Norwegian Wood – Book theme research

Upon viewing the briefs for each category available to enter for the Penguin Student Design Award of 2019, I had read and decided to go forward with designing a book cover for the Adult Fiction Award, Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murukami.

Reading the book in preparation for choosing one of the books featured for the award was exciting. It filled me with emotion at times. As much as it was extremely dramatic and the author had rambled on at times, the themes within it had shook me to my core. It featured death, love, heartbreak, illness, and lust. All of which were beautifully combined to tell the story of a male student in university who felt at times that he had lost his sense of mind.

I had looked at previous covers which had been designed to represent one specific chapter in the book which featured vast forestry. It was puzzling to see how the designers could not have made more use of the themes within the book to produce something more exciting and engaging for viewers.

My initial thoughts were to look into how red birds mentioned at the beginning of the book could have held any significance in symbolising themes within the remainder of the book.

A reason why I did not want to base the design of the cover on music and The Beatles who wrote a song called Norwegian Wood, was because there was little to no mention of music in the book and had little to do with the relationships formed in the book. If I were to base the cover of the book on the song it would mislead the viewer into thinking the book was about The Beatles or music itself, instead of being a fictional book containing love, death and happiness.

I conducted research into the symbolism of red birds, more specifically cardinals. A writer of birds, Heidi Farmer, has discussed the symbolism behind the visiting of a cardinal as a death from a loved one. Within the book I discovered that the mention of the red birds at the beginning had symbolised the passing of loved ones throughout the book.

Along with my curiosity in what different coloured birds symbolised, I happened to come across the symbolism of a blue bird. Dreaming and Sleeping described that a blue bird symbolises joy and happiness, which has also been used as a theme in the book.

In a failed attempt of trying to find birds of these colours that lived in Japan, I began to think of themes I could use that would relate these colours to Japan. I thought about using the Japanese flag as a background of one blue and one red bird in the foreground. I also considered using a Japanese cherry blossom, trees that typically grow in the country at the beginning of Spring. I then considered Japanese culture and craft, coming to a conclusion that I wanted to use origami in the making of the images I would feature on the cover of the book. While using origami I could easily consider using the rising sun featured on the flag of Japan and/or a cherry blossom tree to portray the vast amount of nature and forestry which had been used to describe scenes in the book.

After researching the themes in the book, I now needed to research existing book covers that would provide me with new inspiration in recreating a book cover design for Norwegian Wood.

Author: jennifertaylorgraphics

First year student studying Graphic Communication at the Cardiff School of Art and Design

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