Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Book Cover Designs By My A Level Students

Most readers of The Book Zone and my followers on Twitter know that I am a teacher (or Assistant Headteacher if I’m showing off, but teacher is still the most important word in my job title). Many have assumed that because of my love of books I must therefore be an English teacher. Wrong. I teach Design Technology, which is a reply that tends to have me on the receiving end of blank, bored looks and can kill most conversations when I am asked what I teach. At GCSE Level and A Level I tend to specialise in delivering a course referred to as Graphic Products, which is possibly even harder to explain than Design Technology. The students I teach do a lot of work with Photoshop, and most of their practical work output is based around the design of things like perfume/aftershave bottles, gadgets, promotional material such as point of purchase displays and so on.

A couple of years ago, in their infinite wisdom, the exam boards changed their expectations for the A2 coursework, an extended project worth 60% of a Graphics student’s final year of studying the course. Whereas previously they had been ‘happy’ to accept projects that looked at all kinds of hypothetical design situations, they had become fed up with thousands of A Level students claiming they knew the head of design at Apple UK (or similar) and had been tasked by this person to redesign the ipod (or some other gadget). Instead, the exam board wanted students to work on more realistic projects with a real ‘client’. The first word that sprang to mind for my colleagues and me was “HELP!”, shortly followed by “Where on earth are our students going to find these clients?”.

And then I came up with my bright idea. I approached several aspiring authors that I had met through Twitter and asked if they would be interested in having a book cover and promotional material designed for their work-in-progress. To my greatest relief every one of them replied with a resounding “Yes please”. All they had to commit to was sending back feedback on the various stages of the project as it progressed, their thoughts on: research material; initial design ideas; developments and so on. Nothing particularly onerous, but their input was invaluable to helping these students complete the following projects (back covers have been cropped to protect the details of the authors’ works):

Ben for Liz de Jager
Ben designed and made a book cover and promotional point of purchase display for Liz’s Grimm Tales. Ben is a very talented artist, and his work reflects his skills in this area.

Alex for Sarah Bryars

Alex designed and made a book cover and promotional point of purchase display for Sarah’s Tattered. The photos do not do the display justice, with its sparkling LED lights.

Claudia for Lara Williamson

Claudia designed and made a book cover, slip case and promotional point of purchase display for Lara’s Haunting Grace, the display including a handmade tree and robin.

My huge thanks go to Liz, Sarah and Lara for the time they put in to writing this invaluable feedback for my students, all of whom have achieved good marks for their coursework.

In June we will have another cohort of students starting their A2 coursework, and following the success of this year I would be really keen to hear from any other aspiring authors who might be interested in helping us out. The project runs from June 2011 through to April 2012. All we would need from you is a commitment to giving feedback by email, and providing some details about your book such as themes, imagery and characters. I cannot guarantee that the students will produce work of this quality every time. Neither can I make any promises as to the quality of communication that they will engage in with you. They are after all teenagers, and much as I enjoy teaching them teenagers are not always the most reliable of young people. However, I am sure Lara will not mind me quoting her from an email she wrote to me about working with Claudia at the end of the project: “…. it has been a complete and utter pleasure. She was totally professional, hard working and carried out everything to a high standard. She is a credit to both herself and your school. I loved what she did and it was impressive considering she hasn't read the book.”

If you are interested in helping us out then please contact me at bookzone4boys (at) gmail (dot) com. Unfortunately if I have a lot of replies we will not be able to use everyone as we only have sixteen students in the group, some of whom will have their own ‘clients’ and ideas as to the project they choose to do.


  1. These look awesome! And a fantastic idea, too!

  2. These are better than some of the actual covers that I have seen. An interesting project, too!

  3. Corr, there's some cracking good work on show there.

  4. What a fantastic idea & now I really really really want to read their books