Designing the Legend: Book Cover Design Research for "I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson | Skillshare Projects

Samantha Stamper




Designing the Legend: Book Cover Design Research for "I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson

The Search: Finding some Awesome Book Covers

Hello everyone! I know I'm a bit late with starting this project due to holiday travel, but I hope all of you had a great time so far with creating your covers! Since I'm behind, I'm just going to jump right in.

I had a difficult time chooseing a book that I would want to make a book cover for. I just kept bouncing back and forth between two books in general: Dracula by Bram Stoker and The Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc by Mark Twain. Both books are fantastic and have a lot of book cover iterations, but I've done other projects based on them before. So, I chose a book that, though I love, always seem to overlook: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson.

To tell you all the truth, I'm not exactly sure why I looked this book over. It's an incredibly well-written story that pits our main character Robert Neville against a world overrun by undead creatures. While he scavenges for supplies and kills some of the undead by day, he also has to deal with the lonliness of (possibly) being the only human left alive. This book also sets in motion the idea of the modern zombie: the walking, decaying corpses that we all know and love.

For those who have not read the story, here's a very quick description:

A terrible plague decimates the world, and those unfortunate enough to survive are transformed into bloodthirsty creatures of the night. Robert Neville is somehow the last living man on Earth.

There is much more to the novel than this, but you should definetly read it if you have not.

So when looking for book covers, I was not sure what to expect. I've personally only seen two different book covers for the novel and the short stories usually thrown in. Here's a bit of what I found:

As you can see, there are other language adaptations for the book covers as well, which was very nice to see. From the covers seen here, most covers seem to focus on one of two things: The creatures and how many there are, or on Robert Neville and how alone he is in this new world. Some of them do combine these two ideas as well. Both are great ways to approach the novel, but I find that how alone Robert is the most terrifying thing about the story-- he may very well be the last man on earth and he is only surviving, not living, in the world-- so I gravitate to the covers about his lonliness. I found two that I really enjoy:

Pretty cool covers, huh? They both convey how different the world is and how different Robert is. Both are pretty awesome, but the one on the bottom seems to sum up the novel the best. And it just looks pretty nice.

I've been reading the novel for the past week, and I am about half way through it. Since this will be my third time rereading this book, I already know what will happen next. But I have found some new ideas and themes a third time around that I think will help create a book cover.

Some Notes: Themes and Ideas in the Novel

As stated, I'm only about half way through the novel right now. So I don't have all the themes just yet, but I wil share some of what I've found so far. I've found some ideas and themes based around:

Isolation versus Companionship--in a way, it is the "us versus them" idea that has been seen before. This runs almost thoughout the book, with the ending really pushing the idea. A suprise in the book also brings in the companionship aspect more.

Science versus Superstition--this comes around the middle of the novel. To try and combat this disease, Neville turns to what he has heard through superstition. He then tries to test these legends through scientific testing, yeilding interesting results. I am thinking of tying this into the cover design as well. This also ties into the next theme.

Questions versus Answers--In the novel, almost everytime Neville has an answer, it brings about many new questions usually to his frustration. Any step forward he takes in solving this plague, he has to take many steps back due to more questions. More questions are brought in around the end.

Who is Man and who is the Monster?--Definetly a major theme throughout. The ending paragraph really sums this idea up, but Neville's thoughts throughout the novel (usually his thoughts on the infected women) bring up this idea.

His wife Virginia, little girl Kathy, and neighbor Ben Cortman all play major roles as well. His wife and child seem to revolve around guilt. Ben, however, may just be a symbol of what life used to be like. Not really sure.


Sketching Some Book Cover Ideas

Hello again, everyone! I know I've said it before but I'm very excited to be working on a cover design for one of my favorite books! Now that I'm almost done with the book ( I currently have about 10 pages to go) I'm even more excited. So, without any further delay, here are my sketches. Keep in mind that I do not have a scanner so the pictures may look a bit blurry:

This is an overall view of my sketch page for the book covers. I do have a few close-ups of the work that I'll be showing as well. Like I said, they are a bit blurry due to my phone's camera. I also don't have legible writing, so I'll do my best to explain.

In the novel, dust is a major idea: it is (probably) the cause of the plague that killed off/mutated the human race. Before the events of the novel, it is told that dust storms plagued the States. It found it's way into people's homes, including the home of Robert Neville. In one flashback in the novel, he noticed how it covered everything and how he tried to protect his daughter from the storms. I liked that it is probably the cause of the plague, but I really liked how unassuming dust can be; we see it everyday and (for the most part) it doesn't bother us moving about our lives. Also, the way dust obscures and hides things is pretty interesting in relations to the novel; Robert has to uncover the beginnings of the plague and his past in order to find some answers and, like dust, it doesn't always show the answer. This book cover sketch is supposed to look like dust, and the words look like someone wrote them in the dust with their finger. I also toyed with the idea of another color behind the dust that would be revealed in the letters, but I'm not sure.

This second sketch deals with the more scientific aspects of the disease. In the novel, Robert decides to look into the cause of the plague. He takes samples of blood from the vampires and finds that a bacteriophage causes the plague. I wanted to show a sample of blood though a microscope, similar to what Robert Neville was looking at when he found the cause of the plague. An idea I was toying with was highlighting one particular blood cell or the bacteriophage itself, as I feel it works with the novel: it shows how singular Robert is in comparision to the creatures and it plays with the idea of the "legend" aspect of the novel, that he is the singular thing that haunts and destroys the society, that he stands out. Along with this idea, I kind of wanted to create a plastic cover idea, so when you take off the outer cover (that will be the blood slide) you will find one blood cell or bacteria on the actual book by itself. I think it helps push the idea that I explained.


The Search for Reference Images

Now that I have two pretty good ideas going, I've been looking for good, high-quality reference photos. The cell photos are pretty good, but the dust images are a bit more difficult to find:

As you can see, these are some pretty good images of blood slides. I like how many different looking images I've been able to find; the bottom one is a slide that shows how blood reacts to a certain bacteria in the blood, which gives me a good idea of what Robert may have seen. Since it may be hard to replicate these slides, I may use one or more of these in the design of the cover of the book.

Now for the only good dust image I've been able to find:

Even though it's only one, I beleive it's a good one. The angle of it is pretty interesting and it just looks lonely, which is what I'm going for.

Let me know what you think and, if you can find good images of dust, let me know!


Book Covers So Far

Alright, It's late where I'm at. That's mostly due to working on these two cover designs for the novel. Both are very similar except the spine of the book: I'm not exacty sure which one is better. I beleive the font is working for the space it is in, and I edited the background to look more like an older slide. These are pretty rough but it gets one of my ideas down. Let me know where I should go next with this idea, or if you have a suggestion on how to fix something!


Hello again, everyone! I've been very busy lately with multiple projects but I did have time to touch up on this project again. So, without further adeiu, i bring you a cover design:

As you can see, it's not too different than the previous covers. I did decide to change the text so it can be visible. Also, since the back cover seemed a bit plain, i decided to change it around and add a quote from the story that I think goes well with the cover. The spine I will have to change, as suggested by a viewer not too long ago. But please tell me what you think about it so far, and if the changes I've made work better than the previous covers.


Alright, here's my final book cover for the deadline:

I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. And I hope you all like it as well!


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