Behind the book: Cover designer Jack Noel

More in this series: Agent | Ghostwriter | Editor | Library Assistant  | Publicity Assistant | Typesetter | Cover Designer | Foreign Rights Manager | Blogger |Scout |Translators | Book charity | Copyeditor

Today’s interview is with a cover designer at Walker Books, Jack Noel. Jack is the genius behind the cover of The Next Together, which I personally believe to be the greatest work of art that humanity has ever created. (But I might be biased.)

This is my favourite interview in the series so far, not only because Jack is very funny, but because he shares some of the abandoned cover designs for The Next Together with us!

What does your job involve? 

I design covers for books. The process is: read, discuss, think, sketch, research, visualise, trial, error, copy, paste, discuss, refine, refine, discuss, refine … and that’s it.

How did you become a designer? 

Before working in publishing I spent a few years as a freelance designer/illustrator doing occasional fun things like album covers but mainly less-fun things like corporate logos.

My dream was to work in children’s books so I wrote to my top two publishers – Walker Books and Nosy Crow – and asked if I could come and meet someone to talk design. Nothing happened for ages but then, about six months later, a junior position came up in the Fiction department at Walker. I applied and somehow ended up getting the job.

Do you have any favourite illustrators/cover designs that you remember from your childhood?

Yes! These ones:


What are your favourite and least favourite things about working in cover design?


How did you go about designing the cover for The Next Together?

I started by reading the manuscript and discussing ideas with the editor, Annalie. We also pulled together relevant book covers and other imagery for reference. This stage is important. Fun too!


I noticed that time-travel themed stories are often represented as layers. (I guess because time is linear and the layers are like different dimensions? I’m not 100% clear on the physics.) I knew I wanted to play on this for The Next Together as it fit well with my reading of the story,  with the characters being consistent through the different time periods.

I started playing around with layers to represent the time-periods from the story.


I created dozens of variations. The whole way through I discussed the progress with Annalie as well as David, the Walker Books fiction art director, and our Sales and Marketing teams. We also occasionally shared it with you, the author!


final coverOne breakthrough (though it seems incredibly obvious now) was switching to the vertical bands. We read images like text – from left to right – and so this arrangement makes a lot more sense. The bands are made up of a mixture of old artwork, textures and stock imagery.

It took many many iterations to get the balance between the high-concept stuff and the romance but I think we got there in the end. I’m definitely pleased with how it all came out. I hope it lives up to the scope and emotion of the book.

Has being involved in publishing changed how you read books for pleasure?

Yes – now I always start by checking the copyright page for credits.

What trends do you predict will become more common in cover design?

Most covers now are encountered online, so I think there’ll be more and more moving and interactive ones. I hope so. I like them.


Do you have any advice for anyone looking to get into cover design?

Decide exactly what kind of books you’d like to work with and then make your portfolio as focused and as relevant as possible. Then keep showing it to people and listen to any feedback you can get. Also: good choice! It is fun.

Jack is an illustrator/designer type from London/Brighton. He was the Brighton Cooperative Beautiful Baby winner 1986. He also knows some words in Spanish. 

You can follow him on twitter @jackdraws and see his work at his tumblr.

A rebloggable version of this post can be found here.

Published by Lauren James

Lauren James is the twice Carnegie-nominated British author of many Young Adult novels, including Green Rising, The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. She is a RLF Royal Fellow, freelance editor and screenwriter. Lauren is the founder of the Climate Fiction Writers League, and on the board of the Authors & Illustrators Sustainability Working Group through the Society of Authors. Her books have sold over a hundred thousand copies worldwide and been translated into six languages. The Quiet at the End of the World was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize and STEAM Children’s Book Award. Her other novels include The Next Together series, the dyslexia-friendly novella series The Watchmaker and the Duke and serialised online novel An Unauthorised Fan Treatise. She was born in 1992, and has a Masters degree from the University of Nottingham, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and many of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. She sold the rights to her first novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university. Her writing has been described as ‘gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘a strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly. Lauren lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the Guardian, Buzzfeed, Den of Geek, The Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2022. She has taught creative writing for Coventry University, WriteMentor, and Writing West Midlands.

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