Exercise: A children’s book cover


You are asked to produce a cover illustration for a natural history book for children (age 7–11) entitled Animals from Around the World. The image is to be used as a full-colour front jacket to encourage children to choose this book from the library shelf.

I started this exercise by exploring a short history of children’s reference books. I went back as far as the 1980s and looked at each decade leading up to the modern-day.

My first discovery was a beautifully illustrated book by author and artist Graeme Base. Although the cover art at first glance portrays a reference book, it is actually a children’s alliteration book. It contains twenty-six illustrations, and each drawing represents an animal from around the world in alphabetical order. This might not be your typical children’s reference book but I could not resist including it.

Trivia: Graeme Base was born in Amersham, England, (where I live!) but moved to Australia with his family at the age of eight.

In the 1990s, children’s reference books seemed to focus more on photography than illustration. There were still a few that I could find with artist contribution, but it was interesting to see how style and design flip flops over the years to fit a generation.

In the late 1980s, all the way to the present day, “Eyewitness Books” have been at the forefront of children’s reference books. I have seen these books everywhere for most of my younger years, from school to my own children reading them. Instantly recognisable with their bold, colourful imagery, white background and broad vivid headings. These books are what most people would think of if asked to list a reference book.

Finally, I went looking for some modern-day reference books. I was pleasantly surprised to see a revival in illustrated artwork. In a review of my research, it seems the industry has swayed back to hand-drawn depictions of the animal world. Photography is a very raw visual presence and maybe works better with an older audience. An illustration can adapt to fit a younger/older audience and can also be warped, exaggerated subjectively to draw an audience.

Modern Day Reference Book
Animal: Exploring the Zoological World (2018)


Draw up at least three ideas as coloured client visuals. Include information on the final the size and format, and where the type will be positioned.”

Below are my three colour client visuals

My first design was a take on portrait headshots from different animals. I was happy with the outcome of this image and feel that the next stage would be to progress the detail and sculpt the text around the elephants head more. It was fun adjusting the text into different sizes to achieve the top left border title. Something happened in the render which changed the wording from white to grey, and I was unable to rectify this, so the title should be completely white and pop more.

My second design showed workings with silhouettes. I wanted to show different animals walking around the globe and try to use intense block colours. I started by roughly creating some profiles from reference and then placing them around a filled circle. I wanted to have a lot of contrast, so I decide to make the circle representing the earth and the animals all one colour.

I was happy how the title came out, and the colours work well together. The font positioning and colour in my mind works well for its intended demographic.

My last design took a more modern approach and uses a variety of animal shapes. I created as many silhouettes of animals from reference that I could, then split the cover into two worlds, ocean and land/air. The effect here was to show as many animals as possible without it looking overcrowded or confusing. I also wanted to create a narrative to split the two different types of animals in our oceans and on land.

I enjoyed trying to fit the title into the middle strip, and I was able to create a modern-looking cover. The font was in the style of hand-drawn and filled, giving it more of a playful look.