Written in 1925 by T.S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men” is a dark poem written as a reflection of the psychological state of soldiers following World War I. A classic piece of English literature, “The Hollow Men” is full of themes and imagery of death, brokenness, dryness, deserts, cacti, religion, Hell, hopelessness and guilt. Eliot uses fragmented phrases, religious allusion and parodies of nursery rhymes to create a twisted and haunting text.
The design approach taken with this edition of “The Hollow Men” seeks to balance both a feeling of “classic literature” with a “haunting and dark” mood.
The overall colour scheme mixes an Indian-ink black on cream; there are no other colours used throughout, in order to create a haunted, rough but somewhat elegant tone. The mood is also considered through the book’s tactile elements. In the hard copy, this means that the text is printed on smooth, cream-colored, 65lb cardstock. This allows for greater legibility and contrast between the stark black images (without conveying the coldness of black and white). The pages are also heavy enough to block most of the show through from the other side.
This edition is completely hand-made. The pages and cover are stitched together with black thread along the spine. The cover is a (hand-bound) hard cover, to convey the classical, established side to the poetry. The cover itself is made with textured linen-paper secured to thick chipboard, in order to match the dry, desert-like mood. The spine uses a leathery black alligator paper to add contrast and fit the dark tone. The image was transferred to the front and back cover using a Blender acetone pen, creating a worn look. The back could have used another coat of the pen, however for the purposes of the mockup, it works to convey the idea.
The type is set it Adobe Garamond Pro, to convey a sense of traditional literature. Since poetry often includes a specific written form, it seemed inappropriate to adjust Eliot’s masterful writing. Negative space is an essential design element throughout, encompassing the type and the images, allowing the mind to breathe and balance the detail of the art with the power of the words.
The illustrations themselves were first sketched by hand, then redrawn with black ink, and finally converted into vectors, creating a rough, woodblock-like effect. Again, these illustrations aim to convey the creepy tone without being too “horror-film.”
Scarecrows are a predominant image, drawing from the text itself and from the idea of “stuffed” but “empty” men.
Each spread is 8.5”x11” in order to create a comfortable size to hold, read, and to provide ease of printing. There is enough space to balance the elements without feeling overcrowded or lost in the page.