What do you get when you combine timeless children’s stories, brand new illustrators, and one rather mischievous little bird? A Puffin Book!
Designer Tom Sanderson tells us the story behind the twenty new covers that make up the collection.
Most of the illustrators created their designs by hand with a brush and ink, and then would work them up further in Photoshop, dropping in textures and playing with the colour palette, making most of the covers mixed-media pieces, with their origins in illustration.
The standout cover designs for me are Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat and Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.
For Gobbolino the Witch’s Cat I wanted the main design feature to be strong hand lettering with a smaller illustrative element. The cover needed to have Gobbolino on it, so I decided to use the cat’s swishing tail as one of the letters in the book’s title. I mocked up a very rough approach and then asked illustrator Penny Dann to draw up the idea for me in her style. She does some really lovely expressive hand lettering and very characterful animals, and I knew she would do a great job. The finished cover is so eye catching and distinctive from the previous editions.
I’ve been a fan of illustrator Bjorn Rune Lie’s work ever since I read his comic book The Wolf’s Whistle. It’s just stunning and I really wanted to get him to illustrate one of the covers in this series. Sam Combes, one of Puffin’s in-house designers, suggested that he would be a good choice for Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. It just took a quick phone call and he was on board. I had some ideas for concepts which Bjorn mocked up, but we ended up really loving one of his designs and using it: a large rat with hand lettering and flowers.
There are also some covers on which we kept the original illustration – Charlotte’s Web, which still looks as fresh today as it did when it was first used and The Borrowers are great examples of how illustration can have such a timeless appeal. All of these stories have been reprinted many times and in my research I could see covers that very much reflected the era they were published, like Edward Ardizzone’s 1963 illustrated cover for Stig of the Dump, and Pauline Bayne’s design for Watership Down, which is straight out of the 1970′s!
When I started working on the redesign for the series, Puffin told me that they wanted to use ‘A Puffin Book’ somewhere on the cover – this would be the main linking mechanism for the series. But, since we had decided very early on that this series would be a great opportunity to commission some new and interesting illustrators, I wanted the branding to be relatively minimal. The stripped-back design really gives the cover illustrations plenty of room to breathe, and this works particularly well with some of the classic images.
My favourite character is the luckdragon in The Neverending Story – he looks nice and cuddly. I think a night-time flight with him, maybe over Brighton so I could see it all lit up, would be just great!”
Do you know any young Puffins overflowing with imagination and fizzing with creative fire-crackery like Tom and his team of illustrators? Tell teachers, librarians and general clever-school people everywhere about the Puffin Design Competition for Schools. Budding designers, from Primary and Secondary schools, can choose to create a new cover for Goodnight Mister Tom, Charlotte’s Web, The Neverending Story, Stig of the Dump or Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.
They’ve got until 24th November to enter, so they’d better get scribbling!