Book design process 2013: Twinmaker

I made myself a promise at the beginning of the year to challenge myself more on every single brief, don’t just do what I know I can do – push myself, experiment, use different techniques and different idea creation processes – and that’s just what I did, making this year one of my most creatively satisfying years as a book designer.

Don’t get me wrong, I do approach every brief individually but in the past I found I was relying on stock images too much and not being as deep conceptually as I could – possibly had something to do with time limitations and baby brain.

But  this year I illustrated more, hand drew more typography, explored shape and colour, tried to get under reader’s skins and took a lot of photos – which I am keen to do more (especially since taking a photography workshop in July my pictures have improved outta sigh, if I do say so myself).

And now the end of year is upon us, with Christmas next week and the new year the week after I thought it would be nice to look back on a few of the books I’ve worked on this year. So all week I am going to be posting different projects and talking about the design process for each one.


Earlier this year I started working with Allen & Unwin, which has been an amazing experience of challenging briefs and mind-bending concepts.

Twinmaker (Jump, Crash, Fall) is a young adult sci-fi trilogy and not only did the project call for something commercial-feeling but different-looking from the rest of the pack, it was also my first job with A&U so there was a bit of pressure to impress my new clients.

To get inspired I walked around the MCA with some of my brain-trust (mum and Little A). I instantly gravitated towards the art works that had some form of fragmentation…

The main mode of transport is a D-Mat in the books: you stand in a tube and get turned into particles then transferred to your destination any where in the world. But something is going wrong with the system and so begins the adventure… I wanted to focus on idea of people being dematerialised and losing a sense of identity, so above are my first round concepts.

We moved forward with the first concept in the row above, and this is the final full cover for Book 1: JUMP. The entire cover – aside from the stock photographs of the people and the fonts – was created from scratch in Photoshop by me. It was a fantastic challenge in learning new techniques and exploring brush creation.

We did go through a fair few rounds of revisions trying to find the right people for the cover to represent the main characters, so many that I might have gone a little crazy… and sent A&U the following concept…

What? It’s totally a story about D-matting sci-fi cats right?

The other covers in the series.

I love the bold colours of each cover combined with the curving shapes made by the characters falling/d-matting, there is a great sci-fi feeling to the design with elements that make it eye-catching and compelling to pick up in the bookstore.

Possibly from this display in Kinokuniya, Sydney?

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for another process post!

  • Lisa Penberthy

    I just read all of your posts on the book covers and wanted to say that what you do is amazing to me. I know nothing about art, design, photoshop etc etc so my opinion may not mean much but your work is wonderful to look at. I can’t imagine what it must be like to see something you have created on a stand in a bookshop! Cool bananas! Really. Merry Christmas to you and your lovely family. 🙂

  • Thank you so much for your lovely comment Lisa. Your opinion is everything as the stuff I design is not for other designers and art people it’s for you and people like you: readers! You may not know about the principles of design but your brain understands form, shape and colour and recognises when it all sits harmoniously 🙂

  • Sean Williams

    Wow. As the author of these books, I have to say how much I love the covers. Thanks so much for your excellent work!