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Designing A Place Called Perfect

Posted on 31st August 2017 by Martha Greengrass
Designing the perfect book cover is no mean feat, so we asked the creative team behind our August Children's Book of the Month, A Place Called Perfect, to let us in on the secret to creating a book cover that simply begs you to take a look inside. Here, exclusively for Waterstones, illustrator Karl James Mountford, and Usborne designer Katharine Millichope discuss the process with us.

Katharine: After being a big fan of Karl’s artwork for a while, I was thrilled to be working with him on this project. With his style in mind I sent a rough design sketch, showing the general composition, girl with glasses, the suggestion of a town and some eyeball flowers, etc.

Karl came back with 4 interpretations (4! He’s amazing).


Karl: The brief was an interesting one, I’m always more inclined to say yes to a job when the book is a little darker in content and this was right up my street. There was a clear idea of how the cover should look from Kath’s brief, but I always try to throw a couple of ‘curve ball’ ideas or elements into the mix by not taking the brief as gospel. My favourite was the one with the large glasses on it and the characters in the lens, but it wasn’t strong enough for the cover.

Katharine: We went back and forth a bit to get to the final cover...mainly because there was a significant change to our brief along the way in that the glasses were shrunk right down, instead of being the main focal point and housing the word ‘Per-fect’ in each lens, as in the original sketch, which we decided might be too hard to read.

Katharine: Karl created a new sketch to accommodate the changes, and also introduced the genius eye-shape, before finally working up into final colour. 

Karl: We had a lot of illustration elements from the coloured roughs – things that worked, things that didn’t. But I reckon between me and Kath, we’ve done a decent job in representing the story inside. We went through a lot of colour palettes with the book, I was heading in blue, violet and red scheme but when Kath introduced the turquoise it just worked. We worked on it for a good few months to get it right, I quite like the character ‘boy’ I’m pleased with his overall look.

Katharine: With Karl’s permission, I used parts of his earlier versions to make up the back cover, spine and inside cover – the inside cover was a fun extra bit, created from Karl’s evil-eye flowers artwork from the cover, just with eyelids added and their pupils made to look in different directions in a super-evil way.

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