My intention for the front cover of Girl, Woman, Other was to depict the characters in the book and hint towards how they are connected to one another. When I first read the book I found it slightly confusing to navigate across each of their individual stories without mixing them up, and it’s unique for a book to tell stories from the perspective of 12 different individuals, so I wanted to draw attention to this.
The character’s relations to one another are a vital aspect in Bernadine Evaristo’s novel, which I decided to use on the front cover as a way of enticing the audience to read the book, without giving too much of the story away. I found this helps visualise the relationships between all people presented in the book, yet still allowing imagination from potential readers when they see the front cover.
Depicting each character in an abstract form was a way for me to leave interpretations of the book open while hinting to the interconnected stories within the chapters. The abstract forms gave me the freedom of creating a visual cover that depicted my interpretation of the book with limited information that allowed and enriched a readers experience of my work because they are able to explore the cover and assign their own meaning to it.
Using abstract art enabled me to focus on form, colour, line, pattern, and composition instead. I studied various colour palettes first, and based my colour decision off of research gained from British-Caribbean artists that take inspiration from their culture and heritage in their work. All the characters in the book are twelve Black British people who share interconnected stories with one another and overall paint a picture of contemporary Britain, while highlighting the legacy of Britain’s colonial history in Africa and the Caribbean. I therefore made sure to do extensive research focusing on the right colours I used that would empower the shared experiences of these women of colour.
The use of abstract shapes didn’t stop me from being able to address the contents of history and race. Rachael Rakes, a curator of of exhibition On Documentary Abstraction, talked with The Art Newspaper on how abstract art is able to communicate serious topics while being visually appealable. When talking about the artists she selected for the exhibition who are able to create immersive paintings and sculptures yet depicting the suffering of racism and slavery she stated, “If you obstruct the information and communicate it differently, if you show it differently through spatial abstraction, it might have more of an impact.” Though I depicted the characters of the book through abstract formations, I designed them in a way which allowed them to be recognisable as female forms. In my thumbnails I explored many different ways of portraying women and their bodies and so for my final cover I used elements of the female form but in a more abstract manner. This further enabled me to vividly portray the twelve stories, representing not only one character but all of them and the abstract art helped me incorporate the “Other” well. It also makes it easier for readers to relate to it by not using stereotypical imagery while still being able to promote the idea of the book. In my design there are four main abstract forms, resembling the four chapters of the book. Each chapter then focuses on the stories of three people who I depicted within the main forms. There are also additional characters that are relevant which I’ve hinted to within the main shapes.
For the title I chose a handwritten type font, as Girl, Woman, Other was written using a hybrid form that incorporates both prose and poetry. With limited punctuation throughout the entire book, the text doesn’t contain capitalisation to begin sentences, no speech marks, and no full stops either. She refers to the book as an “experimental novel” as she has written it in an unconventional format within the pages but also in regards to the structure of the book. Although the characters’ lives intersect with one another, the book doesn’t follow a through-narrative as the time periods of each character are all varied and not in the correct sequence of events. This free-flowing style gives her work a sense of lightness that makes it easier to connect with each character because it feels like you could be in the room with them. Evaristo’s free-flowing writing style encouraged me to choose a font that reflects a handwritten one. This allowed me to reflect her looseness in writing and give an indication to the experimental style and creativity the book has. I used the feedback sessions to narrow down my selection and make a final decision on a font that worked best on my front cover.