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Project: John le Carré Book Cover

Project: John le Carré Book Cover

In April 2016 I was approached by the digital production company The Ink Factory and digital agency TH_NK to create a cover design for British espionage author, John le Carré. It featured his latest George Smiley novel, A Legacy of Spies. While the cover designs didn't make the final cut, I wanted to share the process and proposed designs from this great opportunity. Much thanks for the art direction provided by Phil Wilce (TH_NK) and Callum Dodgson (The Ink Factory).

Research into John le Carré books

Research into John le Carré books

As embarrassing as it was to admit, the extent of my John le Carré knowledge started and ended with the Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy film. This drove me to dig deep into his author history and research what had been done for his books design over the past 30 years. This included patterns, common themes and cliches I may have wanted to avoid.

Part of my moodboard for A Legacy of Spies

Part of my moodboard for A Legacy of Spies

The idea of rough, 3-dimensional type struck me as a strong direction to pursue for a big trade book of this nature. The household name would be immediately recognizable as long as it was paired with minimal illustrative intrusion.

The first direction features one of the main themes of the book, a tulip. The split levels of the tulip above ground and what was literally underneath could represent many of the common, contradictory themes in George Smiley's life and A Legacy of Spies. For example, it reflected the past vs. present narrative of the book quite nicely.

The first direction features one of the main themes of the book, a tulip. The split levels of the tulip above ground and what was literally underneath could represent many of the common, contradictory themes in George Smiley's life and A Legacy of Spies. For example, it reflected the past vs. present narrative of the book quite nicely.

The second direction was simple and bold, with a minimal visual of subtle grunge along the edges. The color palette evoked of a sense of the past while the contemporary typeface treatment brought it to the present.

The second direction was simple and bold, with a minimal visual of subtle grunge along the edges. The color palette evoked of a sense of the past while the contemporary typeface treatment brought it to the present.

The final direction uses the same type treatment as the previous direction but is paired with a stronger visual element to create some tension. Like the first direction it incorporates the theme of the tulip but instead of a contemporary photograph, it utilizes a vintage botany illustration, echoing more to the past and the attempt to cover it up.

The final direction uses the same type treatment as the previous direction but is paired with a stronger visual element to create some tension. Like the first direction it incorporates the theme of the tulip but instead of a contemporary photograph, it utilizes a vintage botany illustration, echoing more to the past and the attempt to cover it up.