Giving a Butterfly New Wings: Redesigning THE BUTTERFLY CABINET

October 6, 2016

Today, Tinder Press is reissuing Bernie McGill’s brilliant debut THE BUTTERFLY CABINET with a beautiful new cover, as well as a fascinating essay from the author on how a real life crime inspired her to tell this unforgettable story. Here, Siobhan from our Creative team takes us through the process behind the stunning new jacket.


I was lucky enough to work on Bernie McGill’s captivating novel when it was first published, and as a huge fan of the book it was great to have the opportunity to have a second go.

Following its briefing, I started the process by re-reading the novel, getting re-acquainted with its key characters. What became immediately clear was how important the two main characters, Maddie and Harriet, are to this book, and this instantly changed how I approached the cover this time around.

With this in mind the first step was to find a figure. Being set in the late 1800s, period outfit was key. Luckily there are some fantastic photographers such as Richard Jenkins who have various libraries of images of models in period costume. The image below seemed to fit with my vision of Harriet; beautiful, but with a steely edge.

Sometimes focusing on a character can divide opinion if it doesn’t match up with your own view of how they look. Because of this, I wanted to find some way to obscure the face slightly. One of the key visual images that came to mind when receiving the brief was a swarm of butterflies. They are beautiful creatures, but treated in the right way can have a sinister edge, and they lent themselves perfectly in my task to obscure the face.


The cover itself is made up of the two images: the butterflies, and the female figure. The first task was to remove the white background from the butterfly image and create a mask that could then be combined and overlaid with the female figure. The colourful butterflies felt a little at odds with the tone of the book and distracting to other elements, so this was changed to black and white. There was a certain amount of trial and error in trying to work out how many butterflies could be included and how much of the female should be obscured, but we got there in the end.

With colours I wanted to ensure that the book looked beautiful with dark undertones, as this to me is what best captures the book. Within the image of our Victorian lady were these beautiful purple tones, which seemed to lend itself perfectly, so this informed the choice of background colour.  Clean but sophisticated typography was chosen to ensure that it is still legible. In some cases, some of the butterflies needed to be removed to allow the shoutline to be read.

With all of these elements combined together, we had our cover. This new style for Bernie McGill is something we will be continuing forward for her new book, THE WATCH HOUSE,  coming from Tinder Press next year.


The final product!



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