The Woman in Black book cover

A haunting cover illustration for the classic English ghost story

One foggy evening…

I was commissioned by Penguin Random House to design the cover for a re-issue of Susan Hill’s gothic horror, The Woman In Black. The completed design was shortlisted in the Classics / Reissue category of The Academy of British Cover Design awards.

Susan Hill said “it’s a terric cover”.

Beyond the requirement to create a Victorian-era feel to the cover, the brief was quite open: essentially to design a beautiful typographic cover incorporating an illustrative motif.

The Woman in Black book cover design illustration | Jamie Clarke Type
The Woman in Black Cover Thumbnail Sketches | Design by Jamie Clarke Type

Thumbnails exploring various lock-ups of image and lettering

One of the settings in the book is the ominous Eel Marsh House, which becomes surrounded and engulfed by dense fog from the marsh. I was keen to capture this scene and to use the lettering to emphasise the swirls of fog. As you can see in the image to the left, I explored various options where the book title was suspended in the air and swallowed beneath the marsh.

The Woman in Black Cover Illustration Sketches | Design by Jamie Clarke Type

Sketches exploring layout options for the lettering; suspended in the fog, surrounding the house and swallowed under the marsh.

The Woman in Black Cover House Sketches | Design by Jamie Clarke Type

Various options depicting the haunted house.

The Woman in Black alternative book cover design illustration | Jamie Clarke Type

My first draft of the cover with more elaborate swashes and less sinister filigree.

Between the letters I drew a line work filigree that depicts reeds, roots and key objects from the story; a horse skull, wagon wheel and rocking chair.

Wood engraving was a popular illustrative technique during Victorian times and the cover adopts this style. The little notches, imperfections and texture create a warm, hand-made feel that evoke the period.

My first draft (left) features elaborate swashes in the title and in the author’s name. These were toned down for the final cover and the surrounding filigree took on a creepier, root-like character.

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