From the designer: How to design a Puffin Classic.

Posted on 6th March 2015 by Anna Morrison
With the reissue of the Puffin Classics range, including some gorgeous new covers, designer Anna Morrison writes about how they approached these timeless favourites.

This was the project all book designers dream of – re-jacketing the most well-known and best-loved stories in the world, the Puffin Classics

We knew we wanted the series to have a sparkling new approach that was timeless and would appeal to children and older readers alike. As each novel has such a different story to tell, it meant that every cover needed to convey that individuality while still feeling part of a collection. To tie them all together, we created a new look specially for the Puffin Classics. Each cover fits into a ‘grid’. Across the bottom of each cover is a colourful band with a central semi-circle to house the Puffin logo. While at the top of the books, the author’s name is written in a classic font. Once this was decided, the fun part began – we could look for illustrators. 

Oh, what beautiful artwork all the illustrators created! Each one took an entirely different approach. To begin with, I set them a loose brief, and they came up with some roughs sketches. We then looked at these and sometimes these were amended – and sometimes they barely changed at all.

Everyone has a different way of working. Andrew Bannecker, who illustrated the stunning The Secret Garden and A Little Princess covers, creates everything digitally, whereas the cover for Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales is entirely hand painted by the amazing Kali Ciesemier. To take us to the wonderful land of Oz, we commissioned designer and illustrator Jim Tierney, whose work I’ve admired for a long time. The cover is slightly ominous and I especially love the winged monkeys flying about. Can you guess which other cover he created in the Puffin Classics range? Answer at the bottom. 

Of course there have been numerous editions over the years and before we set about giving the Puffin Classics new livery we delved into the archives. It was fascinating to see how they’ve changed. For instance, Anne of Green Gables has gone from initial covers with beautiful foil-blocked typography to illustrations by Lauren Child. The latest look is by the extraordinary talented Chris Silas Neal. It’s so enchanting and very sweet – just like Anne herself.

My favourite Puffin Classic is The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. At school we did the story as a play, although I had a rather duff role of someone’s mother. I just loved the adventures that Tom and Finn got into, and the Mississippi river sounded so exotic to me as a ten-year-old. However, re-reading the book as an adult, I can see the much deeper social themes that Mark Twain invokes in his writing, which I think is a great example of excellent storytelling that appeals to children and adults.

I find inspiration in all sorts of places. From weird shop signs to music and children’s drawings, although I think the film director Wes Anderson inspires me the most. His attention to detail means I can watch his movies again and again and find something new within them every time. It was my illustration lecturer at university who suggested I became a book-cover designer, because I loved reading so much. I saw her recently at an art show and I told her how she had been the catalyst for my entire career. She hadn’t a clue who I was(!), although she seemed pleased nevertheless.

Still wondering which other cover Jim Tierney designed? The answer is the majestic Black Beauty


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