The Reflection Book Cover Design

Client Melville House UK

Format 195 x 125 mm, paperback

Skills Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, picture research, art working

The Reflection, written by Hugo Wilken, is a psychological thriller set 1950s New York.

The Reflection full ook cover design. The illustrated front cover features a black and white figure of a man, dressed in a suit and hat, with a red mirror-image figure standing behind him. Behind both figures is a New York skyline, showing recognisable landmarks such as the Empire State and Chrysler buildings. The main title features a broken effect. The back cover repeats the New York skyline, only this time it is reflected.

The Reflection book cover design. The illustrated cover features a black and white figure of a man, dressed in a suit and hat, with a red mirror-image figure standing behind him. Behind both figures is a New York skyline, showing recognisable landmarks such as the Empire State and Chrysler buildings. The main title features a broken effect.

The brief: The Reflection

The US edition of The Reflection featured a noir-style, black and white photograph of man and his reflection – dressed in fifties-style clothing, answering a phone. For the UK version, Melville House wanted the cover to be be different. They wanted to keep the noir-thriller and retro feel, but with a modern twist to the design. Elements the client wanted to see in the design: silhouettes, 1950s clothing and a New York skyline.

The design: The Reflection

The initial designs that I presented to the client included an option using silhouettes. I also tried some other approaches: photos of a New York skyline reflected in water, images of 1950s style men and double-colour exposure effects. The client liked the silhouette option, so I explored this further.

I found a suitable image of a running man in a suit and tie. From this I created the cover in Illustrator. I added a 1950s style hat to the figure. I repeated the silhouette behind the figure and changed the colour to a solid red – the idea is to give the impression that the figure in the foreground is running away from this reflection. For the final touch, I added a skyline of New York to the background.

I used different shades of red for the background on the original design, but I thought it made the cover look too much like a spy novel. The red was replaced with grey colour palette, which gave the cover the noir look that the client had requested.

I chose some sans serif retro-looking fonts for the title and author name. For the title to work at a decent size on the front cover I needed to use a condensed typeface. I tried some different angles and styles for the typography, which included a 3D option. On one of these versions I tried to reflect the type in shadow, but it made the cover look too crowded. The client requested the broken effect on the title, which I didn’t like at first – I felt that it was an unnecessary extra design element – but it has grown on me now.

During the design process I decided I didn’t like the running silhouette figure – its arms looked too small, like a dinosaur – so I replaced it with a more stationary figure. I added the 1950s hat again, along with a glow behind the background figure. For a finishing touch, in Photoshop, I added a grainy effect on an overlay to the cover.