Jack Smyth Creates a Bold Cover for The Half-God of Rainfall

Jack Smyth is from Dublin, Ireland and currently works in London designing book jackets for 4th Estate & William Collins. Here he talks us through his process designing the cover of The Half-God of Rainfall.

Inua Ellam’s The Half God of Rainfall is a modern take on ancient mythology / basketball saga which is part poem / part play. It’s about as far away from a regular piece of fiction as you can get, and I really wanted to try make it feel different in the way the cover was approached.

From the get go, Jo Walker’s wonderful covers for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s paperbacks were a loose reference, so I kept things graphic and pattern based.


Initially, I wanted things to be simple and abstract. While basketball plays a huge part in the text, I didn’t really know how to represent it elegantly on the cover without tipping the language towards a sports novel. These were just a bit crap really, but got to start somewhere…


I then caved and tried to bring some basketballs into the mix, hoping to create a rising pattern that could be an eye as much as an eye. I also tried bringing this into a larger repeated pattern, but I honestly was confusing myself as to what kind of book these covers suggested – sci-fi? A magic basketball pupil? No thanks.


I liked the idea of symbol repetition, so I began constructing symbols which might suggest mountains, setting suns, pillars, basketballs, rivers etc. The results were still a bit static but I liked the large triangle shape – a nice strong element to have at the core.


I thought some new type could help bring some movement into the cover so I tried a bit of messy hand lettering with an old brush. This really helped form the crux of the final cover, with the rest of the elements being half abstract / half figurative graphic symbols which could make a landscape or just a (hopefully) pleasing collection of shapes and patterns depending on which the viewer sees.  The author had a look at this stage and had some good input in terms of colours and balance and this conversation readily informed the end result.


Final cover


Design Editor, Painter, Designer, Lifelong bibliophile.