The Classics Series – Set 1 (2013)

This project for Roads Publishing had two parts; the first was to devise a system flexible enough to work with all genres in a variety of media, with the freedom to use illustration, typographic layouts or photography as appropriate to the content and context.

The second and ongoing part comprises the individual cover image. Each captures the essence of the book, rather than reproducing specific scenes or dramatic moments. As classics, the books and associated imagery already exist in the public consciousness. It was important to step beyond this and to reflect a deeper understanding – one that is as connected to the contemporary era as it is to the author’s. Rather than acting solely as windows onto the authors’ world, these books (and their covers) should be mirrors to our own.

Breaking with the more widely associated imagery of Frankenstein’s monster, this cover depicts what could be the opening or closing arctic scenes of the novel. A solitary figure – that of Victor’s fleeing creation – is the picture of loneliness in his fruitless search for love, and ultimately, a place to die.

Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ is illustrated with a dark and encapsulating specimen of a heart-shaped fly. This represents the imprisoning, barbaric and desperate nature of imperialism on its journey on a river of discovery and extermination.

As Flaubert’s introspective Madame Bovary becomes consumed with discontent in her marriage, she defiantly burns her mummified wedding bouquet. This cover depicts the scene, a physical manifestation of her own moral decay.

In this cover for ‘Notes from Underground’, the mounting mental paralysis and angst of Dostoyevsky’s antihero are portrayed using a single unmoving and deeply black spray-painted dot. It also echoes the dark underground cellar in which he finds himself venting his socio-political frustrations.

For ‘The Great Gatsby’, a sparkling champagne eye watches over the blindly played-out excesses of an era in which the ‘American Dream’ is disintegrating into a cynical display of disillusionment. As the last few vertiginous bubbles of greed fizzle out, so too do the wild parties of our great protagonist.