Designing the book cover for The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher

08 April 2015

by tracey ridgewell

i’m a senior designer for macmillan children’s books but when the brief for the salmon who dared to leap higher came in from the book's editor, i decided it was time for my first foray into the world of adults’ book covers. the book tells the story of a salmon whose silver scales mark him out as different - he dares to leap beyond his fate of swimming upstream to the place of its birth to spawn, and then to die. it's about growing up, and about aching and ardent love. for swimming upstream means pursuing something the salmon cannot see: a dream.

the brief was to make a beautiful, whimsical illustrated landscape for a fable-like tale, korean translation. the editor really wanted a salmon leaping, in a composition that could be almost naive and simple.

we looked at a few illustrator samples and settled on daniela terrazzini as we knew she would watercolour beautifully decorated water.

the brief was to portray a dreamy, life-affirming fable about love, life and daring to be different – an unpredictable life swimming upstream: quite a lot to convey, but hopefully we’ve done it. this is where it started:

first rough draft of the salmon who dared to leap higher cover

it needed to look a bit more asian-korean in style. we were looking at the famous japanese hokusai’s ‘the great wave’ for inspiration at this point as it’s such an iconic piece. i asked daniella for a few tweaks: definition around the waves, lots of white foamy eastern spray. a couple of meetings and roughs later:

second draft of the salmon who dared to leap higher cover

this visual got the big thumbs up to the composition and the fish, so then we concentrated on colour before daniella got cracking on the watercolour. i requested the wave more swirly (with yet more foam!), whimsical in atmosphere and with super-decorative water.

i don’t think she could have done any batter...