A new cover for the classic English ghost story
I was commissioned by Penguin Random House to design a new cover for Susan Hill’s gothic horror, The Woman In Black. My design was shortlisted by The Academy of British Cover Design for an award.
A Victorian feel was required but the brief was quite open: design a beautiful typographic cover incorporating an illustrative motif. One of the settings in the book is the ominous Eel Marsh House, which becomes surrounded and engulfed by dense fog from the marsh. I wanted to capture this scene and have the lettering reinforce the swirls of fog. I explored options of the title being suspended in the air or swallowed under the marsh.
Between the letters I drew a line work filigree to depict reeds, roots and key objects from the story; horse skull, wagon wheel and rocking chair.
As wood engraving was a popular illustrative technique during Victorian times the cover adopts this style. The little notches, imperfections and texture create a warm, hand-made feel to further evoke the period.
My first draft (top image) has more elaborate swashes in the title and author’s name, with the final approved cover (last image) has creepier root-like filigree.
I can thoroughly recommend the book. Regarded as ‘The Classic English Ghost story’, it’s had quite a cultural impact: first published in 1983 it was adapted as a play by Stephen Mallatratt in 1988 and has been running in London’s West End and around the world since. It was released as a film, starring Daniel Radcliffe in 2012 and is a set book for GCSE and A Level curriculums in the UK.