog tour to look at some of the hi-res artwork from the books, and today I thought it would be nice to share how we came up with this new look, that will sit side by side with the original look.
First, research: to find out more about the trends, the aesthetics, and the visual world surrounding our reader.
After this, we did a brainstorming of ideas for cover designs.
We developed 3 different routes:
- An iconic route
- A photographic route
- And a route that would be more in keeping with the original covers
Our aim was to be more sophisticated and appropriate for an older audiencewithout alienating fans of the series. So we wanted to keep elements of the Shadowhunter World, but push the design in a new direction.
Keep reading for the whole cover story!
Our chosen route was to go with an iconic/illustrative cover look and a moresophisticated/mature approach. The aim with this was to use the following:
- Beautiful, intricate and ornamental illustrations
- A subtle color palette
- A high spec: with foil and emboss on some of the cover elements
We also thought about the hierarchy of the elements when designing the covers, making Cassandra’s name bigger, to create a stronger and more recognizablebranding. We also added The Shadowhunter Chronicles to reinforce it.
There are a few elements in the cover, so it was important to group them and make sure that there was a clear hierarchy. We wanted the title to become part of the illustration by placing it closer to it.
The next step was to make the idea come to life.
The final cover direction we chose was inspired by the new Coldplay album (Ghost Stories) that I came across while commuting to work. The poster had the perfect balance of intricate illustration with a refined finish.
So we got in contact with the artist of the Coldplay album, Míla Fürstová, and she said she would love to take this commission and work with us.
Mila has been collaborating with Coldplay and creating all the illustrations for their album and the merchandising surrounding it, she has also done an exhibition in London and various events with them. I’m delighted I got the chance to work with her!
Mila’s working process is quite laborious, as she uses a print-making medium from the Middle Ages called etching:
- She uses a metal plate coated with wax
- She draws the illustration with a metal needle, exposing the bare metal
- The plate is then immersed in acid and the acid bites into the metal, where it’s exposed, resulting into lines on the plate.
- The plate is inked all over, and the ink goes into the lines.
- The plate is put through a high- pressure printing press together with a sheet of paper and the paper picks up the ink from the etched lines, making a print
So timing had to be considered, as we had to produce 6 etchings (one for each book).
We had to hit the ground running and produce 6 clear briefings to make Mila’s work easier.
We came up with 6 symbols, one for each cover:
- Angel wings
- Two feathers
Cassandra Clare had previously approved the cover look and she was very enthusiastic about this new approach. She also suggested the rose symbol for one of the covers.
However, we still had to identify and suggest the illustrations that would go insidethe symbols.
We put together a briefing of 5/6 pages per book with synopsis, symbols, objects and extracts of the books with descriptions of characters, scenes and locations.
The briefing process was quite laborious, as we wanted to make every book feel unique whilst avoiding the repetition of elements, but making sure that the set of books have a similar feel and would be representative of the Shadowhunter world.
We also had to avoid spoilers and make sure that the illustrations were just an abstract interpretation of the story.
The briefings went to Mila and she started sketching first drawings. We had to make sure that everything was approved on sketch, as once the illustration is drawn on the plate it’s very difficult to modify. That’s why the briefing process was key.
There was a bit of back and forward as we decided to separate the wings more and have the book title in the middle of them.
Working with an artist is also different from working with an illustrator, so we were finding a way that would work on both sides.
Míla drew the illustration in reverse and after treating the plate, she made the finalprint on paper.
Here you can see the development from sketch to final etching.
Some elements of the star where changed on sketch (the sailing ship became more modern and we added a moon and a book of runes.
FINAL METAL PLATES
Mila delivered the 6 final beautiful etchings and I was quite surprised by the size of them--they are approximately one square metre each! This was a great advantage for us, as we now had very detailed scans of the illustrations ready to be used in a big format if needed.
We digitally coloured the illustrations and Mila provided us with a textured background for the books.
Each book has a different colour, making them unique but maintaining the same feel.
Mila’s etchings are central in the cover, inviting the reader into the Shadowhunter world and giving a taste of it.
We decided on using a high spec with gold foil and emboss for some elements of the cover.
It’s amazing to see the books out now in bookshops!
Here's a full set of the new editions at Dymocks Glenelg.