Assignment 5 – Thoughts on this Assignment

Pragmatic Me probably would have chosen brief 3 for this assignment – with a background in software design, website design and writing technical specification documents and reports, this would have been reasonably familiar territory for me. Creative Me, however, wanted to take  on the the Penguin book design. I have enjoyed the earlier book design tasks on this course and relished the creative freedom of being able to design the covers, so I knew straight away when I saw this assignment that I wanted to take the opportunity to design the books.

I was a bit nervous of taking on design for children’s books as I don’t have children and am not very familiar with what might appeal to young people. However, I am finding that through this course, I am developing a real fondness for children’s books, partly because they are often so beautifully illustrated (and I don’t see why kids are the only ones who get to enjoy looking at pictures!) but also because I really appreciate the way that they deliver information in clear and easy-to-understand terms. I think I have quite a logical brain and I find too much florid language or unnecessary guff just adds confusion. While doing some research for this assignment in the Children’s section of my local library, I really enjoyed reading some of the children’s books, particularly ‘Her Story – 50 Women and Girls Who Shook The World, Katherine Halligan and Sarah Walsh’ – I learnt a lot from reading that book!  I am also particularly interested in more complex adult topics that are delivered in ‘child-like’ terms, such as Dr Sarah Clifford’d Medical Notes.

Designing the Covers

Based on previous experience on this course of designing book covers, where I had focused on the ‘hard bit’, i.e. the main image on the front book, and then struggled to fit the rest of the cover elements around the chosen image, this time, I made a point of designing the whole cover (front and back), also taking the text on the cover into consideration, as well as the aspect ratio of the cover. I also designed the three covers together, for each idea I had, to make sure the idea worked for all covers.

This approached worked well as I had a much clearer idea from the thumbnail how the final design would work. However, I did find this more ‘precise’ approach to drawing thumbnail sketches was a bit limiting in terms of generating ideas. In hindsight, it would have been better to have a much freer, initial ‘idea brain-storm’ to think of ideas for the cover and then take some of those ideas forward into the more precise thumbnail sketches.

I was pleased with my final cover designs. I think that they work well together as a set and I think the bright colours and hand-drawn illustrations would appeal to children.  I didn’t want to introduce illustrations of cartoon characters or animals just for the sake of appealing to children but was keen that I wanted the designs to remain quite contemporary and ‘graphical’, which I think I achieved.

I do think that blocks of colour at the top and bottom of the book are a bit of an obvious choice for a Penguin book and I was a little disappointed in myself that I couldn’t come up with something more original. I did also experiment with introducing more colours into the design but felt that the overall look was becoming too ‘busy’ so I decided in the end to keep to one colour and a black and white illustration.

Designing the Content

I found that I did have to give consideration to what the content of the entire typography book might be, in order to decide what needed to be included in the introduction. Once I had done that, drafting the content for the introduction was quite straight forward. However, styling it and laying it out was another matter all together and was a task I found quite difficult.

The main issue I had was knowing the best order in which to do things. I felt I wanted to do a ‘mood board’ first to establish some styling, text hierarchies etc. that would fit with the chosen cover of the book but I needed to see the layout of the pages to decide on the styling. As it was, the styling and layout of the introduction were done in tandem and mostly through trial and error!

In Conclusion

When I first saw the brief options for Assignment 5, I thought they all looked like a repeat of exercises I had done in the course but I realise now that this assignment was much more complex.

Designing three book covers and content for one of the books, was a gargantuan task, which at times I felt quite overwhelmed by. This assignment has given me a real insight into what is involved in simply being able to manage a large quantity of design work with different elements, doing things in a logical order and keeping all parts of the design cohesive, meaningful and aligned to the brief.

It has also been very useful to be able to repeat some of the activities from the course and apply some of the learnings from earlier exercises. Certainly after previous experiences of trying to shoe-horn content onto a book cover because I had left it to the last minute to design, I found that thinking more holistically about the design really make the process much smoother and more successful.



Assignment 5 – Final Designs (Summary)

The final front covers for the three books and introductory chapter for the book on typography are shown together below (note that the faint grey lines show fold lines and the bleed area):


Assignment 5 – Design Structure of Book Content

Having established the look and feel for the cover of the book, I then thought about how the content of the book would be designed and structured so that it tied with with the cover design.

I started by working out the ‘rules’ for the structure of the various types of text in the book and created a ‘mood board’ to define the text hierarchies and general ‘look and feel of the styling. In reality I did this in conjunction with trying out the styling and layout on an actual page of the book, as I needed a bit of trial and error to see how the styling would actually work.

My aim was to create a layout which had neatly spaced content with a generous amount of white space being used to give a clean, contemporary and uncluttered feel. However, I did not want to the book pages to be too ’empty’. From my research on other children’s books I felt the layouts that worked best had a generous amount of content delivered in small paragraphs which were neatly spread out over the page. I also wanted to use occasional hand-drawn illustrations and arrows to add visual interest and to make the book more appealing to young people. For a modern and contemporary look, I also kept the colours to black, white and the colour used on the book cover.

When I had worked out my ‘layout rules’, I then used the draft content I had created previously, as the basis for the layout of the introductory chapter of the book. It took a considerable amount of reworking to get the text I wanted to include, to fit neatly across the pages of the introduction.

The Introductory Chapter of the Typography Book is below (Note that the faint grey lines denote page divider and bleed area):


Assignment 5 – Design Book Covers

I created the book covers by hand-drawing the illustrations for the cover of each book:




I then put together the book covers. For the coloured panels on each cover, I chose a single bright and light-toned colour for each. The chosen colour had to allow the black writing to show up clearly and also had to have some contrast with the orange ‘Penguin’ logo as I wanted this to stand out as well.

I did think quite hard about colouring the hand-drawn illustrations but in the end decided to leave then in black and white. I felt that they stood out better that way and looked more like pen drawings when they were left black and white.

The only exception was for the pencils on the cover of the book on colour. I coloured the tips of the pencils as I felt a book on colour needed a little more colour on the front cover.

The final covers are below (note that the faint grey lines represent the fold lines and bleed area):


Assignment 5 – Design Ideas

Following on from my research about the penguin ‘house style’, I expanded my list of key words for the book cover designs to be:

  • House Style
  • Books on design
  • Children / young people
  • Recognised as a series
  • Individual merits
  • visually interesting
  • Entice young people
  • Look ‘designed’
  • Illustrative
  • Graphical
  • Contemporary
  • Stylish
  • Clean and Simple
  • Intelligent
  • Witty

I decided that my book covers would use bright colours and hand-drawn illustrations as a means of appealing to young people but I wanted to keep the illustrations on the cover quite graphical and relevant to the book’s subject rather than introducing illustrations of animals or cartoon characters as a means to attract a child’s attention.

I began with some mind maps for ideas of what my illustrations on the book covers could show:

I also thought about typical images that would be associated with typography, photography and colour

I then drafted up some thumbnail sketches with ideas for the book covers. From my experience of having done a similar task in an earlier exercise, this time I made a point of thinking about both the front and back covers of the book together. I also tried to consider where the text on the book covers would go and I also designed ideas for all three book covers simultaneously to make sure that the idea I had for one cover (e.g. typography) would also work for the other two titles.

The thumbnail designs are below:

I reviewed the designs with my husband and together we selected two potential designs to take forward.

For these two designs, I drafted up a full-sized prototype using Adobe Illustrator:

Option 1

Option 2

After another review of these prototypes, it was decided to develop Option 2 as the design for the three books.


Assignment 5 – Establish Typography Book Content

In order to design the introductory chapter for the Typography book, I felt I needed to think about the structure of the book as a whole and what was going to be in it. I decided that the general theme of the typography book was looking at the ways in which typography influenced the way you interpreted and felt about the words being read.

I started by drafting what I thought the chapters of the book would be:

Then I thought about the main points that I wanted to make in the book’s introduction:

I then roughly drafted out how I thought the introduction could be laid out to get a feel of how much text I needed and how it might be structured on the pages.

Sample – Typography Book Text

Assignment 5: Book Design – Research

I started this assignment by carrying out some research around the typical styling of Penguin Books, how to pitch and structure an information book for children as well as collecting some examples of cover and content design for children’s information books in general and books on design for children and adults.

Penguin Books House Style

Do Penguin Books follow a particular style? What are their values? Should my designs be in keeping with an already established house design style?

Penguin have quite a few series’ of books, a number of which are listed on-line here:

Some examples are below:

Penguin English Library Series

This series includes  fiction from the 18th century to the Second World War. Designed with patterned covers illustrated or commissioned by Coralie Bickford-Smith.

Interesting article on the Penguin website about these designs:

Penguin Books for Boys

A series of books whose cover designs were commissioned in 2008 by Coralie Bickford-Smith for Penguin. Illustrators were Neil Gower, Mark Thomas, Mick Brownfield, Despotica.

On her website, Coralie Bickford-Smith says the following about these designs: “The covers, with their action-packed illustrations, hark back to the golden age of adventure books. The controlled use of colour gives the series a strong identity, while each cover individually contains elements – particularly the typography – appropriate to the time it was first published. There is an unashamed nostalgia about them, though they aren’t facsimilies of old books – they are designed to have a freshness and appeal for younger readers encountering these stories for the first time, as well as for their parents’ and grandparents’ generations.”

Penguin Modern Series

Pocket Penguins

Penguin Great Ideas Series

Penguin Classic Horror

Penguin Christmas Classics

Penguin Monarchs

Penguin WWII Collection

Not every Penguin book is associated with a ‘series’, a great number are not and of these, the cover designs vary extensively and can feature photographs, illustrations or simply just text. It would be difficult to pick out one of these more general Penguin books and be able to clearly identify it as having a Penguin ‘style’. However, for books that do belong to series, there is typically a very clear design to the covers of all the books in the series. I would describe these designs as typically quite illustrative and graphical in nature. They are contemporary, stylish and clean and simple. The covers often look quite ‘designed’. They will often feature just two or three colours with different books in the series featuring different colours. The designs are also quite ‘intelligent’ and witty.

Target Audience

Who are the design books aimed at? What is the age range of the young people the books are aimed at?  Are the books gender neutral? How should the book be pitched, i.e. serious, arty, fun etc.

I spent an afternoon in the children’s section of my local library, looking at children’s information books.

Examples of General Children’s Information Book Designs

The Usborne Art Book About Colour – Rosie Dickins

Aimed at ages 7+

This book uses a large font. One topic is covered per double-page spread usually with an introductory paragraph at the beginning and then smaller blocks of information arrange around the pages. Small blocks of information are typically accompanied by an image to illustrate the point. Occasional illustrations and hand drawn curly arrows give a sense of fun.

Snapshots – Graphic Novels – Andy Seed

Aimed at ages 12 – 17

I didn’t like this book at all, mainly because there is very little information in it and I found it poorly structured and quite incoherent. The content of the book is presented in a very typical manga style.

Infographic Top 10 – Record breaking Buildings by Jon Richards and Ed Simkins

Aimed at ages 8 – 12

This was one of my favourite books that I reviewed. The book has a very clear objective and purpose. Each double page spread addresses a different ‘record breaking building’ topic. The layout and design is consistent across each spread giving the book design a very clear identity. Information on a spread is presented in a clear hierarchy with a title, introductory paragraph, small blocks of information with graphic illustrations and a ‘top 10’ chart. The illustrator – Ed Simkins is described on Amazon as “an award-winning graphic designer and illustrator whose work focuses on data visualization such as graphic organizers and innovative data maps.” definitely shows. I thought this was a fun, visually very interesting and well structured book.

Tell Me a Picture – Adventures in Looking at Art by Quentin Blake

Aimed at ages 5 – 8 years

This book encourages children to look at artworks by hinting at the ‘stories’ contained within them. There is not much instruction in the book about the artwork, instead illustrated characters suggest things to look at. There are further notes on the painting at the back of the book.

The Usborne Book of Famous Paintings – Rosie Dickins

Aimed at ages 7+

There is more text in this book than in the previous Usborne book above but the style is similar. One spread is dedicated to a painting. Information is broken up into short paragraphs with a number of small points written in a ‘hand-written’ style font. Occasional hand-drawn illustrations and curly arrows add a sense of playfulness and fun.

Hands-On History: Ancient Rome by Philip Steele

Aimed at ages 8 – 12

This book has a very typical ‘encyclopedia’ style layout. An introductory paragraph is followed by a series of smaller blocks of information accompanied by photographs or illustrations. A roman mosiac style border is included in the header and footer of each page and a number of spreads include a ‘things to make’ project presented on a scroll graphic. In this sense the layout design is consistent and does have a ‘Roman’ feel but I felt the layout was a bit too cluttered and rather obvious and therefore a bit dull. To me it looked like a travel guide and I wasn’t very inspired by it.

Shackleton’s Journey – William Grill (Flying Eye Books)

No official age group identified but reviews on Amazon suggest ~7 – 12 yrs.

This was intriguing book. It tells the history of Shackleton’s antartic expedition but it is illustrated like a story book. The author of the book is a freelance illustrator. The book is a mix of quite long pieces of text, broken up into short paragraphs, and short blocks of information. The illustrations serve more to add visual interest to the book rather than specifically illustrate points made by the text.

Her Story – 50 Women and Girls Who Shook The World written by Katherine Halligan and illustrated by Sarah Walsh

Aimed at ages 8 – 12 yrs

There was much more text in this book than in others I had reviewed, so a longer read. Each spread featured one person. Each spread had an illustration of the featured person with a small number of additional illustrations or photographs. The illustrations are a consistent style and flowers and pastel colours feature a lot giving the book a feminine feel. The fonts used have a hand-written feel.

Get Into Photography – Take Brilliant Pictures in a Flash! by Suzie Hubbard

Aimed at ages 6 – 11 yrs

This book dedicates one spread per topic. Each spread has a title and introduction in a series of short paragraphs, and then a number of small blocks of text with headings and typically an associated image to illustrate the point. There are also ‘highlighted’ points in coloured circles. The typeface is quite large. The styling of the book is quite consistent throughout.

Examples of Design Book Covers

The book covers below re predominantly for adults but some children’s book covers are also included.




Examples of Graphic Design Books for Children

There are plenty of children’s books about colour and photography but I struggled to find any books specifically on graphic design or typography. I did manage to purchase a copy of ‘A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design’ by Chip Kidd whic I thought was a good, comprehensive and simple summary of graphic design concepts but it didn’t have any exercises for the reader to try things out for themselves, which I think would have been a nice addition for a children’s book.

Structure of a Children’s Information Book

How should the content of an ‘information-based’ book be structured for young people?

From my research looking at both the children’s informational books and adult graphic design books , I decided that each chapter of the books should have the following components:

  • Main Heading
  • Introductory Paragraph
  • Section Heading
  • Section Text
  • Illustrations / Images with short text annotations
  • ‘Fun Facts’ or ‘Did you know’ bullet points
  • Try it Yourself – exercises for people to try

Typically, the younger the age group the book was aimed at, the less text there was. Within the 8 – 12 age range, the amount of text varied a lot with some books, such as ‘Her Story – 50 Women and Girls Who Shook The World’ having a lot of text. I felt that I wanted my book not to be too light on text and content (as it was with ‘Snapshots – Graphic Novels’ by Andy Seed) but also not too wordy so that young people would get bored reading it.

Assignment 5: Book Design – Analysing the Brief

Penguin Books have asked you to design a new house style for a collection of books on design for children and young people. They are starting with three titles: Colour, Typography and Photographs. You will need to produce three covers (front, back and spine). The designs will need to be recognised by readers as a series and at the same time be appreciated on their individual merits. The book dimensions are 190mm wide by 225mm high.

In addition they have asked you to produce the one on typography called A is for… It doesn’t have to be a conventional text book. Create an introductory chapter of at least 4 pages that is visually interesting and will entice young people into wanting to buy the book and read more about the fascinating world of typography.


To create a new house style for a series of design books for children and young people. The style should be in keeping with the general design style and ethos of Penguin Books  and should convey Penguin Book’s values and personality.

The new house style should be reflected in three covers for books on Colour, Typography and Photographs. The designs should be recognisable as a series but also each book design should stand out individually. It should also be possible to extend the design to additional design book titles in future.

The cover design should also be cohesive with the general styling and presentation of content inside the book. The book does not have to be a conventional text book.

Both the cover designs and the styling inside the book should be:

  • Visually interesting
  • Appealing to young people
  • Encourage people to buy and read the books

The three book cover designs and introductory chapter should be presented as print-ready artwork.

Key Words

  • Penguin Books – New House Style
  • Books on Design
  • Children and Young People
  • Recognised as a Series
  • Individual Merits
  • Visually Interesting
  • Entice Young People


Steps Required to Complete This Brief

In order to complete this exercise, I identified the following steps that I would need to work through:


Do Penguin Books follow a particular style? What are their values? Should my designs be in keeping with an already established house design style?

Who are the design books aimed at? What is the age range of the young people the books are aimed at?  Are the books gender neutral? How should the book be pitched, i.e. serious, arty, fun etc.

How should the content of an ‘information-based’ book be structured for young people?

Review Examples

Review examples of information books for young people, particularly other design books. Also review examples of design books for adults and how the information is presented.

Establish Typography Book Content

Draft up the outline content for the Typography book ‘A is for ..’ and the content for the introductory chapter.

Design Ideas

Draw up ideas for the cover and content design style for the three design books. Establish how the content of the book should be presented and aim to make the design of the cover and the content cohesive.

Create ‘mood boards’ defining the styling and layout of the book content.


Get feedback for the design ideas and select one to develop.

Present Final Design

Create the final designs as print-ready artwork.





Assignment 4


Design the font for use on the cover of a magazine called type and write a short article for the magazine using a range of typefaces, with typographic illustrations, drawing on all that you have learned in this section. The article should include sections on:
• what makes a typeface interesting
• how a typeface is constructed
• question marks.


Do a mock up of the magazine cover to show where and how your title font will appear
along with other cover elements.
Produce a magazine article that is attractive and interesting enough for someone to want to pick it up to read, and which shows off what that you have learnt so far about typography.

Font Design

Defining a ‘Brief’ for the Font

I started the process of designing a font by defining my own ‘brief’ for the typeface in order to set some parameters in which to work. There are a vast number potential variations of typeface designs, so to help with designing the font, I first considered what  the purpose of the font was and what it would be used for?

The font is required for use on the cover of a magazine called ‘Type’. I have assumed the magazine to be 23cm wide by 29.6cm high (with a portrait orientation). I assumed that the name of the magazine was the most important element of the cover so I wanted my typeface design to specifically consider the letters ‘T’, ‘Y’, ‘P’ and ‘E’.

The typeface will be used for headings and will be displayed in quite large letters and as such needs to be a reasonably heavy weight so that it is clearly visible. However, given it is required for headings and not for body text, it has the potential to be quite decorative.

Only the characters of the uppercase alphabet are required.

Because the magazine is about typography and is likely to be read by graphic designers,  I also decided that I wanted the font to have a modern, graphic and ‘designed’ feel and not be a handwritten style font or feature elements that were too contrived or ‘gimmicky’.


I decided to consider a serif font because of the scope that the serifs would give to design specific characteristics of the typeface. However, serif typefaces can sometimes look a little ‘old fashioned’, so I wanted the serifs to give my typeface a modern feel. I researched other serif typefaces which I felt had a modern design and examined them to determine what their key features where and what I felt made them look ‘modern’:

I concluded there were several design elements which were appealing to me in these typefaces. The Courier New font had a very retro feel which is what i think was making it feel contemporary. With the Vollkorn SC font it was the monospacing, again I think it was the retro feel of this attribute that I liked. Cormorant SC and Cinzel are both quite similar. They have a high contrast in the width of strokes, are generally quite slim and delicate with refined serifs.

I was also particularly inspired by the typeface used by the National Trust, which I had researched in an earlier exercise. At first glance, this looks like a sans serif typeface but on close inspection there is a subtle ‘flare’ at the ends of the terminals.

Idea Generation

I started by drawing letters freehand, focusing on the uppercase letters ‘T’, ‘Y’, ‘P’ and ‘E’ and exploring different variations with contrast and small serifs:

I was feeling rather uninspired and did not feel there was anything particularly original about my ideas, so I then considered looking at my own handwriting for inspiration, looking at both upper and lower case and how I write with different sizes of pen…

I noticed that on certain uppercase letters, such as ‘A’, ‘F’ ‘H’ and ‘M’, I often draw a long descending stem, so I decided to incorporate this design element into my typeface design to give it some ‘personality’.

After a bit more experimentation, I decided to try a low contrast style with quite thick stems, small triangular serifs and ascenders terminating at an angle.

Now that I had a clearer idea of the characteristics of my typeface, I worked on defining all letterforms (both upper and lower case). I drew the letters out by hand using guide lines to define the baseline, x height, ascender height and cap height. This process helped to define a set of ‘rules’ for how characters with similar shapes should be drawn.

Having completed this exercise, I wasn’t entirely happy with the design as I felt it was a bit ordinary. I experimented a bit more, this time using the idea of a slightly flared serif but having the serif flare out from the centre of the stem:

I was happier with this design, so again, I drew out the whole alphabet to define the ‘rules’ for how all characters would be formed:

Having a clear idea now of how my letterforms would be constructed, I created the letters using Adobe Illustrator.

As an additional task working in Illustrator, I also carefully defined the widths of each letter. I did this by analysing Google Fonts, ‘Marcellus Regular’, a font that I liked and whose styling was similar to my design. I printed out the alphabet and measured the width of each letter and grouped the letters together into ‘families’ where the letters had the same widths. I then used this as a guide for my own design, although I didn’t follow exactly the same proportions for my letters, e.g. my ‘E,F’L’ family is wider than the Marcellus font.

As I created the letters, I also experimented with placing them together to see how they would look as words. As a result, I did some final finessing with the designs, making the stems and the flared serifs a little wider.

The final design for the uppercase letters is here:

Magazine Cover Design

The next stage was to design a cover for the ‘Type’ magazine. I started by researching typography and graphic design magazine covers on the internet. I collected samples in Pinterest, here:

Taking inspiration from these samples, I sketched out some ideas for the magazine cover:

Graphic design magazines often do not have much text on the cover and are quite minimalist, focusing more on graphics or images to give high visual impact. I decided to follow this trend with my own designs.

I reviewed my design ideas with my husband and we selected six to develop into a mock ups:




After further discussion with my husband, we selected the cover below as the final design. We both really like the cover with the yellow letters as flowers, chosen for the spring edition of the magazine and felt that the coloured cover would have a lot of visual impact if the magazine was on a shelf. However, we felt that the cover with the ‘blood spatter’ was communicating more visually and had an element of humour which made the cover more interesting.

Final Cover Design:


Magazine Article

The final step was to write a short, magazine article with typographic illustrations.

I started by mapping out ideas for the structure and content of my article:

The brief was to write an article discussing how a typeface is constructed so I decided to write an article describing (briefly) the steps I had gone through in creating my own typeface. Because there was potentially quite a lot of information on this, I decided to make the article fill two pages of the magazine.

As this was quite an ‘informational’ article with a lot of text, based on previous analysis of other similar articles, I opted for a three column layout.

The article heading is large and bold and spans the first two columns. It is intended to attract attention and encourage people to read the article. The main heading is Libre Baskerville Bold 48pt. I specifically chose this typeface because it has a traditional feel and is often used in diagrams that illustrate the components of a typeface – the same typeface is used in the diagram on the second page which illustrates guidelines.

The sub-heading is in Lato Bold 21pt. The Body text is also all in Lato Light 10pt. I chose Lato for the body text because I felt a magazine about type would have a particularly contemporary design aesthetic and I wanted something that felt a bit more contemporary than the more common serif fonts often used for small sized body text in magazines. The light weight Lato font has a clean, uncluttered and delicate feel which I felt was still quite readable printed at a small size.

The body text is split into sections, each with an uppercase heading in Lato Bold 10pt. The section headings divide up the text and signpost the information which is contained within the section. Sections are also broken up into short paragraphs, separated with a blank line. The columns, sections and paragraphs all serve to break up the text and make it more digestible.

I wanted the typographic illustrations to be distributed evenly around the article so that it would look balanced and also help to avoid having too much text in one block. I also wanted the illustrations to be located at least close to the part of the text they were relevant to. This meant that I chose the illustration specifically on where I wanted it to be placed in the article (rather than because I specifically felt a part of the text needed a diagram to help explain it).  On the first page, the text wraps around the word ‘Love’ for visual interest. I also think this large graphic, slightly offset to the right, nicely balances the large title.

I kept all the illustrations in black, partly for consistency but also because type is very typically in black and white.

Illustrations are annotated in Lato Bold Italic 9pt.

The completed article is here:

Magazine Article V1

Thoughts on this Assignment

I really enjoyed the process of designing a typeface.  The process requires a lot of attention to detail and is quite methodical and I think appealed to my quite logical way of thinking. The process has also really given me an appreciation of how many subtle elements can be changed to influence type design. It has also made me realise how difficult it is to design something truly original. I was pleased with the typeface that I eventually created although it may be considered a little ordinary for the cover of a ‘Type’ magazine. Having created the complete uppercase alphabet with my design, I did feel that some of the letters not used on the magazine cover, needed a bit more refinement (the ‘A’ and ‘U’ are a bit wide, for example). I would have also quite liked to take my font design to the next stage and used a font generator program to create a font file, but I didn’t feel this was necessary for this assignment and did not really have the time.

I found the design of the magazine cover quite difficult as I lack confidence in working with colours. Also there is a danger with a ‘minimalist’ design that it has very little to say. I wasn’t totally happy with any of my cover designs but I did like the feeling of anarchy evoked by my blood spatter design.

Creating a magazine layout is also surprisingly time consuming and I found this process quite annoying at times! A lot of tweaking was required to balance the text and illustrations, keep the layout tidy, stop text being separated from its heading, fill the required space without leaving gaps, etc. Very often I was having to take out sentences I wanted to leave in or add words I didn’t really want just to make layout work. Patience and flexibility are what are needed here.


Assignment 3

Produce a poster (297mm x 420mm) that celebrates a colour of your choice. Work only with your chosen colour, its complementary colour and black and white. You can
include text, collages, illustrations and photographs. Use black and white to help establish a range of tints and shades with your chosen colour.

Defining a Theme for the Poster

For this assignment, I chose to celebrate the colour green. Green makes me think of  being away on holiday and I am always at my most content when outdoors enjoying nature.

I started by doing some analysis of what the colour green meant to me:

I also investigated what the colour green might mean to others and asked some friends to share what they thought of when they thought of green – with some interesting and quite varied results!

  •  Countryside, food (vegetables), fertility, plenty, lusciousness, verdant, earthy, success, calmness, restive, nature working as it should – health, vitality, balance.


  • Grass, vegetation, school uniforms – hassle and stress, responsibility.


  • Pestilence, farms, money, ecology, ‘eat-your-greens – nagging, brocolli, sea-sickness, nausea, spring, envy, the Green Party – preaching.


I decided that I would explore creating a poster that celebrated the colour green in the context of the countryside, possibly combining green rolling hills with wild hedgerow plants. I am very inspired by the work of Angie Lewin who makes beautiful prints of stylised wild plants and flowers, often in the context of the landscape where the plants can be found.

Thumbnail Sketches

I continued my research by looking at illustrations of landscapes and wild flowers on Pinterest and collected ideas here.

I then began trying out some ideas for the poster using thumbnail sketches. (I worked on this while on holiday where I had limited access to coloured pens!)

Reviewing the Ideas

I reviewed my ideas for the poster designs with my husband and decided on three to take forward.


Poster Version 1

In this poster, my aim was to combine rolling hills, disappearing into the distance, with hedgerow plants in the foreground. I decided to do this as an illustration using Adobe Illustrator.

I started by seeking out and photographing different hedgrow plants to get some ideas for plant shapes:

I studied the shapes of the plants and began to sketch simple shapes that I could replicate in Illustrator:

For some of my more complex shapes, I sketched the plant out first on paper…


..and then drew over them in Illustrator using the pen tool to create a black outline of the plants:


For other simpler plant shapes, I drew them directly in Illustrator:

I then created the poster in Illustrator and started by creating swatches for the different shades of green I wanted to use. I started with quite a bright ‘grass’ green and used Illustrator’s Colour Guide to create a range of tints and shades for this colour (5 steps for each). I used Adobe Colour to help me identify a complementary colour for the base colour of green.

I began creating the ‘rolling hills’ background for the poster using the pencil tool to create the hill shapes. I used a gradient fill to colour the hills and tried to give a sense of distance by using lighter colours for the more distant hills. I made the nearest hill a dark green and then placed the leaves and flowers I had drawn in the foreground, colouring them with a mid-green so that they clearly stood out against the dark hill behind.

I experimented a lot with the different tints and shades and tried some different methods of creating the background:


In my final poster, I felt that the sky needed some additional interest, so I added a sun which I based on the way the sun was represented in old Japanese prints.

Poster Version 2

In this poster, I decided to do something different from my original thumbnail sketch as I wanted to try something a bit more abstract.

I started by creating a textured background for the poster. I used a roller to paint black ink onto sheets of A4 paper which I scanned into digital files.

I then used Photoshop to layer some of these images onto a light green background, changing the opacity and blend modes to give a green-grey textured background.

Next, I picked some leaves and grasses from the side of a nearby road and pressed them under heavy books for several days to make them flat. I then painted them with black ink and made prints, which I scanned in as digital files.

I used the ‘trace’ function in Illustrator to create vector images from the scans. I recoloured the plants and grasses  using the same colour palette as for Poster 1 and then arranged a selection of the plants onto the poster background. I coloured the clover flowers the complimentary shade of dark pink.

Finally, I added a verse from the poem ‘Meet me in the Green Glen’ by John Clare.

Poster Version 3

In this version of the poster, I wanted to revisit the idea of rolling hills with hedgerow plants in the foreground, but this time incorporating text into the image. I also wanted to give the poster a more ‘hand-painted’ feel.

I started by sketching some ideas for the layout of the poster and then recreated the design in Illustrator.

I used the same colour palette that I used in the other two posters.

I used dry brushes to give the outlines of the hills a more hand-painted feel and also to add some variation  in the tones of the colours of the hills.

I reused the images of the hedgerow plants that I had created for poster 1.

Finally, I added text along paths that followed the contours of the hills. The text is the first verse of the poem ‘Meet me in the Green Glen’ by John Clare.

Final Selected Poster

I reviewed the final posters again with my husband and we decided on Poster 3 as the final selected poster for this assignment. We felt it was the most visually interesting and the ‘hand-painted’ shading effect gave a good sense of depth to the image. The variations in tints and shades has the effect of making this poster feel quite ‘colourful’ even though the colour palette is actually quite limited.

Thoughts on this Assignment

I enjoyed working on this assignment as it really gave me an opportunity to experiment with Adobe Illustrator. The posters themselves took a long time to complete as I was having to learn a lot of new skills along the way.

In terms of creating the posters, I actually found one of the hardest tasks was deciding on the background for the posters, especially for poster 2 which I required a lot of trial and error before I decided on a background. Finding a background that was visually interesting, gave enough contrast to distinguish it from the other elements in the poster, but wasn’t too distracting, was quite difficult!

I also found it very difficult on all the posters to know where to place the dark pink complementary colour. The pink immediately demands attention. I tried a number of approaches, making the sky pink on Poster 1, making the text pink, trying to make green and pink gradients, none of which worked. In the end I opted to use just a very small amount of pink in all the posters by making the clover flower heads pink, as this was their natural colour. In the first poster, I positioned them in a diagonal across the poster, opposite to the sun and while flowers of the cow parsley, hopefully to draw the eye across and down the poster.

In Poster 2, I wanted the plant silhouettes to be more dominant than the poem, so I positioned them in the top left diagonal of the poster and the text at the bottom right. The clover flowers draw the eye across from the plant silhouettes down to the verse.

In Poster 3, the verse is the most important element. The pink clover flowers are just small points of visual interest which the viewer will see after they have read the text.