Thursday 7 June 2012

More Book Cover Designs By My A Level Students

This time last year I posted a piece about the design work my sixth form students had done as part of their A-Level coursework (I teach Design technology by the way). Now, a year on I have just said goodbye to another cohort of 18 year olds, and I have more designs to showcase. Of course, this means I am also looking for a couple of volunteers to help out over the coming eleven months. Forgive me for simply pasting the information from last year's blog post - it is just much easier this way and nothing has changed in the interim.

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 their projects. You can go back and see the work here.

In year two I was incredibly fortunate to have more people offer to help out, including some of my favourite authors, Barry Hutchison and Will Hill, and the final products are shown below (back covers of books have been cropped to protect the details of the authors’ works). If, once you have feasted your eyes on the work my students produced, you are interested in helping us this year please scroll down for more information and my contact details.

Anthony for Will Hill

This project was a little different from the others that my students worked on. Anthony is a self-confessed geek (I hate to think how much time we wasted talking about comics over the past two years), and he wanted to do something a little bit different. I approached Will and asked if he would be interested in having Anthony design and build a replica model of the T-Bone gun from the Department 19 books. I was overjoyed when Will jumped at the chance, and sounded almost as excited as I was with the idea. Anthony went on to produce the replica model and also a carry case for it.

Omid for Gavin Gray

Omid made a book cover and promotional point of purchase display for Gavin Gray's Blackout.

Fraser for Barry Hutchison

Fraser made a book cover and promotional point of purchase display for Barry's The Spectre Collector (and I believe Barry wants all of his books to be displayed in coffins from now on).

Luke for Adam Roberts

Luke made a book cover and promotional point of purchase display for Adam Roberts's Adam Robots.

My huge thanks go to Will, Gavin, Barry and Adam 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 a week's time 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 authors, aspiring or published, who might be interested in helping us out. The project runs from June 2012 through to April 2013. 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 (it is not a heavy time commitment - Will and Barry both had books published and were on tour during the year and still managed to provide feedback). 

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 last year's 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 are great! Your students are so lucky that you are able to share your interest with them like this. Although I know it's a board requirement, I bet most Graphics students don't get anything like such a real and inspiring experience.

  2. Darren, thank you again for such a great opportunity. It was an absolute delight to comment on Omid's early potential designs and then see them develop into the final cover and 3D display.

    I can't begin to convey how excited I was when I first saw the end result: Omid did an incredible job! He was such a pleasure to work with, and was so professional in his approach and brought truly fantastic ideas to the table.