Cover Design Made Easy

In 2013, Walter Mosley brought his sorely missed LA detective Easy Rawlins back from the dead, inspiring what the Mail on Sunday called Mosley’s ‘best novel for years’.

The covers of the first two books in Easy’s return – Little Green and Rose Gold – have been the subject of much admiration, and were called ‘fabulous’ by The Bookseller. Today, on paperback publication of Rose Gold, here is designer Mark Swan on how he came upon this iconic series style.


I received a series brief from Steve, the W&N art director, stating that the Walter Mosley covers should look ‘1960s, stylish, noir, retro USA, possibly dark/night time, car . . .’  So I felt we had to have a retro style that captured danger on the covers, with a dash of sexiness too.

I started by doing picture research into cars of the day and also by looking at some retro-style fonts. I had just obtained a new version of Photoshop and was keen to try out the 3D function to create a car-like emblem type mixed with layers of imagery. I was also looking at old ’60s crime paperbacks, especially those with covers by the illustrator Robert McGinnis as his work always featured amazing illustrations and almost logo-styled author names and titles. I thought this would create a strong brand – and all the books in the series would look great lined up on readers’ shelves.

Anything But Saintly           Blood on the Stairs           Heads You Lose           Oh Careless Love

Taking inspiration from my research, I produced five different routes, all of which were bang on the brief and featured vintage cars, guns and an LA Americana feel. Some were very slick-looking, almost like movie posters, others were rougher in style. One visual focused on the two main moods I wanted to capture – retro/danger – and used images that were split in two and perfectly lined up. I wanted the covers to stand out in bookshops – with bright colours contrasted with a dark noir tone. I knew the brief was to create a series style and I thought it would be a fun challenge to come up with new objects to interlink on future books, such as the lipstick and bullet on Rose Gold which I felt worked really well together.

Little Green Draft 1     Little Green Draft 2     Little Green Draft 3

Finally, an extra part of the brief was to create a logo for the character of Easy Rawlins that would appear on all the books. For this, I chose retro fonts inspired by the car emblems of the day.

Belvedere      Seven

The logo is a constant across the series and appears at the top of the cover almost like a headline, but for added interest, each logo contains a different graphic illustration.

Little Green           Rose Gold


Find out more about Mark Swan’s work here:


The Easy Rawlins mysteries Little Green and Rose Gold are both published by Orion and are out now in paperback.