SKETCHBOOK PUFFIN BOOK COVER
BRIEF Design a whole new cover look for The Outsiders, in order to bring this classic to a new generation of readers, ensuring that this timeless story remains an integral part of every teenagerâ€™s bookshelf.
Natureâ€™s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leafâ€™s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, so dawn goes down a day. Nothing gold can stay. -Robert Frost
BOOK SUMMARY The Outsiders is about a two rival gangs, Greasers and Socs’, which is actually two classes of society. The Greasers are of the lower variety. One night when Ponyboy, the main character, and his friend Johnny are out they get attacked by a group of Socs’. This is nothing unusual, only this time things get out of hand. The Socs’ almost drowns Ponyboy in a fountain but Johnny stops them in a desperate act to save his friend by stabbing one of the socs to death. They then flee to an abandoned church and a lot of questions about life and purpose arise. Ponyboy cites the Robert Frost poem “Nothing gold can stay”, which has great significance for the book’s meaning. The Greasers are a very tight group that others are very prejudiced against. The book is about friendship, solidarity, youth and exclusion.
RESEARCH I started of by watching the 1983 film adaptation of the book. Even though I thought the movie was pretty bad due to poor acting and faltering dialogue, I tried to look past that and see the story and it gave me a feel of which type of story it was. I also read a lot of book summaries. Then the next step was to just get inspired so I googled a lot of book cover designs. Old books, teen books, “50 best covers”, “50 worst covers”, old winners of the Penguin and Puffin competitions and a lot more always keeping in mind what The Outsiders was about to se if I could find something interesting. But while researching book covers I came to realise that the really good ones are very context dependent. There are no special tricks to make a good cover design but you must find out the essence of the book, a symbol or metaphor for that and then execute it with a style that enhances the idea. According to me, the greatness of the final idea for the cover depends on how well it’s tied to the book.
INSPIRATION The 60’s, in which the book takes place, are a very exiting period for me in terms of design; the aesthetics, the colours, the movie posters (especially those of Saul Bass), the furni ture (Verner Panton), the fashion (Mad Men) etc. Not to mention the music! Short to say I really want my book cover to reflect the 60’s somehow regardless of the idea I choose to subconsciously capture the mood of the era in which the book takes place. Also, in the 60’s spirit, I’ve been really inspired by the mini malistic expressions and I really think that will make the book stand out in the bookstores next to all those mystery books with almost identical covers.
IDEAS The comb is clearly a favorite symbol for the Greasers if you look at different cover designs on the Internet and a symbol I thought of before even finding examples of it. Not very original in other words. But for me itâ€™s just an accessory the Greasers are wearing. If I where to use it I felt I needed to do something more cleaver with the comb to make it work. The theme exclusion is something I sort of can relate to in the sense that I grew up in a suburb to Stockholm and were therefore always a bit outside from the center where all the fun happened. Not the same kind of exclusion the Greasers in the book faces, but still, they do live in the outskirts of a small city. This made me think of Bruce Springsteen who often sings about seeing the city skyline and the light in the horizon. One idea I have is to combine a city skyline with the comb. Another idea is to try and illustrate the rivalry between the gangs using some contrast in some way. I donâ€™t know how clear that will be though.
SKETCHES I came about my final pieces just by trying out a bunch of thing in illustrator. Anything I could come up with really to se if it sparked something I liked. I do prefer sketching in the computer and not on paper simply because Iâ€™m more comfortable that way. There arenâ€™t much to say about them really more than that they led me to the final idea. You could say it was my way of brainstorming with myself. To the left is a selection of some sketches.
FINAL PIECE My final piece is the city skyline of Tulsa, Oklahoma, where the book takes place and the “sky” is an abstract graphic geometric pattern that could be gold bullions or a very warm sunset. The skyline represents exclusion and living in the outskirts of both the city and the society itself. The gold or the yellow sky is a reference to the poem “Nothing gold can stay” which, as mentioned before, are cited and important in the book. The contrast between the dark skyline and the colourful upper part might symbolize the rivalry between the gangs in the book. The typography is carefully chosen to enhance the feeling of the book and the 60’s era. American typewriter was chosen given that the book begins and ends with the main character typing the story on a typewriter. The other font is a very Saul Bass inspired one. I thought it suited the purpose well as it is a bit rough, as also the Greasers are, and it connotes in my opinion very much from the 60’s. This final idea was also very suitable for making the front and back of the cover connected in an unforced manner.
ALTERNATIVE The alternative is a little more different than just a red version of the cover. The city skyline is still there and the main idea is still the same (see “Final piece”), but instead of a golden sky with abstract shapes there are quite apparent running blood. This is clearly a darker more serious version of my idea. A key scene in the book is when one of the Socs’ gets stabbed to death and blood is the perfect symbol for death and bad things. Needless to say I feel that this version connotes a to dark story. It doesn’t feel like a youth book as much as the other version and therefore chose that one as my first choice.
CONCLUSIONS This was a very fun and interesting project and the one that has been the most alike the courses we have taken back in Sweden. To communicate an idea. I feel that my covers do pinpoint what I stated for myself in the beginning regarding style and inspiration and the feel I wanted for them. However I’m not 100percent satisfied (are you ever?). I feel that my idea is not as “smart” as I’d hoped for. I’m used to think around advertisement briefs and having a huge creative angst that eventually transitions to a redemptive big idea. That didn’t quite happen here but I’m still very happy with how the covers turned out.
ANTON LARSSON GRAPHIC DESIGN & ILLUSTRATION UWS 2013