For a series of children’s books, I was asked to design new covers. Critical here was finding and developing a good template, upon which every new cover for the series could be built.
The title of the series is “Oma Gertrud” (EN: “Granny Gertrude”) and it has gone through quite a lot of iterations during its lifetime. Originally written in German back in 2008, it has subsequently been released many times, in small print numbers and almost always with a new book cover. The last edition looked dated and was in a very specific style that wasn’t what the client was looking for anymore.
Below is an abbreviated telling of the process it took to get this project up and running. It tells the story of what we set out to do, what challenges I faced and the thought process behind it all.
The client now wanted to strike a balance between a modern-looking, minimalist cover and one that would appeal to an audience of young kids looking for a cool spy adventure story.
After some iterations, we have found what we think is a fitting template for future instalments. This includes the series title right at the top of the front, set in a big, bold typeface with minimal serifs. It was chosen for its retro-modern appeal – it managed to be both modern and traditional at the same time; properties which also define the central character.
Additionally, a font was chosen for the author’s name and the copy on the back. I chose a serif font, to make it easier to read. The template evolved along with the two first book covers and should offer sufficient flexibility to be used for future books in the series.
The first book in the series functions as both an origin story, that sets up the world and as a more innocent first mission. The story follows Tom (the protagonist of all books) who by chance is chosen by his seemingly frail neighbour, Granny Gertrude, to be her spy apprentice.
After finding out that criminals wish to abduct the Queen, they and their teammates are sent on a wild goose chase around Britain. The book is aptly titled “Die Entführung der Queen” – “The Abduction of the Queen” – the twist being that in reality, the criminals are trying to steal a valuable chess piece.
The illustration shows the main characters running on floor tiles that resemble a chessboard, representing the two central themes of the book – a chase and chess. Lacking in reference material and wanting full flexibility, I used Adobe Fuse to load character models, adjusting their build and running characteristics accordingly. I chose a frame of each and spliced them together in Photoshop, using them as a pose reference for the illustration.
For the title, I chose the same font as for the copy on the back. This being a classic story about spies, royalty, and duty, a serif font is best suited and seeing as we already had one of those, I used it for this title as well, adjusting weight and kerning along the way.
The perspective of the floor gives the entire cover a sense of dramatic speed and emphasizes motion. It even wraps around over the spine and to the back, which I think really works well.
The second book in the series sees Tom and his friend chase a mysterious organization that is researching a new element that could tighten their malicious grip on the world.
The destructive power of this element – along with imagery of fusion reactors – are the main inspiration for this cover. I used high-resolution imagery of mixing paint (something also used in many sci-fi films to mimic galaxies and nebulae) as a basis with the character’s silhouettes running atop the letters.
The font chosen for this instalment won the client over because of its very futuristic look and geometric appeal.
This very neatly ties the imagery and the words together, making one the basis of the other and basically eroding any line between what is and isn’t part of the lettering. This gives the entire design fluidity and motion that, paired with the running silhouettes, promises an action-packed adventure.
With the template and the first two covers done, the client was very pleased. The books are available as print-on-demand now at hildebrandsons.com, where I also crafted a fun little landing page.
More books in the series are to come and I will update this project accordingly.