Sean Garrehy on Designing the Cover for The Unknowns

Sean Garrehy is an Art Director for Little, Brown and Company. Among the many amazing works in his portfolio is the cover for Shirley-Anne Macmillan's The Unknowns. Below he details for us his rationale for the design in his own words.

These were the three shortlisted covers for The Unknowns by Shirley-Anne Macmillan that were submitted to the author. My process always starts with a sketchbook where I document everything that pretty much comes into my head when I tackle any brief. These three follow a similar theme, as you can see. set in present day Belfast it tells the story of a character called Tilly who is from a middle-class home who sneaks out at night and joins an anarchist group meeting in artist squats. The anarchist group set up to protect one another from conflict-driven communities they fail to fit in. They go on risky missions to help strangers in need and is primarily a story of hope in a city where an increasing number of young people are struggling to get by, a place where there is no trust in the political system.


My designs were born from their search for identity and the secretive underground nature of the book. These were designed to capture the beauty of the hidden and the book talks about them decorating the space they occupy and graffiti daubed walls - I went for this more vernacular approach which I love anyway. The beauty in all things if you are prepared to see through it and with Tilly’s father working for a newspaper this torn poster approach started to make more sense. The rejected covers have the authors first book (The Good Hiding) weaved into the torn posters which I thought was a good way to do some subtle promotion but we eventually settled on the look we have.


Final Cover


Design Editor, Painter, Designer, Lifelong bibliophile.


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