Meg’s Super Awesome Cover Design Project: The Fire and Thorns Trilogy

1 July, 2015 Random 52 comments

Here’s a thing you may or may not know about me, in my not-shouting-at-hapless-bystanders-on-the-internet life, I’m a graphic designer. Fun fact, my love of books is indirectly responsible for me becoming a graphic designer in the first place. Back when I was a freshman in college, idly wandering the halls, taking random classes and trying to figure out how I could turn decent but not anything resembling remarkable drawing skills into a career that would pay me actual money, I more or less randomly ended up in an intro to graphic design class. One of the first guest speakers to come in was a book cover designer and I was immediately sold. Being a cover designer was my dream job and there was nothing I wanted to do more than that. Naturally, I spent the next six years doing nothing remotely like that (I mean, okay, remotely in the sense it was graphic design but not that in every other way).

For awhile now I’ve been thinking and occasionally talking about how I would design covers and I should just do my own for fun (and then never actually doing anything because inertia is a problem for me. BUT NO LONGER. I’ve started working on some of my own versions of various covers and I’ve decided to share them with you because hording them on my computer and never letting them see the sun seems unproductive.

ANYWAY. On to my super awesome covers for the Fire and Thorns trilogy by Rae Carson (bonus points to anyone who can think of an even more super awesome title for these posts because I suck at titling things).


I went with a typography-focused design because I am a gigantic fucking type nerd (like, obscure facts and terms, fixating on the miniscule differences between seemingly identical sans serif fonts, there’s an hour and a half documentary on Helvetica on Netflix and it’s fascinating and you should totally watch it level of nerd). I found a fantastical, serif-based typeface and then spent an unreasonable amount of time customizing the letters because nothing makes me happier than customizing typography (I’d forgo cake, if this surprises you, see above parenthetical about how much of a type nerd I am).

I’m also super into iconography so I chose an icon for each book that represents a literal element/plot point in the trilogy and also symbolizes Elisa’s arc (Elisa is the main character for those of you who haven’t read this series and also what are you doing here? Go check these books out, they’re amazing). One of the cool things about designing your own covers for shits and giggles, is that I’m not working on any kind of timeline and can choose books and series that I’ve read in entirety. I know what themes and symbols will be important and can design with them in mind. This is kind of tricky when designers are coming up with cover concepts when the rest of a series hasn’t been written yet.


For Girl of Fire and Thorns I went with a rose icon. It both literally represents a major symbol of Elisa’s religion and also the beginning of Elisa’s arc. In the first book, she is very much a product of her religion, it was the major shaping force of her upbringing and she’s only just starting to question who she is outside of it. I went with a purple paper for the cover to represent the desert sky at night, the desert being a major part of book one’s setting (yes I could’ve gone with a sand-dune sort of color but it would’ve fucked up this whole cool palette thing I’ve got going on).


In The Crown of Embers, Elisa goes on a literal and metaphorical journey. I don’t want to get too spoilery but book two is all about Elisa finding answers to questions raised in the first book, hence, a compass. I went with green for this book because a tropical jungle-y environment plays a big role.


The Bitter Kingdom is all about Elisa being a badass queen who gets shit done, goes after what she wants and takes care of her people. A crown works on both a literal level (disclaimer, this isn’t actually how I envision the godstone crown but unless I was willing to draw it myself, my options were limited) and on a metaphorical level. In book three, Elisa is on top of her shit. She’s figured out who she is and what she wants, she’s come into her own, she’s a queen. I went with blue for the godstone and also to represent cold because you may have noticed that the color choices are tied into the setting.

Another cool thing about designing my own theoretical versions of book covers is that my budget is also theoretical and therefore infinite. For the Fire and Thorns trilogy, I envisioned gold foil stamping (exactly what it sounds like, you literally stamp press heated metallic foils into the surface) on a super textured, jewel-toned paper. Visually and tactilely an incredible idea, in terms of cost per book? Not super practical in a financial sense. But hahahaha, I can do whatever the hell I want. I’m basically working with the rosebud code from the original Sims (or was that Sims 2? I don’t know, I’m old).

So, yeah, there’s that (I am awesome at conclusions). I have a bunch of ideas floating around in my head and would really like to make this a semi-regular series. Hopefully I can build up enough of a portfolio and turn this into an actual thing I do in addition to a fun fan art outlet. What do you guys think?


Meg Morley

Meg Morley

Co-bloggery at Cuddlebuggery
Meg is an all-around book nerd who just really wants to talk about books, preferably with other people but by herself will do. Find her on Goodreads.

52 Responses to “Meg’s Super Awesome Cover Design Project: The Fire and Thorns Trilogy”

  1. Shannelle C.


    I haven’t read any of these books yet, and if I did, I’d probably be just dead right now. It’s so BEAUTIFUL.

    • Meg Morley

      THANK YOOOOUUUUUU!!!! I fond the font on I think? (Maybe fontsquirrel?) It’s one of those free for personal use things and SO. SO. magical. The book cover mockups came from various places around the internet and for the last one, I took a photo of a stack of books wrapped in white paper dustjackets and just photoshopped the cover designs on (I tried to use a digital mockup stack but it kept coming out way to CGI)

      (also you should 100% check this trilogy out because it’s amazing)

  2. Fabi

    I am a sucker for pretty covers and I gotta say, the first thing I thought when I saw the three book’s picture was: “OMG, I need this in my bookshelf!”.

    I haven’t actually read the books, but those covers, with the classic thing going on, are great! (told ya I’m a sucker for covers)

    Really looking forward to seeing more of your cover reinventions. ^^
    Which books are next?!

    • Meg Morley

      Thank you!! Ngl, I am kind of trying to figure out a way to actually make them because I also super want them 😀

      I’ve got a few ideas rolling around in my head, my process (when I’m working on my own timeline) is to let things sort of simmer on the back burner of my brain and then start working when a fully visualized concept is produced.

    • Meg Morley

      Thank you!! I’m also a sucker for minimalism 😀 (Also, highly, HIGHLY recommend the series, it’s one of my fav fantasy trilogies)

  3. Tara

    Oh my! These are absolutely fantastic. You nailed it. I wish I had these on my shelf. Can’t wait to see more.

  4. Sana // artsy musings of a bibliophile

    Okay, I was obviously too taken aback by all the awesome that I didn’t actually read the post. But yes, yes, yes hundred thousand points for the kickass use of iconogaphy and the dark color palette goes amazingly well! I haven’t read the books yet (soon, very soon) but I totally get where you went with these.

    Hell yeah to you designing more book covers! I’m especially looking forward to Lumatere covers redesigns now.

  5. Morgan @ Gone with the Words

    Meg!!!! These are goooorgeous, you are so supremely talented! I love the rich jewel tones and the symbols, and your reasoning behind it all. But omg I love that font!! It’s stunning. And gold foil ahhhhh, it would be magnificent. Can’t wait to see what other books you redesign 😀

    I REMEMBER ROSEBUD. It’s the only way I would play Sims hahaha.

    • Meg Morley

      THANK YOU!! I had a lot of fun doing these.

      (rosebud was my favorite of all cheatcodes, you could !;!;!; into eternity)

  6. Brigid

    Sooooo cool. I loved this series. As someone who has read it, I can absolutely say you have done a spectacular job Meg. I SECOND SANA: LUMATERE NEXT PLEEEASE.

    • Meg Morley

      Thank you!!! I really, really want to do so, I just hesitate to call it a series because that implies some sort of regular schedule and hahahahahahahaha I’m super awful at those. But YES. THERE WILL BE MORE. <333

  7. ReadiculousGirl

    Your post totally speaks to me…I want to become a cover designer because of my love of books (much like you), but I’ve had a hard time figuring out just how to accomplish that (my lack of technical computer skills and zero drawing/painting talent is slightly disconcerting considering my career choice). Your post completely inspired me today to keep going towards my dream job, so thank you for that!
    I, too, am a font freak, and the one you picked for your covers is pure perfection. Keep on doing what your doing because those covers are DIVINE!

  8. Bookphilia

    I do cover designs for a small press and I’ve learned you don’t always get your way. The result isn’t always flattering to your skills too. When you inevitably become a cover designer yourself, have a pseudonym ready (is my advice) for covers that you don’t want associated with your actual name.

  9. wildpear

    SO PRETTY, MEG! I love these. My little romantic old-fashioned heart wishes every book on my shelves could be this pretty. These give me the feeling of Belle walking into the Beast’s library (or Elliot walking into Luke’s 😉 . . . timeless and sumptuously lovely!

  10. Ginny

    Ooo, these are beautiful. I also love that the compass symbol on book two is known as a compass rose, it ties in nicely.

  11. Natalie

    THESE ARE SO BEAUTIFUL! I LOVE THEM. MOST ARDENTLY (had to throw in a Darcy quote). Rest assured you have induced very real cover lust. Can’t wait to see more!

  12. Holly J

    NOW I WANT THESE COVERS. I actually prefer them over the originals…

    I still haven’t read this series. It’s funny, I DNFed the first book awhile ago and never picked it up again. That’s not that funny really, because I love fantasy and don’t know why that happened. I think it was my mood more than anything. So I definitely WILL be picking up this series again. I want to give it another try. And I want these beauties on my shelves.

    I would love to see what else you come up with! Please make this a blog series or something. 🙂
    Holly J recently posted…Blog Tour and Review: Faking Perfect by Rebecca PhillipsMy Profile

  13. Judith


    (on a serious note you already know how much i love these and you are insanely talented and this needs to become the official cover because i want these books on my shelf kthxbye)

    Judith recently posted…Review: Looking for AlibrandiMy Profile

  14. Annie

    Those are so gorgeous!!! The colors – the iconography and oh my gosh the typography! I have an arc of The Girl of Fire and Thorns with the girl on it that they got rid of because she was too white-washed. I didn’t like her on the cover but I also never really loved the covers they came up with. I would totally buy the series with your covers – even if they were plain old hardback covers with the print dust jacket and not all gold imprinted.

    Also, I would hire you in a second to design my books covers.
    Annie recently posted…Fairy Tale Legacy: JasmineMy Profile

  15. Maia

    Hi your cover is awesome, and at the moment I’m writing a book on wattpad, but I’m terrible at designing a cover!!!! I love the font you’ve used for the title!!!!! can you please tell me what it is!?

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