"It" book cover design | Skillshare Projects

Mats Sjögren




"It" book cover design


It tells a story that reaches from a paper boat in a gutter to a cosmic battle between unfathomable forces. The basic plot isn't much different than a basic fantasy tale, where a band of heroes set out to vanquish a dragon of sorts, only the book is split between the highly fantastic horror setting on the one hand, and dense realism on the other. At the same time it's a period piece, taking place in the late 1950s and the mid 1980s. There is an interesting dynamic between the different parts: Fantasy/supernatural - realism/rationality; and past/memory - presence.


This is a book that has stuck with me for a number of reasons. One of which is that I haven't found a cover that really captured what the book was to me. So, during this project, that is one of my goals.

Previous covers for It

A selection of previous covers:

Common elements for (most of) the official covers are:

  • Clown (Pennywise)
  • Balloons
  • Paper boat
  • Draingrates

That's about it, if you exclude random scenery and monster claws. Most of the fanart and inofficial book cover designs are also based on these elements, with the added elements of spider and blood spatter.


It's symbol

In chapter 21, part 6 the main characters find a symbol on the entrance to It's lair. The symbol looks like different things to different characters. This is very much the symbol of how It works. Each of the characters must confront their on fears.


Pennywise uses balloons to lure Georgie in the beginning of the book. They come in all colors (red, yellow, blue, green). When they are mentioned by color the first one is always red. In one scene Bill views his old friends as white moon balloons, when they are told about Stans suicide. In one rendevouz with It Mike sees a bloon that It has left. On it is written: "THE LOSERS ARE STILL LOSING, BUT STANLEY URIS IS FINALLY AHEAD."

Tearing of reality (and light)

Primarily two passages inspired me to examine the tearing of reality as a way to write the word It: "what he saw destroyed his sanity in one clawing stroke." It's when the first victim in the book sees Pennywise transform from a clown to some horrible monster thing. So with this passage in mind I've spent some time ripping the word "IT" from pieces of paper. My idea with that is to reveal a different take on reality in the ripped word.

It is a creature of light, what kind of light is described in the following passage: "wait until you break through to where I am! wait for that! wait for the deadlights! you’ll look and you’ll go mad ... but you’ll live ... and live ... and live ... inside them ... inside Me ..


In the book the character Stanley Uris writes the word IT in blood on the wall. This has been used by cover designers as inspiration for the color of the title, and in some cases the type. I am going to try some other aproaches first, since this would easily set the in-your-face-horror aspect of the book, and I wan't to explore other ways of expressing this.


Beneath the (child sized) door to It's lair there is a pile of small bones from "God alone knew how many children". It/Pennywise is primarily an antagonist to children.


I collected a lot of images in the form old horror movie posters, odd looking clowns, and Norman Rockwell paintings. You can see some of it at pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/matsosjogren/it-inspiration/

The original idea was to have something deceivingly idyllic, in a 50s style, but with odd shadows and perhaps some clown in the background. While I simultaneously started testing ways to do this, and read the book, it felt less and less interesting and relevant. Derry is never a very idyllic place to live in, in Kings books, it just gets worse with Pennywise around.

Some progress images:

  1. The first thing I did was to draw some clowns, even though I had every intention to tone this motif down in the final design.
  2. This image is me playing with composition for the idyllic 50s suburban scenery that would be torn apart by It. I still kind of like this original idea, but as I read IT again, I realized that it didn't really fit with the book.
  3. Some of all the tears in paper I produced while working on the letters for the title.
  4. An early sample from when I got the idea of the seven skeletons.
  5. This is just one of the versions of when I got closer to the final design. This is kind of fun because I think the word IT and the red dot forms a clown face. When I saw it, I knew I had to make this association a lot less obvious though.
  6. Close to the final design. The red dot did feel a bit too neatly placed while on the middle skeleton.


So this is my take on the cover of IT.

The title text is designed with the idea that the surface has been torn away to reveal the Deadlight that is IT. I also wanted the shape of the text to be somewhat open for interpretation, much like the symbol in chapter 21.

The illustration on the cover is seven children's skeletons, one for each of the protagonists in the book. A heap of childrens bones is found beneath the entrance to It's lair, so I thought it fitting to have this below the title. I have marked one of them with a red circle, to indicate that there is a difference between the first and second time they encounter It (more specifically the death of Stan). The circle could represent a balloon, a drop of blood or a clowns nose.

I choose a typewriter typeface for the authors name, primarily because the main protagonist in the book is a writer in the 1980's.

The colors and texture, as well as the arrangement are meant to communicate ideas like: ancient, ritualistic, primitive, underground (sewers) and death.

That was my thoughts behind the cover. 


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