Cover Notes — Esther Cox talks us through her desktop cover

Published:  August 12, 2014

Each issue, we’re going to be featuring a little more information about the concept, design and development of our magazine covers.

The cover image for our August/September self-publishing issue (#304 – Obsessive, Compulsive Self-Publish) was created by UK born, Brighton based illustrator and patternmaker Esther Cox. With work that is “graphic and unashamedly pretty”, Esther is lead by a love of crisp colour and the “happy accidents” that occur when working intuitively with ink and collage. Recently shortlisted for the Association of Illustrators Serco Prize this year, her work may seem whimsical but is the product of an education in textiles, fashion and graphic design.

For this cover, Esther moved from an initial pattern-based approach that would illicit the energy and enthusiasm of creation, to a much more textured collection of composite layers and transparent hues. Esther shares the process with us in her own words —


Colour selection

When I was asked to create an image for the cover of an issue on self directed work it seemed like the perfect fit for my intuitive style. In my own work I avoid briefs and allow myself to explore new ideas and ways of working. It is a way to stay stimulated and feed ideas for client work. But in this scenario, there is no expectation. And if the adventure is a failure, well you don’t have to show anyone… So working for a client where there is no brief, but still an expectation, well that creates its own challenges.


Scanned textures

The only guide I really had was the colour palette for a Riso print and the magazine’s theme. At this point the only thing I knew was that I wanted to create something abstract that reflected the energy and enthusiasm of creating something for yourself. I knew it would be a pattern as we all employ patterns in the way we work, consciously or not. I wasn’t interested in a polished outcome, but in the materials and ideas that drive a designer to ‘make’.


First development

As colour is always at the core of my work I looked to the palette for inspiration. I hated the colours. I investigated Riso printing, which I had never done before (panic), and to my relief realised that I could change the intensity of the colours. I played around with layering them until I had a palette I was inspired by. This all sounds negative. It really isn’t. What I enjoy most about a brief is solving those problems, and finding a way to approach the things you don’t like, or think you can’t do. Until I’ve overcome these hurdles I rarely know where a piece is going to go.


Second idea

I created textures for my pattern using papers, Indian ink, printing ink and photographs, which I scanned into my computer and manipulated. I also wanted to include the hand and eye of the designer in the piece. Though I’m still not entirely happy with how I reconciled this in the final piece.


Third idea

I produced a number of roughs before settling on a final pattern. My work always begins by hand, but working on a computer allows me to add, subtract and manoeuvre work as much as I want. It is an entirely intuitive process, playing with the scale, colours and placement of motifs. ­Generally at this point the work flows until I know it is time to stop.


desktop Magazine #304 cover

Having never created a Riso before I was unsure how it would turn out, but I’m really pleased with the outcome. It feels expressive and energetic, a potential of ideas rather than precision – which to me is what creating self directed work is all about.

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