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CLIENT: Sara Stewart


I was contacted by a self-publishing author who I had met through an online writing website. The author was publishing two novels all on her own and she was looking for a cover artist to do the covers after other artists had lived up to her expectations. For this project, I was given two jobs by the author, one of which was to digitally design the entire cover for a short novel that the author was publishing. This project would require that I design the hierarchy, artwork, and typography of the cover and back cover for the short story to be published and distributed by companies like Amazon.


The second job I had was to be an editor of the second novel's cover, which included adjusting typography, hierarchy and editing the artwork to fit properly on a template for her cover. These projects became one of my first freelance projects to work on and gain experience as a designer. 


I went through a process of sketching, designing and iterations with the client, before having a final handoff of the novel cover design and having my name included in the inside pages of the novels.

What's the process?

Sketching: 08 / 18

My main contact with the client was through email, where we discussed what it was that the client expected from me, and what her ideas for the design were. I began my process by asking what the novel was about and she provided the short novel for me to read, along with a brief synopsis. From there I created three different sketches of the artwork ideas that we could use based on the theme and ideas of her short novel. After sketching out a couple of very different ideas, I presented the sketches to the client and had her give feedback. I allowed her to make changes to any of the sketches or suggest ideas that she personally wanted to do or use. 


However, the client would up choosing the design of one of my sketches, which was a sketch with empty little boy shoes, with a reflection of little boy legs and dog legs in the water. She chose this design based on how it was mysterious to her and help to allude to the main plot points of her short novel, without giving too much away immediately. After this, I began to start my first drafts of the design,

First Check-In: 08 / 28

Once I began making my first design, I kept in mind that some of the original styles that the author had shown me were paintings, so I mimicked the style of painting in a digital world for the cover art. I designed the artwork to be very close to my sketch, with a few tweaks to the style of shoe and added some pawprints in the sand next to the pair of shoes.


I showed my first draft to the client, who was loving it so far, however, they expressed their concerns that the shoes would look too girly and did not match the era in which her novel was written. This was a point I hadn't even considered so when the client pointed it out to me, the reasoning made a lot of sense. Thankfully, the client provided a reference image for me to look at that showed a pair of vintage boy shoes which I could design off of or use.

Second Check-In: 08 / 29

My revision after the first check-in was to follow the reference image and capture the era that was the setting of the client's short story. I began to redesign the shoes entirely and focused on replicating that instead while adding minimal touches to the water reflection or the sand and pawprints.  Afterwards, when I had my second check-in I was pleased to know the client was much happier with the re-design of the shoes. She still had some minor tweaks that she wanted me to add, such as informing me that the time of the books was during fall, which meant that the boy probably should have socks in his reflection. This was easy enough to adjust and fix, which further pleased the author after showing her my end result.


At this time I was mainly focused on the artwork design and color schemes rather than typography or hierarchy. Once the artwork was approved completely by the client, I would then start on the typography and overall design of the front and back cover for the client's short novel.

Third Check-In: 09 / 05

My third check-in was finalizing the artwork of the novel cover on the front of the book, and after that, I could focus on typography. Once the artwork was approved by the client, we focused on what type of typography treatments that she would want and author names that would be listed. At first, I had only been aware of her as an author, but then she informed me of a co-author whose name I had to add to the design. She wanted a clean title that dragged the viewer's eyes from the top of the artwork down to the bottom where the unique reflection was located.

Fourth Check-In: 10 / 02

After gaining approval for the overall artwork of the design, and making a few artist tweaks - such as making the water murkier and adding more texture to the sand - I began to work on the typography of the cover. The overall type treatment of the cover followed a similar fashion as the artwork of the design, where letters were beginning to fade on the top part of the title, similar to the reflection in the water. However, the added bonus to the title was the reflection of the title within the water, which the client really loved. This was before I learned that there needed to be two authors printed onto the book.

Final Check-In: 10 / 05

My final check-in was after designing the artwork for the front and the back cover, adjusting the typography and hierarchy of both covers to the short novel. Here, we used a template from her self-publishing services for the layout of the front and back covers, including a small spine. We fixed any last changes to the back cover summary and design, where I added footprints that stopped at the empty water to follow the theme of pawprints on the front cover. Afterwards we discussed payments and I handed off a final PDF file for the client to use in her publishing site, where the novel was finally published.

What's the end result?

In the end, this project was one of my favorites to work on. I was a Fine Artists before I became a video and graphic designer, so to be able to digitally paint a piece of artwork that also served as a function to be a novel cover, was an exciting experience for me. The overall result of this project was a success and the novel is still being published and distributed by companies like Amazon.


However, despite the success of this project, there were many learning points to this project that I took with me as a learning experience. Throughout this project, I learned the importance of pricing upfront and making sure to have project contracts with everything listed at the beginning of my project.

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