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  • Writer's pictureKim Timmermans

January: Book Cover Design

This year, I set myself the challenge to design a book cover for one of my favorite book covers every month.

First up is a book from a writer I really love: Haruki Murakami. Kafka on the Shore is not my favorite book of his, but it is the first Murakami I read and years ago it marked the beginning of a binge session of reading one book after the other for weeks, until I couldn't anymore. Today I still love his books a lot and every now and then I reread some of them.

Coming up with a concept for the illustration

I had to reread parts of the book before starting the brainstorm process, as it has been 7 or 8 years since I read it the last time. One scene I did remember very lively, was the moment when one of the main characters, Nakata, made it rain sardines and mackarels from the sky. In Nakata's storyline, cats play a very important role, so I decided to use these two elements in my cover design.

I started by doodling many fish in my sketchbook while I was thinking about a concept, which eventually led to the idea I went with. I wanted to fill the whole cover with a pattern of tightly packed sardines, leaving a negative space in the shape of a cat in the middle of the cover. I worked out how I wanted the fish to look, before moving on to the actual illustration.

The final illustration

After doing some research and deciding on a book size, I sketched the compositon in blue pencil. I went for hot-pressed watercolor paper, twice the size of the final book.

The illustration is made up of a water color base layered with colored pencil and Caran D'ache neocolor II crayons. I masked the cat shape with washi tape. After all the fish were done, I went over it with some new layers of blue watercolor and white neocolor, in order to make it less detailed and give it a bit more texture.

I used Indesign to add the text and design the spine, and Photoshop to mock it up and make it look like a real book. I love seeing it mocked-up, as it makes the design come to live.


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