theoretical astrophysics

Cover redesign of A Brief History of Time

Cover redesign Stephen Hawking’s breakthrough popular work

In his seminal book “A Brief History of Time” physicist Stephen Hawking lays out the contemporary scientific work in the theoretical physics of cosmology … and the circumstances of the beginning of time. Black holes have long been Hawking’s passion, and he delves deeply into the subject, all the while using “only one equation” for fear of losing readers otherwise.

Like The Fourth Dimension cover redesign, this project was a pragmatic personal project: the original dust jacket of my 1989 copy of A Brief History of Time had long been lost, and honestly I didn’t care much for Bantam Book’s original design, anyhow.

A Brief History of Time, Cover Mockup by Paul Nylander

As usual with a cover project, I started by (re)reading this delightful little book. And began sketching ideas which work both at thumbnail and tabletop display size. Like the original, I wanted to feature Professor Hawking, and settled on creating a sketch based on his jacket photo.

Unlike the original, I wanted the cover and interior typography of the book to be better aligned, utilizing Adobe’s implementation of the Garamond typeface, in two different weights, for the front and back cover and spine.

With this basic sketch in mind, I incorporated a photo-composite illustration of what a black hole might look like, set on a starry field (invoking van Gogh) that doubled as the striking black jacket color. In my mockup I printed it on a matte finish paper, but an actual production jacket would utilize a glossy paper to really make the blacks pop.

A Brief History of Time, Inside Jacket A Brief History of Time Jacket Layout by Paul Nylander

The existing book, with its 9 x 5-1/2 inch page size, requires a dust jacket of 9-1/4 by just under 21 inches, including inside flaps and spine labeling area.

It was with great sorrow that, shortly after completing this project, Professor Hawking passed away. But it somehow felt fitting to offer my own memorial to such a great mind.

Explore Other Projects…

Design is process of creative problem solving as applied to challenge of controlling how a user (i.e. a reader) interacts with their environment (i.e. the book). While Book Design isn’t writing, editing, or illustration, it affects the success of all three. It is part production minded, and part visual story-telling.

learn more about paul nylander and illustrada design

I encourage you to step through my recent projects and learn for yourself how I have applied a design process to a variety of different challenges. Or jump back up to the overview.