Jack Noel, Creating the Cover for SweetFreak

Jack Noel, Creating the Cover for SweetFreak

Jack Noel is a cover designer and illustrator residing in London. Among the incredible work in his portfolio is the jacket for Sophie McKenzie's SweetFreak. Here Noel details for us his process for creating this fascinating cover, in his own words.

SweetFreak is the story of a young teen who has her identity hacked and is then framed as the sender of vicious messages to her best friend. Then things get worse from there.

It’s CyberBully meets Gone Girl…but, you know, for kids.

Between identity, social media, the general terror of school and the specific terror of being falsely accused of something horrible, there was plenty to get going with. Most of my early visuals tried to combine computer-y stuff with a sense of menace, like a bunch of windows making a ransom note, or a screen with a giant crack in it, or a threatening flock of cursors.


I developed a number of options and showed them to my editor, Jane. She said they were nice enough, but a little cold and unemotional (which is something I hear a lot). So I tried to humanise them by, er, adding a human.


I kept returning to the idea of fingerprints. Fingerprints=identity is a pretty basic crutch (down there with heart=love or aubergine=penis) but seeing as a) phones these days are always covered in greasy prints and b) they use thumbprint recognition for security, I felt I had license to go with the obvious.


I decided to use real thumbprints rather than a stock image. This was partly because there’s nothing better than the real thing – with all the uniqueness and imperfections and honesty – and partly to avoid the image-licensing paperwork. I set up an ink pad at my desk and took the prints of everyone who walked past, like the world’s meekest policeman.


Then I scanned them and gave them candy colours (for the sweet part of the title) and made one of them blood red (for the freak part).

In my mind at least, the book cover becomes both a greasy-print laden phone screen and a host of suspects, but is also, you know, pretty. And as a bonus if you hold it up to my iPhone, you can unlock all my secrets.


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Design Editor, Painter, Designer, Lifelong bibliophile.