Exercise 24

A Childrens book cover


Create a full cover front jacket for a children’s book about the history of animals around the world.  Aimed at 7-11 year olds.

Identify/responding to key words:

Animals from around the world – easy to recognise animals, silhouettes, striking, big, varied, different, regularly seen, fur, patterns, exotic, different, countries, safari, protected, different.

Generating ideas/Research/Drawing ideas up?Thumbnails:

https://www.pinterest.com/Superhilbo/exercise-24-childrens-book-cover/  for a range of cover styles that I gained inspiration from.


Shapes to go for  –  circles for earth, circles to represent ‘around’.

Colours – primary colours for brightness and attracting attention.

What is appropriate for this age group?  Are primary colours too basic for 7-11 year olds?  According to Jean Piaget(ref 1-4) and his assumptions about the cognitive development of children between the age of 7-12, their thinking is more concrete.  This would mean abstract ideas don’t work as well for them and their ability to learn and remember is developing.  They engage better with classification of information.  Based on this light study of this range of children, I thought it would be important to give the cover a sense of organisation and order so the world and the animals around it would convey a sense of literal meaning easily understood. However, I wanted to try something different too, so I experimented with the positioning of the animals and the circles to see how it would work.

I went with the literal meaning of the animals around the world.  A number of silhouettes of seven familiar animals were chosen.  Watercolour was used to colour them in without features as they were to be recognized by their shape only.  Colours picked were at random to see if the design would benefit from it as the silhouette of the animal would be recognized easily.  This may be too abstract however so would be observed as I went with it.

I liked this idea but it felt flat and I didn’t like the choice of size with the animals.  It didn’t feel fun enough either but the colours, although random, were catching the eye.

I decided to try something a bit freer and so tried to set up a scene in which the animals interacted with each other.  It wasn’t planned but I went with it and wanted to see what could be produced.

I used a box and a blue background and decided to put a comic scene into it.  The dialogue between the giraffe and the kangaroo was mean to be friendly, curious and fun.  This may appeal more and encourage the book to be investigated by a young child.

The images show the process for this idea, and how the box was set up.  I even tried out lettering with print as a way to give it a more handmade feeling.  It didn’t quite work as well as I hoped but it was good to experiment with it.

The final image was a digital version of the diorama.  It was tidied up and some cloning of the grass inserted along with some basic shapes to imply a river with animals passing by.  The whole scene was definitely projecting a handmade feeling, so I kept that going by painting the words ‘Animals’ and ‘World’ and then scanned them in and adjusted the size and shadow effect.


Overall this worked well.  The image is definitely fun, it is eye catching and there is a strong chance of it being taken off a shelf for a further look.  The colours are primary but a little bit softer so it doesn’t look too pre-school.

The changes I’d make though are to the colour of the gorilla and rhinoceros.  Their true colours would be more appropriate perhaps, so I would change the animals to reflect a better likeness.  I can see it works with the giraffe so I’m not sure why I didn’t continue with that.

As a further exploration of what could work,  I explored the circular logical theme that I had thumb nailed.  I wanted to see if the order of the animals might be easier to read and more interesting.  I inverted a lot of the colours as I liked the effect however I am not sure this would work for kids.  It might be a little too abstract.

The same cover but the left has a gradient layer and the silhouettes were inverted while the right was merged with layers and has no gradient.

I tried going back to the animals positioned around the world again, only this time I tried it in landscape form and went for one colour and an accent in the font in dark red.  It works, it isn’t as busy but maybe it isn’t as attractive either.


Final images:

In the end I felt that just two of the images worked well for the brief.  The first one works because it has a bright cover, it is fun and it would appeal to 7-11 year olds.  The depth from the diorama gives a lovely effect to the image and it feels friendly.  The second image could work because it feels ordered.  From a 7-11 year olds perspective it lends a sense of order and structure to things which at this age is an important focus.

Final thoughts:

I had to revisit the brief before being able to finally complete the work.  The initial approach to the exercise felt so random and it felt too all over the place.  I managed to get it together after a very stressful period of trying to.  The biggest stress was in misunderstanding the brief.  My original thoughts were that this would be for a 7-11 year old group, teenager group and then older.  I misread the brief!!!  It wasn’t until I had finished it that I realised that is what had happened.  I went back and revisited my work, approached it from the steps perspective and moved through it that way.   I had generated ideas but the thumbnails had become sketches that moved into final images before considering tone/viewpoint/content.  I had considered the composition, had researched and used references, but hadn’t done any word associations or maps or doodles.  It all felt rushed, even though many hours were thrown at it.

As it turns out my images could be adjusted and manipulated so that I didn’t lose a lot of good study work.  However, my big revelation to myself was how much I prevent my own progress.  When I read the brief it made me stress out.  Instead of reading it and then letting it sit for a bit, I launched into the project.  I didn’t follow the steps and I went from receiving the brief to visuals and final artwork.

It took me down a very stressful path where I didn’t know what to focus on and ended up putting in many hours producing elements and images without direction.  It basically wasted a lot of time doing it this way.  It meant that instead of going from A to B in a linear fashion, I went for a trip to the moon, ran around a bit, stressed, distracted, came back and then went ‘ta-da!’ with a finished piece.  Too random, too stressy and with other things going on it just doesn’t work.  Plain and simple.

Stepping back from it, taking some time out and then resetting my thoughts on it were the best idea.  I went back, reread the brief and went through the steps again.  I realized that I had good ideas but needed to focus them more and bring them to order.  The end results are good.  I’m happy with it but the way in which I got there is something that needs to be worked on.

A sense of self belief is always good to have, and doing the exercise in a random fashion only serves to eat away at this.  It makes me feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, because I don’t show myself my own thought processes.  The value in the steps is that you show yourself your ideas, you become less precious about your drawings and it frees you up to have fun and creatively explore solutions to the brief.

The other way just creates stress, frustration and makes it so hard to backtrack or explain an idea.  It also makes you uptight about holding on to one idea because you feel like you won’t have another good one!  Restricting in every way really.

When I hang my ideas and processes on a method it frees me up to be me and have fun with creating.  It’s important I remember that.

Reasoning behind choices:

For this exercise I wanted to stretch out a bit more and find some information that could inform me and help with the direction of my choices.  I found some great sites that gave me information on the developmental stages of a child.  It was really interesting to read. The link for the design for kids was fascinating.

As a result most of the reasons behind my choice of layout and colours stemmed from the information gained via the links below.  Cognitive development in children aged between 7-11 seemed to come from better structured thought processes that are referred to as concrete operations.  7-11 year olds may appear like ‘little adults’ but they are still children.  As such primary colours would still appeal and order and clear construct would also appeal.  Abstract ideas can be processed but not fully so avoiding too much of this style of illustration was best.


Ref1 – Jean Piaget – https://www.simplypsychology.org/piaget.html

Ref 2 – Cognitive Development: Age 7–11 – https://www.cliffsnotes.com/study-guides/psychology/development-psychology/physical-cognitive-development-age-711/cognitive-development-age-711   17.31 11/02/2017

Ref 3 – Design for kids pdf – http://rosenfeldmedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/DesignforKids-excerpt.pdf

Ref 4 – http://getkidsinternetsafe.com/blog/crash-course-for-7-to-11/