Book Cover & Poster Designs – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Name: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage ( in collaboration with Sokin Wan & Roy Yan)
Type: Book Cover & Promotional Poster designs, Graphic Design, Visual communications
Book Cover Design Inspiration & Concept:
The book cover design is inspired by the works of Japanese graphic designer Shun Sasaki, which uses the combinations of lines and forms to present a refreshing and futuristic vector type designs. As Barnum (2012) suggests, lines denote movement from one point to another, “like a trail left by a pencil on a surface”.
The thicker lines on the book cover represent the intertwining relationship between Tsukuru Tazaki and his friends, with a colour palette derived from the names of the 4 other main characters. The shapes of the lines are inspired by the railway tracks of Nagoya, which is where most of the story takes place. The motif of train tracks is significant in the story as Tsukuru’s love for railway stations connects him with each stage of his life, from study, to his occupation and to his actions.
The broken lines in the background represent the broken relationships between the main characters. As Leborg (2006) illustrates, these lines have a formal structure as they are evenly distributed in the composition.
In addition, the distance between these lines is identical and therefore the repetition of these lines is said to have a frequency. The circle in the middle of the book cover also allows the design to resemble the flag of Japan.
The spine of the book features the distance between Nagoya and Tokyo, which are where the story takes place in. The design also signifies changes, movement, transitions and coming-of-age.
The concept of the posters is derived from the form of music scores. Murakami weaves Franz Liszt’s Le mal du pays from his Years of Pilgrimage suite into the story to highlight the theme of abiding sense of loss and melancholy felt by his protagonist, Tsukuru. The music notes on all three posters are replications of the actual music score of Le mal du pays, which happens to be three pages long as well. These music notes are stylised into a more abstract form with just lines of 45 and 90 degrees to align with the visual design on the book cover.
The posters uses a monochromatic colour schemes of different shades of grey, which represents the colour of sorrow, detachment and isolation, to reflect Tsukuru’s emotions as he got driven out of his clique of friends. Sherin (2012) proposes that monochromatic colour combinations are harmonious and one-colour palettes are often the most effective in design solutions. Grey can also be used to reduce the intense energy of another colour, which emphasises a willingness to comply. This aligns with the fact that Tsukuru quietly accepted the fact that his friends no long want to see him without finding out the actual reason until 16 years later.
The posters utilise flat designs of lines and shapes, which gives a minimalist and modern feeling, which aligns with the modern era of which the story takes place in. The two minimalistic san-serif fonts, Typografix and Champagne and Limousines, of different weights and tracking complements the minimalist look.
The first poster depicts the introduction of Le mal du pays, with the silhouette of the female protagonist “White root” playing the piano. The image of “White root” playing Le mal du pays during their high school days is an important memory to Tsukuru and that was how Tsukuru came to know this piece of music. It was also a memory of “White root” which is repeatedly mentioned in the book. Therefore, the first poster signifies the start of the story and their friendship. As illustrated by Sherin (2012), “contrast is a great way to get a viewer to pay attention to a particular element”. The use of contrast through the white silhouette therefore allows viewers to be drawn to that element of design easily.
The second poster depicts an empty score, which signifies the death of “White root” and hence the reason why the music stopped. The pair of wings represents both death and innocence, as “White Root” had an angelic and pure image in Tsukuru’s heart, but half of the wings turned black because “White Root” lied about how Tsukuru raped her and caused all the other friends to stop contacting Tsukuru. A subtle layer of monochrome photographic texture creates a contrast and adds a layer of personal touch to the design as it represents the distortion of “White Root’s” character.
The third poster depicts a score of fallen music notes without an ending, which reflects the ending of the story. Even after Tsukuru met up with his old friends and cleared up the misunderstandings, they can never return to the past and continue to sustain an ‘orderly and harmonious’ relationship between each other anymore. Hence, the music notes of the ending of Le mal du play are presented in an unorderly layout.
According to Bradley (2011), “designs that follow Gutenberg are said to be in harmony with natural reading gravity”. Most of the important elements in our design fall under the primary optical area, strong fallow area or terminal area. This improves reading rhythm and comprehension. Following the Gutenberg Diagram also creates a hierarchy of design elements and content.
Design Process Video: