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Anatomy of a Cover: Sherlock Holmes

Published on 3 August, 2010

Authored by Titan Books

Art Director Martin Stiff describes the process of designing a cover for The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series:

Launching a new range of ongoing titles is always tricky, but when it’s for something so popular and well known as Sherlock Holmes it’s especially challenging. Titan has successful series designs for all manner of graphic novels but this was for a collection of original fiction, and so it came into the studio without the plethora of available imagery we enjoyed with our James Bond and Modesty Blaise range for example.

For any given cover we’ll probably produce anywhere between ten to, or on one occasion, over a hundred different concepts and this was no different. The challenge is to find an entirely different angle for each one and for the Sherlock books we had a variety of avenues to explore. We tried covers with a Victorian feel, covers which looked modern and cutting edge and we tried covers everywhere in between. It was important to find a way of making each title look different but maintaining a strong series identity without the design becoming boring through over-use. A simple colour scheme which can change throughout the range is a great way of achieving this so it was always the plan from the outside to use colour and pattern as branding. We knew that each cover would have to carry a large amount of text so we decided that the text itself would form the basis of the cover illustration itself. An old, handwritten script font used with a more chunky and modern headline font gave the interesting combination of past and present we were trying to achieve.

Combing the internet for ideas, we chanced upon a photo of an imposing statue of Holmes and this led to the large central silhouette. The curling smoke from Holmes’ pipe changes on each front and back cover. The small inset picture is also unique to each title and provides an illustrated summary of the book.

We wanted the books to have a tactile aspect to them, so decided to have the covers with a matt finish and used a spot varnish to pull out the most important part of each cover – ‘Sherlock Holmes’.

Here are some of the original design concepts for the series:

And here is the final design we used: