Book Cover Illustration

Need a book cover design? As a freelance book cover illustrator I can help with that. it's not always humour, though these covers generate the most interest when opening my portfolio. I can work direct with an author or publisher and I'm (at the time of writing) not represented by an agent, so I can offer value for money too.

Here are some examples of previous books I've worked on. I also do interior artwork, and the examples below have 10 black-and-white interior illustrations too, but you'll need to check them yourself to see that! All my book artwork is created traditionally and digitally by hand.

Got questions?

Here's a recent book cover illustration for 'Football's Tallest Tales' by Bryan Gibson.

Getting the cover right is important. In this case, nailing the humour and tone the author is after. Illustration is problem solving too. You'll see in this artwork in the background, on one side is the crowd is cheering, while the other is fed up as the ball whistles past the distracted keeper.

We could have had the fans in colour but after discussion, it was decided to keep them in shades of grey. Why? Well, imagine if one side was red and the other blue. It's important to make the book appealing to everyone, so if one colour was the losing team, that could put off a potential reader who supports a team that wears that colour. Make sense? These are the things I consider when doing illustration work.

For this book, I created illustrations for the cover and inside panels - but to see those you'll need to get the book!

Available from Waterside press

If you need a freelance book cover illustrator, get in touch for a chat;

Medical Illustration

Illustrating anatomy, science and medicine

Rocket Steps specialises in medical illustration (medcomms illustration) and motion graphics. Helping clients communicate medical and scientific information effectively through clear visuals and animation.

John's background in art, production and visual storytelling creates detailed and engaging medical illustrations for use in education and marketing. From anatomy to theory models, we can help you find the correct level of detail needed in your images to convey bodily structures and procedures clearly and concisely.

Catering for large and small-scale delivery, from one-to-one consultations to collaborations with other artists in the studio, John works with public and private medical healthcare organisations across the world. We assess project requirements and offer a variety of options to create visuals with precision and clarity that bring your project in on time and on budget.

Stem illustration, for science, Engineering, technology and Maths, medicine

We provide medical communication artwork which can be turned into motion graphics animation to explain complex processes clearly. As well as animation we also provide graphic design for leaflets brochures and exhibition stands.

Medical science illustration

We don't use AI-generated imagery, everything is bespoke and human-made. All artwork provided to the client is owned by the client on completion. We have a large bank of existing illustration reference images that we refer to to make projects cost-efficient.


Healthcare Graphic Design & illustration
Medcomms illustrator
STEM Education
Science and Education illustration

Medcomms illustration for the University of Manchester
e-learning illustration html5

People Watching at the Home Open

The Home Open is the biggest annual art exhibition the venue puts on, with over 400 pieces. I'm delighted to say have one of my illustrations on display at this year's show.

Home Open 2024

'People watching' is a bunch of faces, drawn at various events I attended last year, including the Edinburgh Festival and Wigan market. Super quick inked sketches of people as they walk by.

They are based on the speed portrait work I do at events, trying to capture real people quickly. In this case, it's folks who walk past, interesting characters in real places just going about their business. Once they've walked past, I'm left with what I saw and my sense of humour.

It's a fun exercise and I'm really glad I made the effort to enter this year. You can see the Home Open exhibition until the end of March 2024

John Cooper at the Home Open 2024

Home open

New Graphic Design and Illustration for 2024

Updated Jan 2024

Here are some recent projects to start the year, hope you have a creative 2024

Looking for new graphic design or illustration? Here are a few things to consider to ensure you get the best results.

Discuss your project goals: Start with the end in mind and work backwards. By explaining the purpose of your project we can look at the best way to achieve it.

Are you looking for ideas, or do you know exactly what you need? Both are fine. More information is good if you’re on a tight budget, though if you have some flexibility, that makes room to explore more visual styles and value-adds to get the most out of the end result.

Request a portfolio review. You can always ask or look at my existing work to help you find a jumping-off point for what you need to achieve your vision.

Timelines and deadlines: In my experience timelines are often really short or really long. The sooner you ask for sketches, the sooner we can get a feel for how long the overall project will take. Deadlines, even if they are long ones, always help push a project forward to completion

Don't be afraid to give feedback or ask for suggestions. A good illustrator/designer can be proud without being precious. It’s often good to understand why design decisions are made so they can provide valuable insights and enhance your project.

These are just a few suggestions to get you started. Each project is unique, so feel free to ask any questions. Reach out via the contact form.

Illustration and graphic design for the Manchester Fringe by designer and illustrator John Cooper. Contact john for a design quote for your project.
Illustration and graphic design for the Manchester Fringe by designer and illustrator John Cooper. Contact john for a design quote for your project.

Manchester and Camden Fringe illustration and brand design

Live art, graphic recording, visual minutes, visual note-taking, live scribing  by Live artist John Cooper. Contact John for a quote.

Live art / Graphic recording

What can an explainer video look like?

You've probably seen an explainer video. Traditionally it starts with someone talking, and then a hand appears and starts drawing what's being talked about, speedily making pictures to illustrate the subject. I've done a few of those, but they don't always need to look like that, do they?

I think it's just in the terminology, perhaps more folk have heard of the word 'explainer video' than say 'motion graphics' or 'storytelling video'. There are loads of ways of telling a story in a video, and explainer style is just one.

Where will it appear?

He's an example I did recently for NHS North West. You'll notice no sound or voiceover in this version. That's because in the initial meeting, we looked at what the team needed the video for, and where it would be seen. From there I could Then plan the best formats, so they got maximum value from the result.

Getting maximum value from the explainer video format

There were separate illustrations for print, a PowerPoint slideshow someone could talk over to an audience, and a version with text overlayered, to play out on a big screen in a conference room to engage an audience before an event began.

The end goal in mind

Having the end goal in mind helped the format. Identifying where and how the content would appear, meant I could lean into detail with the illustrations to engage the audience in my signature style. A great project to work on and cheers to the team for giving me creative freedom on it.

Illustration taken from an explainer video

Ask the robot dog assistant

Question: Come on then Turbine fella, how would you describe an explainer video?

Woof, an explainer video is a short and engaging video that explains a complex or tricky-to-understand subject in a simple and accessible way. It can be created using different styles such as hand-drawn animation or clean and technical data animation.

What could I use it for?

They can be used for a variety of purposes. They are great for simplifying complex ideas, introducing a new product or service, showcasing a brand or company, educating customers or employees, and promoting a cause or idea. 

How long should an explainer video be?

the ideal length of an explainer video depends on the complexity of the subject matter and the attention span of your target audience. Generally, most explainer videos range from 60 to 90 seconds. This is because attention spans are short, and you want to get your message across quickly and effectively. However, if the subject matter is more complex, the video can be longer, up to 2-3 minutes.

Useful links:

NHS GM integrated care

Can you draw sound?

Do you know what Phononics are? Can you draw sound?

Here's some new work I did for Professor Will J. Parnell for the International Phononics conference this year. As a creative, I love learning new things when I make animations and visuals - and this is a brilliant challenge.

"Phononic materials are engineered media that can manipulate waves propagating through them due to their synthetic and periodic architecture" Got that? My rough understanding is how soundwaves move through materials, and how soundproofing works.

Illustrating sound waves was pretty straightforward, with waveforms. Soundproofing materials was trickier. I looked at maths-based art (as that formed the exciting logo) with all its geometry, tesselation and symmetry, and the two parts came together nicely to carry the theme of the event. But where does the sound come from? These are the questions, and that's when the train the visual whoosh came in at the beginning.

Animating for #WorldAutismAwarenessWeek

Helping the NHS Cheshire tell positive stories of the experience of autistic people for their Autism Awareness Strategy.

The NHS Cheshire & Wirral are launching their new autism awareness strategy and were looking for someone to help promote it with some animation. Hello.
What was so cool about this project, is how open to ideas they were when I suggested using characters to tell a 'day in the life' story. We are all keen to get it right and make it really engaging. So less data and more story. It became a really positive collaborative process.

The Characters
Taking feedback from a group, the team tested a few types of characters, from basic shapes to talking animals and, settled on people with easy-to-read expressions.
Robbie, who brought me into the project had seen my pandemic comic strip, Distance, and was keen to use that style to render the characters, giving the animation (motion graphics to be fair) a comic strip feel to tell the story, some of which was taken from his own life experience.

The Script

The script was created collaboratively. I wrote up a first draft, a jumping-off point to work from. The team then added, edited and in our online meeting gave me plenty of notes to create a more well-rounded, story while keeping a light-hearted tone. If you want funny stories about real life - crikey, the folks in the NHS have loads of them!

The Recording

I did a first run, and then Robbie suggested recording people with lived experience. This made perfect sense, and as we weren't budgeting for full lip-synched animation and made the piece a lot more authentic.


In discussion with the NHS team, we looked at details like the use of colour, sound and clear facial expressions of the characters of Andy and his pal Seema. Big thanks to Maddy, Sharon, Lesley, Robbie and Mahesh for getting me in to be their art director, and creator of this video animation.

Do you have a story to tell? Not sure how to get started with it or just need some ideas?
Get in touch to see how I can help bring it to life.

The Princess and the Neutral Inclusion

Combining a few different techniques, working with the department of waves and materials at the University of Manchester.

The science itself was a bit tricky to get my head around, but then learning new things is one of my passions, and creating educational content like this is one of the pillars of the design studio - to make work that has value outside of just doing the work. So what are neutral inclusions I hear you ask? Well, I'm just the messenger, here's the video.

Big detailed Wall Illustration.

Here are a few excerpts from a large-scale wall art illustration I did recently. The final pieces are very big and I can't show you the whole thing, but this gives you a flavour of the final pieces.

These pieces are super detailed illustrations, not quite Where's Wally level wall artwork, but they did have to convey a lot of information and be engaging enough to stand the test of time if people were going to be seeing the work every day. It was a great project to work on and also time intensive!

Turning messages into illustration

The process of creating illustration work like this involved taking a lot of text content and then boiling it down. Turning those messages into visuals that were inspiring. Generating a lot of ideas and being imaginative with the messages was key to creating a good piece of wall art.

The whole project was done digitally, although it could have easily been done live on the wall. First off I created a series of sketches to cover each topic then needed depicting, and then these were arranged onto a larger canvas to find a good composition that would be narrative (tell a story), and not be confusing.

The sketches were drawn up in clip studio and converted into vector graphics from there. Vector conversion has come on a long way in recent years to convert pixel art into vectors, a format that can scale to any size. However, it's not perfect and still has a problem with very detailed artwork becoming muddy. Some of the original sketches had to be output at very high resolutions in order to convert without losing detail. The final pieces were tweaked by hand to smooth out any rough edges and then delivered to a very happy client.

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    Card Game Illustration

    Over the last few months, I've collaborated with Prof Martin Fitgerald at the University of Bradford, creating illustrations for a card game titled' 'Capturing the Sun'.

    Game illustration
    Mock-up of box design

    The game is designed to help with cognitive restructuring (a term used in CBT) and is aimed at people with long-term psychiatric conditions. Based on the Mouri folk tale of Maui, the Polynesian Demi-god who captures the sun with powerful ropes to make the day last longer. As described in the games manual;

    "This game is designed to help people who experience serious mental illness to make their own powerful ropes so they can capture the skills, knowledge and understandings required for recovery, so they too, can live in the light."

    It's been a fascinating project to work on as an illustrator, and I've always wanted to illustrate games.

    Martin's a fan of monochrome linocut illustration and liked my work, so I leaned into that for these card game illustrations.

    Deck cards depicted the terms used in cognitive restructuring, the challenge was then finding the right visual metaphor to describe the term. Some were straightforward, such as 'fortune telling' being depicted by a crystal ball.

    Others needed more revisions to get right. We were exploring visual ideas that aren't too prescriptive - or lead to incorrectly interpreting the meaning. In the case of 'Generalizations', the concept sketch began as a fog cloud, which was fine but not very, then an image of different hats, labelled 'hats' to signify the general. This had the opposite effect, being visually interesting but a little confusing for the term it was trying to encapsulate. We settled on a signpost with vague directions like 'here' and 'there', which was a good balance of communication design.

    The question cards needed faces. Heads of people from a diversity of backgrounds and ethnicities. As each card poses a dilemma, these folks expressions should be deep in thought, pondering their situation. In early drafts it was easy to push a little too far, drawing folks who looked very stressed out, so expressions were pulled back a little for a more subtle look. A raised eyebrow here or slight pout there was enough to capture what was needed without the character leaning into what could be perceived as negative.

    The game also needed a box cover and logo. The logo was based on Mau the sun god and the general feel was simple, using the clarity and monochrome lino-cut aesthetic to give the game it's style. Here's a mock-up of the final cover design of the sun god.

    Card game illustration

    Do you need illustration or graphic design for your next project or want creative input to help put your ideas in motion?

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      Early sketches, exploring ideas for the box and cards.


      Character Design

      I was approached by a design agency in Manchester to illustrate robot characters for their client, a tech company who were looking for something quite specific.

      I had the free rein to come up with suggestions of robots that would best suit their brand. Out of the ideas I suggested they opted for the detective and their dog.

      In early sketches, I used a rough and ready style, and also provided a vector version. Vector art can be helpful in reproduction as it can scale to any size, from a pin badge to the side of a van.

      In design apps, vector brushes can create very good clean line work, but I still find that they can't quite match the variation and liveliness of line work in pixel form, due to how software needs to process the data. Even converting pixels into vectors with the very best industry tools will smooth off lines and simplify them. I'm sure it won't be long before line work and speed of drawing is captured perfectly in pixels or vectors with no discernible difference, we're very nearly there. Saying that the software doesn't really matter, as long as the end product looks great.

      This work was created in clip studio and the vectors in affinity designer. Affinity designer is super fast, but also Clip studio has the ability to export pixels in 4K and 600dpi resolution, which makes bigger files but keeps the aesthetic intact. Whatever gets the job done.


      Character Design

      A selection of character design work from books and publicity.

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