Print Design • 2016
The brief for my first practical project at university was to design a book cover for the Pocket Penguin 70s series. The aim was to sell and accurately represent the collection of Aesop’s fables, The Dolphins, the Whales & the Gudgeon. My optical illusion-based design reflects the understated morals taught throughout the book.
The Pocket Penguin 70s series was a collection of short Penguin books released as a box set in 2005 to celebrate the publisher’s 70th anniversary. As a first practical project in my first year of my degree, we were given the brief to design a cover for a book in the Penguin Little Black Classics selection, but following the guidelines of the 70s series.
The guidelines were very minimal: 111 × 181 mm in size, include the Penguin 70 logo in the top right or bottom right, and make the author’s name and title legible. Everything else was free-reign.
The book I picked out at random was a collection of Aesop’s fables titled The Dolphins, the Whales & the Gudgeon. Personally, I set some guidelines for myself right away after reading the book. Instead of simply picking one fable, and basing the cover off of that, I set myself the challenge to represent the entire collection in my design. This limited myself to elements like type, pattern, or abstract imagery.
Firstly, I analysed what the purpose of the fables were, and also how they related to today’s world. I figured out that each fable was trying to teach a lesson or a moral to the reader. However the message of the fable was never immediately obvious as you read them – you have to look at the fable closely or from a different perspective. This notion immediately gave me the idea of basing the design on an optical illusion; an illusion that would make the cover uninterpretable at one viewpoint, but perfectly clear at another.
After a lot of research into the actual logistics of ways to create an effect like this, I had developed a cover where the author and book title were completely illegible at a normal reading distance (and acceptably going slightly off-brief), but was perfectly clear from far away.
It required many print tests and lots of tweaking and experimenting to get the perfect effect. The final result was perfect for the format of a small book. You can’t read it if you’re holding it in your hands, but from afar in a book shop, it is pretty clear.
I received a lot of positive feedback from my peers and am very proud of how it came out. Coming up with smart ideas that signify aspects of the brief in a more meaningful way is something I always strive to do, and this is a great example of that.