Peter Adlington on Designing the Cover for Dying

Peter Adlington is a Senior Designer for Canongate Books of London. Among his works is the design for the cover of Cory Taylor's memoir, Dying. Spine's Vyki Hendy contacted him about the piece. Here he details his process for the design in his own words.


Cory Taylor started writing this memoir at the age of 60 when she was told that her melanoma-related brain cancer was no longer treatable. Cory has published a series of successful novels and screenplays so her natural reaction was to write about this experience. What she created is an often uncomfortably honest account of the realities of accepting one’s own death, the medical politics, the taboos and the many, many people searching for a platform to talk about it.

The book is warm, visual and narratively rich but in spite of this she called it Dying. No euphemisms, no flouncy literary title, no bullshit. This is a clear-eyed account of a life cut short and that’s what I tried to convey on the cover.

This design was my first idea and I could see it was probably going to be my best. It had clarity, was familiar but irregular and felt confident. Obviously I then spent the next week thrashing around with photographic and illustrative concepts, sustained by the manic idea that until I bled from my fingertips I had let Cory down. After the dust had settled the first concept was still the best but the process had been worth it to make doubly sure.

Such a straight-forward typographic concept could come across as very clinical which would be doing a huge disservice to the book which is full of vivid memories of her life in Australia and abroad. A bit of fiddling with fonts, textures and off-whites gave it enough warmth without making it seem cosy. The final package is a little b-format hardback with uncoated stock and debossed type which makes all the difference.

Cory died in July 2016 and never got to hold a finished copy but her approval of the design and the kind words that came with it felt particularly special.

Design Editor, Painter, Designer, Lifelong bibliophile.