Book covers: The Last Crusade by Nigel Cliff

By: Daniel Pomlett on 12.03.15
Category: Print

This is the second post in my “Books I’ve read this year” series where I attempt to reimagine the front covers of my reading list. These are quick projects, intended to be an exercise in finding ways to distill the content of a book down to a neat visual idea.

‘The Last Crusade’ is about the 15th/16th century explorer Vasco Da Gama, who in 1498, circumnavigated Africa, crossed the Indian Ocean and discovered the sea route to the Indies.

The book does a great job of contextualising Da Gama’s mission as the latest in a long line of crusades against the Islamic world, with the ultimate purpose being the expansion and triumph of Christendom.

This is a book as much about two ideologies colliding and the brutality and inhumanity that ensues, as it is about brave men, undertaking perilous voyages in the name of exploration.

Reading the book I was captivated by the though of these strange ships, emblazoned with Christian crosses, appearing on the horizon and the uncertainty and fear that must have invoked in the minds of the locals. I wanted to capture that feeling in the cover so decided to focus the design around the two pertinent religious symbols, the Christian cross and the Islamic star and crescent moon.

The Christian cross sits on a simplified ship, distilled down to its essential forms. The Islamic crescent moon and star sits in the sky. I liked this idea because it feels symbolic of Christianity’s arrival in Muslim territory.

I made the whole design symmetrical with the reflected version being toned down to look like the reflection of the scene in calm waters, as if the ship was moored just outside a harbour in Calicut.

I chose the colour red because of it’s foreboding quality, pregnant with the promise of violence.

For the typography I wanted, again, to invoke an Islamic feel so I found a font called XXII Arabian Onenightstand, which contains arabic flourishes. I combined this with Didot regular for the rest of the text.

I ended doing a few colour variations which can be seen here but, for me, the red one is the most striking.


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