John Green Box Set

A few weeks ago, the new box set of John Green’s books was released, which features an illustration on the box designed by yours truly. I think the box set turned out great, and you can see my live reaction as I see it in person for the first time in the video below. Keep reading below the jump for more details about how I created the design!

Keep in mind that I did not design the wraparound band – just the illustration on the box. It all started in May when I got an email from Julie Strauss-Gabel, John Green’s publisher, who told me that they were creating a box set of his books, and asked if I would be interested in designing the box. I’ve done a lot of work with John in the past for his YouTube videos and charity novellas, but this was the first time I’d be designing officially for his published novels, making something that you can actually buy in a store.

The type of design they were looking for was a repeating pattern with symbols and quotes from John’s books. And so, I took my trusty sketchbook to the park one day and sat and brainstormed for a few hours all of the biggest symbols and best quotes I could remember. So much of the books has to do with road trips or travel, so from the beginning, I really wanted to incorporate a lot of map elements.

This was my first version of the pattern, which I sent to Julie to make sure I was on the right track for what they were looking for. It doesn’t interlock seamlessly, but it gave me a chance to see how all of the different elements would start to fit together.

As the design progressed, I tried a lot of different color options before we decided on the white and two shades of blue on dark gray.

So that’s the story of the actual illustration. See if you can figure out the line around each block of the pattern – none of the elements in it are a uniform size, so I spent quite a bit of time pushing things around to make it completely seamless.

After we had pretty much finalized the box design, I couldn’t stop thinking that the design was something I might also want to hang on my wall. I wasn’t asked to, but I decided to mock up a few poster designs and send them along. Above are the three alternate versions I sent, and below is the one that they decided to print.

I don’t know what they’re going to do with this poster design or if there will be any way for you to buy one, but I’ll be sure to let you know on my Twitter if anything comes of it!

So that was the story of the John Green box set design. This is one of my biggest and most visible freelance projects to date, and I’m so happy it came out as well as it did! I’ve been hearing tons of positive feedback online, which is always nice when it’s a thing people have had to actually spend money on. Keep reading for more gratuitous photos of the box set – I was so excited to finally have one that I just had to document it from every angle.


I love how the box set looks when you take all of the book jackets off and just have the black spines with silver type.

The box set is available on Amazon or in your local independent book store. Also, if you haven’t been on my website since I launched the new redesign, you can check out this blog post for all the details on that. Thank you so much for reading!

This entry was posted in Commissions, Graphic Design, Nerdfighter Designs. Bookmark the permalink.
  • Jenn Rothstein

    I’m not planning to buy the box set because I already own multiple copies of all the books, but I would love to have this poster.

  • http://twitter.com/reneeyoxon Renée Yoxon

    This is so beautiful Karen, I love how fun and quirky it looks.

  • http://brentgalloway.me/ Brent Galloway

    This is so awesome, Karen! Being a graphic designer myself, I can’t imagine the excitement you must’ve had working on and producing an awesome design for such an awesome project. I’m really impressed on the seamlessness of the design too! Overall you did an amazing job, and it’s quite inspiring to hear and see the details of this project. Thanks for sharing! :)

  • Iris

    I’m so proud of you Karen, every version of the design is absolutely beautiful. I was just wondering what programme you used to design it and how long it took to get the final result? 

  • Laurie

    beautiful! hopefully, they’ll release the poster. i already have all the books, so it’ll be pointless for me to have another copy, but the box design is so gorgeous…

  • http://twitter.com/nwhiteway Nicole Whiteway

    I love what you did! It is so beautiful and thoughtful…. part of me wishes the inside of the box wasn’t white, but the same design done with the lighter blue as the background, the white, darker blue and black as the elements. Oh well…. It’s still lovely how it is :)

  • Susie

     this is so cool Karen! Congrats on getting to see your creation made into a real thing!! Next tutorial video can you show us how we can make seamless patterns like this? :D

  • Revathi

    The box design is really awesome! :P And it’s great that you included your work progress… shows how much of time and effort went into it. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/ivonne.a.mercado Ivonne A Mercado

    I want that poster. You made it so it’s very interesting to look at! Love the design.

  • Vinny

    Loving the depth of field on the photos!  Is it a macro lens or are you using close up filters or just plain low F numbers!

  • Anatipos

    very beatifull karen so i need a video how can design background in for poster in big sizes
    thanks anatipos@gmail.com

  • http://twitter.com/undumbblonde Karen Douglas

    This is gorgeous! I’m so happy for you, Karen!

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/TRYEX66FBZZZ6F74SDKYBKERHE Ksenia

    Hey! Could you please please please make a video/post that shows how to make the simple/almost cartoonish silhouette drawings on the computer? (ex. the plane, the pipe, the push pin, the flutes). Love your work!

  • http://twitter.com/RegRRs Regine Rojas

    Very nice design! I honestly went for this set among the rest displayed on our local bookstore because of the box! Don’t judge a book based on it’s cover (or box for this matter) they say, but I’m sure glad I did.

    -<3 from the Philippines

  • http://twitter.com/stijnhommes Stijn Hommes

    Very nice design! I hope there will be a lot more in the future.

  • Sofía

    I want this box set so much, I need it, it’s so beautiful <3

  • http://www.facebook.com/aruna.nasika Aruna Nasika

    Nice posters. Cool design every one can easily attract to this work. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Mariana Schneider

    As a graphic designer who is very very proud to be a nerdfighter, I have to say I LOVE this box set! I bought it from amazon, and was just amazed when I opened the box and saw how beautiful it is. The whole thing is very well designed, I’m in love. Congratulations!

  • Cay Arcena

    OMG. I remembered, when I went to the store to buy the set, I was like: THIS. IS MADE. BY. KAREN KAVETT! I totally fangirled (I love your videos!)! I was like crazy in the store. Great, ehem I mean AWESOME job Karen! I want to see more stuff like these! DFTA and have a good day!

  • http://www.clippingpathindia.com/image-masking.html Jannatul Ferdous

    Lovely collection. I really like it.

  • Ryan D.

    Looks like I took too long to buy this! My TFiOS copy is a penguin pressing, not a Dutton one. Anyways, beautiful design of course! So rich yet appropriately subtle.

  • Joanne

    Karen! So you’re not gonna believe this but I’m one of the people subscribed to your YouTube channel, because I’m an aspiring designer myself and have recently been looking back on your Critique O’Clock episodes because they’re so great and helpful.
    Then I went to this website of yours and started looking at your work and when I found this I was so surprised to know you designed it! Get this: This exact box set is literally sitting on my bookshelf right now! Haha my cousin got it for me a while ago and oh my God, I immediately reached for it and saw the bottom and there your name was! Such a cool thing to come across. I gotta say you did an absolutely stunning job with this. You’ve accomplished so much, and I really wish I could be someone like you someday in the future. Thanks for inspiring and sharing so much of your knowledge to us! x

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