The Publishing Post
Cover Designer Spotlight: Holly Ovenden
By Juliette Tulloch, Abbie Wright and Megan Coote
For this issue, the cover evaluation team has chosen to shine a spotlight on award-winning designer Holly Ovenden. Shortlisted for Designer of the Year at the British Book Awards and selected as a Rising Star in 2021 by The Bookseller, Ovenden’s work clearly deserves the attention. Before turning freelance in 2020, she worked at Penguin General as an in-house Cover Designer, working on designs such as Avni Doshi’s Burnt Sugar. The majority of her work is for adult trade fiction books, and she also has a flair for hand lettering and illustration. In this article, we’re going to take a look at some of our favourite pieces of work by Ovenden and the inspiration behind them.
Of Gods and Men: 100 Stories from Ancient Greece and Rome by Daisy Dunn
Published in December 2022, Daisy Dunn’s anthology of classic literature is adorned with an illustrious cover that mirrors the complexity of the stories within. The anthology includes translations of a variety of comedies, biographies and tragedies from the literary canon of Ancient Greece and Rome by the likes of Queen Elizabeth I, Percy Shelley and Louis MacNeice. The cover design’s colour palette is modern and abstract, drawing the reader into the key tropes that make up these classic epics. The design lets readers know that this isn’t your traditional anthology, but one that encompasses the lesser-known stories and translations from a variety of writers, including Daisy Dunn herself.
The Book of Echoes by Rosanna Amaka
Published in 2020, this novel tells the tale of a young man growing up in Brixton and a young woman from Lagos, intertwined with narration by an African woman who lost her life on a slave ship years ago. Holly Ovendon’s cover design connects with the story beautifully by highlighting the its vibrancy through the colours used on the front cover. Additionally, the branches and leaves focus on the deep history that Amaka wishes to convey in this novel, as well as the many life-altering changes that our protagonists go through in the story. Holly’s simplistic yet colourful style definitely comes through in this design, grabbing the reader’s attention before they discover the beautiful work found within the pages.
The Wishing Game by Meg Shaffer
Scheduled for release in May 2023, Meg Shaffer’s debut novel tells the story of a reclusive bestselling children’s author who stopped writing under strange circumstances. Suddenly, he resurfaces with a brand new book and a one-of-a-kind competition that takes place on a mysterious island. Holly Ovenden’s work doesn’t shy away from bold colours in general, and The Wishing Game’s cover is certainly no different. Holly’s design is bold and intricate, really setting the tone for the novel. The book cover is designed to look like a bookshelf that you are peering through to see an island on the other side, as though you have entered the author’s story. This seems to echo Lucy, the story's protagonist, finding her escape in books both as a child and an adult, perfectly tying together the plot and the cover. The scattering of glittering stars throughout the cover design also brings an air of magic, evoking that feeling of childlike wonder. In contrast to the brighter colours used for the books are the deeper, more moody colours used for the sky and the ocean behind the bookshelf. This, along with the lone island, creates a sense of foreboding that mirrors the mystery shrouding the story.
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
Holly Ovendon’s work on a number of classics, such as Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, again highlights her signature style. Peter Pan is the classic story of a boy from Neverland who never grows old, and Ovendon uses the cover of this novel to accentuate certain parts of the story. London’s Big Ben, among other famous landmarks, as well as Captain Hook and Tinkerbell are all signified in gold and this does well to both create memorable imagery of the most famous parts of the story that fans can relate to, while also not giving too much away to new readers. The backdrop also refers to the contrast between the harsh setting of London and the whimsical world of Neverland. Yet again, the title of the novel is at the forefront and Peter Pan’s silhouette is positioned just above it, creating a sense of nostalgia around the infamous character. Ovendon maintains this theme throughout her classics collection, with other works including Oliver Twist, Five Children and It and Gulliver’s Travels. Each novel retains its own colour scheme and imagery, which creates the foundations for the reader to enter the world of their chosen story.
You can find out more about Holly Ovenden’s work on her website, Twitter and Instagram.