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The final cover image (crop)

Work / Graphic Design

Penguin reveals its designers’ rejected covers for new Harper Lee novel

First, we brought you the charming illustrations for the first chapter of Go Set a Watchman, the new release from Harper Lee (and the first since 1960’s seminal text, To Kill a Mockingbird.) Now, Penguin has revealed to us how it set about choosing the cover image, and Penguin designer Glenn O’Neil talks us through an unusual process for the publisher, in which all six in-house designers and art directors in the Cornerstone art department were given the chance to submit proposals for the title.

“For security reasons, access to the actual text was extremely restricted. None of us would be able to read [the book] until publication day,” he says. “We were made aware by the publisher of the essential outline of the story, in that it covers Scout Finch’s return home to Maycomb from New York, and, though moved forward in time, the narrative would feature many of the same characters as To Kill A Mockingbird. Furthermore there was the historical context, as the manuscript, thought lost, had been recently rediscovered after many years.”

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The final cover image

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The typographic route

From the many submitted responses, the chosen image was a typographical solution on a textured orange background. “It plays on the similarities in the wording of the two titles, Go Set A Watchman and To Kill A Mockingbird: the four words, each of a similar length, and of a similar rhythm. One title is a reflection of the other, both historically and typographically,” Glenn explains.

“However, after much discussion, it was apparent that a further visual element was required, at first a mockingbird seemed too obvious in the weight of the previous book’s history. But, after implementing many other symbols and illustrations, the bird silhouette began to re-emerge as the best solution. The mockingbird chosen gives animation to the cover, the way the tail points up between the words, the way the beak is open. It sits on a branch stripped of leaves, the back cover features leaves falling, Time has passed. Scout is older.

“Down the coming years, as with To Kill A Mockingbird, there will be countless designs put forward for different editions of Go Set A Watchman. This then will be one of many.”

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Go Set a Watchman rejected cover design proposal

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Go Set a Watchman rejected cover design proposal

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Go Set a Watchman rejected cover design proposal

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Go Set a Watchman rejected cover design proposal

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Go Set a Watchman rejected cover design proposal

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Go Set a Watchman rejected cover design proposal

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Go Set a Watchman rejected cover design proposal

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Go Set a Watchman rejected cover design proposal

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Go Set a Watchman rejected cover design proposal

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Go Set a Watchman rejected cover design proposal

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Go Set a Watchman rejected cover design proposal

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Go Set a Watchman rejected cover design proposal

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Go Set a Watchman rejected cover design proposal

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Go Set a Watchman rejected cover design proposal

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Go Set a Watchman rejected cover design proposal

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Go Set a Watchman rejected cover design proposal

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Go Set a Watchman rejected cover design proposal

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Go Set a Watchman rejected cover design proposal

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Go Set a Watchman rejected cover design proposal

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Go Set a Watchman rejected cover design proposal