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Cover Designer Spotlight: Beci Kelly

By Megan Coote, Abbie Wright, Juliette Tulloch and Tessa Thejas Thomas


Beci Kelly is a London-based illustrator and designer who currently works as Head of Design at Doubleday, Penguin Random House. Known for her distinctive style, she has designed covers for multiple bestsellers, perfectly encapsulating the essence of each book. You can find more of Kelly’s designs on her website


We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman


We All Want Impossible Things is a touching story about friendship and grief. The book follows Ash and her closest friend, Edi, who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The cover design by Kelly is vibrant and warm. Whilst at first this appears at odds with the emotional theme, at its core the book is about squeezing the joy out of life’s darkest and saddest moments. The juxtaposition of blue and yellow creates a striking contrast, with yellow often symbolising joy and blue representing sadness. The shattered plate is restored using the Japanese tradition “Kintsugi,” which is the art of using gold dust and resin to repair a damaged item. The meaning behind this is that an item’s breakage is part of its history rather than something to hide. This is a fitting visual depiction of the book, which heartbreakingly explores the messiness of grief while interlacing humour and lightness throughout. The central focal point is the lemon polenta cake, which is not only visually pleasing but also has significance throughout the novel. Edi has a treasured memory of eating the perfect slice of lemon polenta cake and so one of her last wishes is to taste it again. Throughout the story, Ash searches for a cake just as good, hoping to bring Edi the same feeling of comfort and joy. The lemon cake symbolises friendship, nostalgia and the notion that people often treasure the simplest moments that may seem inconsequential to others.


Piglet by Lottie Hazell


Piglet is a fascinating debut that focuses on the complex relationship between women and food, while also painting a broader picture of life’s unpredictable nature. Kelly’s simple cover design encapsulates the novel’s themes while also ensuring that the book stands out on display. At the centre of the design is a stack of doughnuts, which is indicative of the food theme that runs through the novel. The use of doughnuts in particular could be seen as highlighting the issues and preconceptions we have of food, as sweet pastries are often seen as gluttonous and “unhealthy.” Pairing the doughnuts with the title “Piglet” also serves as a clear indicator to readers that the novel will engage in potentially uncomfortable discussions surrounding food.


In addition to the main image, the use of pastel colours and the pink backdrop adds to the sweet and feminine aesthetic. This links to the themes of female struggle in the novel, yet also introduces a subtle contrast, as the story unfolds into something less sweet and delicate than the cover suggests. Ultimately, Kelly’s cover design uses simple imagery to convey multiple themes, intriguing readers and compelling them to pick up Lottie Hazell’s novel.


The Flames by Sophie Haydock


Haydock’s debut novel, The Flames, is a feminist reworking of Egon Schiele’s life and artwork.  It is set in 20th century Vienna, during the dawn of the Expressionist art movement when Schiele’s private life and artwork became the talk of high society. Haydock shifts the focus onto the four women who inspired Schiele’s portraits: Gertrude Schiele, Wally Neuzil and sisters Edith and Adele Harms. The author follows the women’s lives and their relationships with the artist, exploring themes of scandal, love and betrayal. 

Against a dark blue backdrop, Kelly illuminates each woman’s uniqueness in gold frames, utilising the original paintings of Schiele. Known for his artistic style that featured sickly and sexualised figures, Kelly’s design makes it clear that the novel will give voice to the four women, revealing their side of events and the damage that Schiele brought to their lives. The gold embossing on the front cover mimics that of a paintbrush, alluding to the lavish lifestyle that Schiele was part of among Vienna’s elite (including figures like Gustav Klimt). Most importantly, the reviews included on the cover keep the artist's name from view and allude to the powerful nature of Haydock’s writing and research. The novel will bring the portraits to life, portraying these very real women in an empowering manner while unravelling Schiele’s life in a thought-provoking way.


Drift by Caryl Lewis


Caryl Lewis’ Drift follows two characters, Nefyn and Hamza, whose lives intertwine after a violent storm. The novel touches on themes of identity, love and the magic of the sea. The importance of the sea can be noted in both the title “Drift” and on the cover design itself. The cover's background features a watercolor-esque pattern, depicting waves with a variety of blue hues. This design choice ensures that the waves are alluring and pleasing to the eye, while also indicating the sea’s dominating presence throughout the story. 

The title is displaced to complement the movement of the waves in the background, and the gold serif font emphasises the novel’s mystical elements. The author’s name, in a shade of lighter blue, stands out without distracting from the prominence of the gold title text. Interestingly, quotes from other authors are not placed horizontally on the cover but tilted to follow the movement of the waves. Overall, Beci Kelly creates a compelling cover which portrays a certain softness and tenderness whilst remaining striking and alluring, much like the sea itself. 


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