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Wanted: “Little Red Riding Hood” Redesign Summons The Big Bad Wolf Using Type

Jen Wang’s design and illustration for a new Penguin film tie-in manages to evoke the utter terror of the 700-year-old legend — using virtually nothing but typography.

Wanted: “Little Red Riding Hood” Redesign Summons The Big Bad Wolf Using Type

Film-edition books are always awful. As much as we love Vanessa Redgrave, we don’t want to look at her gauzy face every time we reach for Mrs. Dalloway. Which makes Penguin’s latest copy of The Little Red Riding Hood a sort of freak of nature. It’s got a movie tie-in, to be sure (note the unfortunate “inspiration for the major motion picture” tag on the cover), but it’s also completely awesome design — something we’d happily display on our bookshelf.

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Jen Wang was the artist and designer here, and she managed to conjure up the boot-quivering terror of the 700-year-old legend (and if you’ve forgotten just how frightening it is, direct your eye to the quote on the back cover) using virtually nothing but typography. Her design brief from Penguin, as she tells Co.Design, was to make Little Red “dark and sinister, ostensibly to tie in with the current movie version of the story.”

Ultimately, she went with a typographic look for practical reasons: “There was a lot of copy going on the cover, so doing an all-type option was a pretty easy conclusion,” she says.

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The trick, then, was to make it scary as hell. How she finagled it:

Going into the design, I knew I definitely wanted the wolf to be incorporated into the cover since he is the representation of sinister malice. For the type, I created my own variation of blackletter because I wanted it to be toothy and sharp. On my design:related page you can see how the wolf started out as a separate element from the type. I had originally envisioned the wolf to be slinking between the letters but it fought with the type and was really more a distraction to the design.

Instead, she worked the wolf into the typeface, as if the letters were one of his creepy disguises. The effect’s a powerful one, evoking the dark heart of the story better than any still of a doe-eyed Amanda Seyfried in a flowy red cape ever could. Of equal import: We wouldn’t be embarrassed to pull this thing out on the subway.

Buy the edition for $11.10 on Amazon here.

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About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D

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