Rachel, the designer of the stunning jacket for A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge, stops by to share the process of creating the cover design.

As a huge Frances Hardinge fan it’s always a joy to work on her book covers. So I was really excited about a new book and our decision to investigate a new visual approach. I say excited, but to be honest I was a little nervous as well. With so much love for Frances, and her profile riding higher than ever after The Lie Tree Costa win, there were going to be a lot of eyes and opinions on a new cover design.

In terms of approach, we wanted to maximize the opportunity for new and potentially older/adult readers who may have discovered Frances only as a result of The Lie Tree. But we also wanted to ensure her loyal fan base wasn’t excluded from the excitement. We wanted this to be the whole package, not just a cover – but also an object as desirable to look at as it was to read . . . no pressure then!

I wanted to pair Frances with a new illustrator – someone who would complement the writing and bring to life the wonderful rich world that we were about to journey through with A Skinful of Shadows. The super talented Aitch was the perfect fit and able to give the illustrations a magical narrative. But rather than a more traditional scene, I wanted a pattern – something that was beautiful and decorative at a brief glance but that weaved a darker tale on closer inspection. The cover contains lots of different elements from the story – some are important elements, others a little less so, but all make up the wonderful composition.

The typography needed to sit within the pattern in a way that made it feel integrated, but also so that it didn’t get lost. It had to read out but without fighting against the illustrative pattern. Simplicity was key with so much else going on.

The rest of the cover layout works in the same way, with a balance of type and illustration that hopefully feels rather organic and enchanting.

The foiling subtly picks up on some of the leaf details. I didn’t want this to be ‘blingy’ though, just to add a little sparkle as your gaze travels across the cover. The green of the leaves was also picked up and used as the colour for the board, which sits under the jacket. But it also needed something else, a little more magic for those inquisitive enough to look. Traditionally a jacket like this would have just the author and title on the spine of the book underneath. But instead I used selected motifs from the jacket to decorate the spine. The author and title on this occasion were replicated along with the entire front cover details on the front of the green board. Again, not wanting it to be too pretty and sparkly, I used a black foil to tie into the jacket and give it a darker edge.

As you can see below, we saw quite a few options before hitting on the direction we wanted - but I think you'll agree it was worth the journey!

Visually I hope you’ll agree this is a new and exciting cover direction for Frances and A Skinful of Shadows. I hope you enjoy having it to decorate your shelves as much as I enjoyed creating it.