Jennifer K. Oliver

Speculative Fiction Writer

Category: Graphic Design

Book Cover Design | Philip Norris

Back in 2017 author Philip Norris approached me with a graphic design project. He was about to publish his novella You Can’t Avoid A Little Blood on Amazon and needed a professional cover design to go with the book. I used a stock photo of a warrior for Phil’s cover, and to meet the brief I also included a burning tower (heavily Photoshopped) and a moody, high-fantasy landscape.

The story is excellent and I recommend you check it out. Here is a summary:

The Four Empires have coexisted for 2,000 years, the peace built from the destructive wars with the Frail Men. But now forced are at work to undo that peace, to tear down the millennia of human dominance and bring about a return to the dark days.

Joakim Karesh is a former Regulator the Empires shock troops, now a sword for hire. All he wants is an easy life with quick riches from minimal effort. But he’s an old hand at this game and he knows in his line of work you can’t avoid a little blood.

A simple job, a quick payday and maybe not too many have to die. What could go wrong?

If you are an author looking for professional book cover design, drop me a message with your requirements and budget to joliverdesigns(at)gmail(dot)com.

Book Cover Design | The Machinists’ Boy

A few days ago I showcased a story cover for the short horror story Shuffle.

Here is another story cover I designed for my short sci-fi YA story The Machinists’ Boy, published in 2016 at Youth Imagination Magazine. I had a blast writing this story and enjoyed getting to know my two young characters. Putting nice people through horrible situations is not always great, but I am still proud of this tory. I created a cover because I had such a strong vision of what the planet in the story looked like.

You can find more of my published fiction here.

Book Cover Design | The Machinists’ Boy

There are a couple more book cover designs I plan to post here. If you’re interested you can find the rest of my graphic design portfolio at J. Oliver Designs.

I particularly love working with fellow authors so if you have a story, novella or novel that needs a professional cover, drop me a message with your requirements and budget at joliverdesigns(at)gmail(dot)com.

Book Cover Design

It has been a long time since I’ve posted and a lot has happened! I am now nearly six months into my MA in Graphic Design (Online) at the University of Hertfordshire and I am absolutely loving it. My grades came back for one of the modules last semester and I did really well so I plan to keep up my winning streak and work hard to achieve my #goals!

I must admit, there hasn’t been a lot of creative writing time these past few weeks, due to having a full time job and uni work, plus general life stuff. I have been doing a ton of graphic design and I thought it would be nice to post some of the book cover designs I’ve made in the past and also a newer one I did a year or so ago.

First up is the cover I created for my short horror-fantasy story Shuffle, published back in 2015 at Kaleidotrope magazine. I created a photomanipulation but recently updated it with new typography.

Book Cover Design | Shuffle, published at Kaleidotrope

I’m so happy with how this turned out. A lot of work (and layers!) went into creating the zombified look. The stock image I used for the woman (my character Sarah) was a normal-looking woman. Definitely not un-dead!

I will post a few more of my book covers over the coming weeks. If you are an author looking for professional book cover design drop me a message with your budget at joliverdesigns(at)gmail(dot)com. I’d love to hear from you!

Becoming a Student Again (Studying an MA)

I’m so thrilled to accept a place on the MA in Graphic Design at the University of Hertfordshire! It’s an online part-time distance learning program, so I will remain at home and in my full-time job. The course spec is here. Crikey, I couldn’t be happier about this! It’ll provide me with invaluable new skills and knowledge, and help with my career goals and my freelance business. 

Term starts in September and I plan to update my blog here at my website and my Linkedin page frequently with my findings and developments, and also talk about life as a part-time, online mature student. It has been a long time since I’ve been in education but I thrive when learning so this will be a fantastic opportunity for my personal development, too.

The application process was intense, but I had oodles of help from friends Yvonne AnisimowiczDavid Cooke and Charlotte Jeffery! Their support and encouragement (and faith in me) was incredible.

Keeping It Real with Snippets

Sometimes you find yourself with an image or a line of prose (or an entire story concept) and you just don’t know what to do with it. You work at it, poking, picking, twisting, shaping, but it never quite comes together. It’s as if the idea stubbornly remains hidden (if it’s there at all), and yet you’re sure there’s something in there that just needs tempting out. I think of these things as snippets. They usually end up stored away in a folder called “miscellaneous” or “WIP,” and few of them ever see the light of day.

Lately I’ve been thinking about snippets; all those wobbly, unrefined drawings and lines from stories I haven’t completed yet and probably never will. A lot of my favourite stories have their wobbly bits. Some of my favourite stories that I’ve written are stories that are not finished. A lot of art I like or images that grab my attention are messy, asymmetrical, or unrefined.

I’ve come to the realisation that this stuff doesn’t always have to be squirrelled away in a misc folder deep in the bowels of a hard-drive.

It’s difficult not to be influenced by my idols and people whose work grabs my attention. I find myself trying to post my work in a similar format to theirs. Theirs is always beautifully presented, always carefully pulled together. Even the “rough sketches” are geometrically immaculate and the “first drafts” are too obviously edited to be true first drafts (or “Draft Zero” as a lot of writers like to think of it: that horrendous crap that comes spewing off your fingertips before you’ve had chance to tidy it up into a first draft. Yes, that is a thing). I don’t always believe what I see, but a part of me still tries to emulate it.

I’m teaching myself to show my work more, and maybe share things that I’m not necessarily done with or massively proud of. I got into the habit of thinking that creative output always has to be finished, in final, edited and polished draft form, before anyone can see it. I’m trying to train my brain into allowing myself the leeway to show all those concepts and attempts that perhaps don’t fit anywhere. Sometimes it takes someone else to interpret something to understand that these fragmented pieces are worth reading or looking at, or might simply inspire something entirely new.

Not quite symmetrical

Big Life Decisions

It’s both scary and exhilarating making big life decisions, especially if that decision could result in major changes to your day to day life. When I was younger I didn’t particularly like change, but as I’ve grown older I’ve come to embrace new scenery and new experiences. On the flip side, when you’re older you tend to have more and greater responsibilities, and a big change can impact every part of your life – from work and hobbies to running a household and relationships.

I would say, if you’re young, don’t fear change. Surround yourself with people who encourage you to do what you want to do and who support you as you make your way through life.

I’ve also learned over the years that I’m happiest when learning, and thrive in an environment that facilitates the broadening of the mind and development of skills. This is tied in with my chosen career path (graphic design), something I do for a living but also because I simply love it. Creativity is such a massive part of who I am that it makes sense to continue nurturing it throughout the course of my life.

I’m about to start the ball rolling on a big life change, something I have wanted to do for a long time but have never quite been in the right place (professionally, time-wise, and personally). I’m not going to say too much yet as nothing is set in stone, but I’m hoping to be able to update this blog more regularly at some point with more graphic design and creative content.

For now, wish me luck!

Graphic design of the Shuffle poster

I’ve been hunting through my graphic design folders and found some of my old story promos, and found the poster I made to promote my short horror story Shuffle back in 2015. I also found the original stock photo of the woman I chose to portray Sarah and thought I’d share a little study in the awesomeness of Photoshop and what its tools can do.

This is the image I settled on, as I knew I wanted Sarah to be lying down staring up at the sky in the poster. I liked this model’s profile and liked the idea that Sarah had vibrant red hair (apocalyptic hair).

After many layers, textures and blend modes, I eventually ended up with this:

The texture gives the poster and her skin a more worn, beat-up look, and I added blood streaks and cuts on her face and splatters on her clothes. I used the Burn Tool to create the darker rings around her eye and darker patches around her nose and mouth/lips, as if she was eroding.

Shuffle was published at Kaleidotrope magazine in their summer 2015 issue. Go here to check out their more recent issues and archives for high quality speculative fiction.

Bad Bunny Logo Design

Logo design originally created for a small cosmetics startup company. Yes, there is some tongue-in-cheek here with the rabbit + cosmetics, which worked alongside the essence of Bad Bunny – the colour palettes of the cosmetics were going to be vampy and loud. Nothing came of the startup, sadly, which leaves me with a logo that I still like. That’s not to say that Bad Bunny Cosmetics won’t happen in the future, but for now it’s on hold.

There is a dark version and a light version, and both work depending on where they are used. The dark would have been on bottle labels and boxes (nail polish, lipstick, eyeshadow) as both would have had black backgrounds. The light works on marketing materials, such as letterheads, business cards, and flyers, or on merchandise like t-shirts.

Interestingly, Bad Bunny has garnered some attention on my Behance portfolio. Someone approached me asking if they could buy the logo. Unfortunately they wanted to use it as the logo of their adult toy shop. Needless to say, the sale did not go ahead, but it was nice that my work caught someone’s eye.

You can see more of my graphic design at my other website J. Oliver Designs.

Graphic Design for Writers

My graphic design website has had an overhaul, with an updated portfolio and option to contact me using a contact form. Graphic design is a huge part of my life. It is my day job, an on-the-side freelance business, as well as something I do for pleasure. I prefer graphic design for writers and can create logos, infographics, as well as story and book covers. I’m going to share a few of my graphics here over the next few weeks, but if you are already interested check out my alter-ego J. Oliver Designs.

This first design was made for fun, simply because I a) love bunnies, b) love texture and vibrant colour, and c) wanted to try my hand at creating a mandala. I’m rather proud of the outcome. The texture used in the background was also custom-made by me for this design. It’s available to download as a texture on my Instagram. Eventually I plan to have a dedicated resources section on my other website for textures and vectors, so keep an eye out!

Run Rabbit Mandala | Adobe Illustrator CC

J. Oliver Designs

Run Rabbit Mandala by J. Oliver Designs

New Blog, Much Tidier

I’m moving my Dreamwidth blog to WordPress for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Photobucket recently switched to a paid image hosting platform and almost all of my old images display as a ghastly Photobucket placeholder. Secondly, WordPress is just a cleaner, fresher place to be. The fact that so many of my posts are broken on Dreamwidth bothers me too much, so I’m bringing content that I think is still relevant or interesting here.

I have written a lot about writing and reading, shared a lot of graphic design and artwork, and talked a great deal about life in general over the years. It would be a shame for it all to get lost under placeholder pics. This is a laborious task, however, and it will take some time weeding out the good stuff and discarding the irrelevant. Please bear with.

Find me on Twitter, Instagram (predominantly graphic design), Goodreads and various other places. I will blog here from now on, though I still might mirror relevant posts to my Dreamwidth journal from time to time.

I still run my graphic design business at J. Oliver Designs, where I create promotional posters, book and story covers, business card designs, website banners and graphics, as well as corporate material. I love designing for fellow authors so if you’re a writer looking for a cover or promo graphic, drop me a line.

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