• The Publishing Post

Beautiful Books for Each Season

Known throughout the literary world as a topical must-read and a beautifully-designed collection, Ali Smith’s seasonal quartet, Autumn (2016), Winter (2017), Spring (2019) and Summer (2020), published by Penguin, showcases the world, and more specifically, an individual season in which readers are shown current states of events through fictional lives and plotlines. This collection, now made complete with the publication of Summer, can be displayed in its design entirety, with features such as foiling, cloth covers and half-dust jackets making for a fantastic choice for review.


Smith’s Autumn novel was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2017.


Typography and Foil


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Ali Smith’s series proves that there is something to be said about less is more. The typography of these covers are striking in their own right. Modern meets traditional on these covers with a heavy weighted serif font. What is most interesting is the foiling. The colours of the metallic foiling change in accordance with the seasons which they represent, however it is the author’s name which is foiled rather than the title of the season. This cleverly creates unity throughout the series keeping the titles in the same colour, but still nodding to the changing of seasons. The foiling colours used are gold, silver, gun metal and copper/bronze.


Each foil colour beautifully compliments the colours of the cloth and the half jackets. The colour of the titles on the spine of the half jackets are white rather than black as on the cover as to not pull focus from the illustrations but rather to integrate. Overall, this results in a classic and timeless look with a subtle nod to the foiling and metallic trend we have been seeing on so many titles lately.


Designing a Clothbound and Half Jacket Cover


The use of cloth binding with a half jacket of Hockney’s artwork creates a beautiful, premium look to the quartet, and makes readers not only want to read the book but show it off on their bookshelf. This decision to make a series look for the quartet was made by Richard Bravery, art director, who “wanted the package to feel tactile” and decided on cloth as he felt it was “a good articulation” to help “reflect the seasons.The teams “decision to use a half jacket followed on easily: why use cloth and then keep it all covered?”. Simon Prosser, publisher, spent “a happy hour choosing all the bindings to reflect the different seasons from a book of linens” alongside Bravery.


Graphic Design and Designing a Cover Without the Manuscript

Photo by Penguin Random House

In 2014, Ali Smith pitched the ideas for her seasonal quartet to her publisher. In creating four novels with an incredibly strict deadline, the creative design teams behind this project decided to design the covers before the content had been submitted, or even completed.


Simon Prosser, the publisher for Smith’s quartet, “knew right from the word go that what we wanted were covers that would express the cycle of the seasons.” It was decided that by using the same stretch of country lane for each cover, a stretch of east Yorkshire road of which Smith was familiar with, and adding artistic features that showed its corresponding season, that it would convey a sense of time and finality; showcasing a cycle that began with Autumn and finished with Summer. Richard Bravery, art director for the project commented that:

“Ali embraces art like very few other authors out there – from film and photography through to painting – and the works featured on her covers represent her books in a very intimate way.”

There is a circadian rhythm to Smith’s work, that is shown outwardly in its beautiful designs which are a testament to the power of collaboration and teamwork between editors and designers, and as wonderfully finished products in light of an incredibly challenging turnaround.