In January of 2019, I designed book covers for some of C. S. Lewis’s iconic books and personal favorites: The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and Mere Christianity. I wanted to convey an accurate image of the book, while also allowing for some ambiguity so the reader could project their own meaning onto the cover. C. S. Lewis books are traditionally marketed toward Christian audiences, and often have light-hearted covers. I took a different direction. I wanted the books to appeal to a non-Christian audience, and I wanted the books to have a gritty and more emotional feeling, while also alluding to the extraordinary qualities inside the book.
I began by reading through the books again, and jotting down what symbols and images are found to be repeating. In The Great Divorce, C. S. Lewis often describes many of the characters as having ghoulish or ghostly appearances, and the image of a skull kept recurring to me. After a few drafts, I decided on an illustration I liked.
A skull on its own is striking in the context of C. S. Lewis, but not necessarily striking on its own. So I decided to add a bit of color in order to give the skull more depth, along with suggesting that there is something different about this particular skull, and that it is worth examining further. I experimented with watercolor on different prints of my illustration, and I ended up loving the outcome with a dripping effect of the paint.
I followed a similar process with the other books of the series, finding imagery in the book and conveying it subtly in the illustration. I stuck with the same style of drawing and watercolor to show a common theme between the books.
Once I had illustrations I was satisfied with, I began building the typography around them. I noticed quickly that the illustrations took up quite a bit of visual space, so I knew I needed something small, simple and refined in order to balance that. I wanted the title font to suggest the history of the book, while also feeling modern. After many different experiments, I chose Abril Fatface Regular, because I thought it best evoked that feeling. I decided that the title needed a lot of negative space around it so as to draw attention to it, and to create a balanced composition.
I am proud of how these book covers turned out. I believe I accomplished my goal of marketing toward people who wouldn’t normally pick up a book by C. S. Lewis, and I love seeing these books on my bookshelf.