Katie Tooke, Designing Let Go My Hand

Katie Tooke is the designer behind the incredible cover of Edward Docx's Let Go My Hand, published by Picador. Here Tooke details for Spine what went into creating the jacket for the book.


I was very excited to be given Let Go My Hand to design. I started to read it and instantly fell for the wit, relationships and family that the story revolves around. It was incredibly heartwarming and after a good laugh and weep at my desk when I read the ending I went about trying to do the book justice and thrashed out some ideas for the cover.

I try to as much as possible, when I am designing, sketch out a rough idea of what I want the cover to look like before I start researching imagery.

There seemed to me to be three main strains to the story, the family - relationship between a father and son, humour and a journey. 

I began by looking at how I could portray the father and son but I soon came into trouble with this idea as everything felt very cliched. A photographic approach didn't seem like the right way for me so I decided on a typographic or illustrative cover. The humour was something I looked into, in terms of style of illustration, but it started to feel too lightweight for a story that deals with some heavy issues (albeit in a sometimes hilarious way) so I decided that humour wasn't something to focus on when designing the cover.

What seemed to fit with me was the idea of the journey as the father and son travel to Switzerland together. I looked at old travel posters for inspiration and came across a beautiful 1940's Swiss poster with a bird holding a ribbon in its beak. I liked the movement and energy of the bird, a symbol of hope perhaps, and the ribbon reminded me of a road and this seemed to stick with me so I started to work up this idea. I liked that it represented both the father and the son, both trying to free themselves from something. They also travel to Switzerland in the story so it seemed to fit even more.

I did look at butterflies and other birds but this particular graphic seemed to work well with what I was trying to achieve.

 
 

I used the shape of the bird with Din Light [font] to create strong typographic approach with a bold yellow background as the first rough. This idea went to our covers meeting and everyone went for this design but wanted to see it developed further.

 
 

I used the light box to repaint the bird to give it some texture and drew some feather details. I wondered if the bird feathers needed to be etched or more detailed so I looked at different ways to generate this but eventually settled on the simple lines. I drew the author name and looked at beefing up the typography to make it feel like a big book so I used Govenor with a lot of tracking to make it as impactful as I could. I also added a slight texture to this type to give it another dimension. I then started to piece together the elements. To make the bird more uplifting in colour and less somber, which was a concern of the meeting, I rejigged the colours and changed the angle slightly so the bird looked more uplifting. I tweaked the initial placement of the author and eventually it all came together.

I tried a few versions with hand drawn typography within the bird but this was thought to be more of a paperback approach so we stuck with the bold typography for the hardback.

 
 

We chose an uncoated stock with a pantone yellow to really get the colours to sing and to create a mature, literary feel to the book.

It ended up possibly simpler than I had initially imagined but I am happy with the end result.