Matthew Broughton, Creating the Cover for Margaret Atwood's Hag-Seed

For a modern day retelling of a classic tale, a book cover may have to act as a visual bridge between two time periods. Matthew Broughton's design for Margaret Atwood's Hag-Seed, a new take on a Shakespearian play, does that. Below he discusses collaborating with artist Vladimir Zimakov to create the image.

The title itself is a contemporary retelling of The Tempest, (part of our Hogarth Shakespeare series). Usually we have a manuscript to work with, but as the cover was required particularly early we only had a synopsis of the retelling and our knowledge of the original text as a guide. 

The brief itself asked to focus on the setting of a prison or a depiction of Caliban. I felt we needed a woodcut approach that could tie the medieval to the contemporary – which is where artist Vladimir Zimakov came on board. Vladimir's early roughs centred on Caliban which offered too much information, and prison bars which felt to literal. I felt we needed an implied threat, so Vladimir zoomed in and focussed on the eye – the effect being much more abstract and intriguing. 

The final illustration is wonderfully hypnotic, so I added the freehand lettering to suggest the idea of a vortex – a nod to the tempest in the original text.

I think the result is a simple but very effective cover.


Design Editor, Painter, Designer, Lifelong bibliophile.


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