Books are a pinnacle tool for early development, not just to learn, but to unlock creativity, imagination and wonder, but as kids books are one of the hardest thing to sell.
When you think of 90’s reading horror material you’ve gotta be thinking about the one and only Goosebump books. They’re a staple of 90’s kids reading material that graced the school libraries and store shelves of your adolescent youth.
And since their humble beginnings, they’ve made forays into a variety of mediums like TV shows, games, toys, movies and even a horror experience. Goosebumps became an icon not only for their slightly cheesy, always creepy stories, but in large part due to the design of those covers.
Scholastic hit the mark when they picked up Author R.L. Stine who just so happens to be front and center on every cover. But a lesser know, yet no less important name is also hidden within the pages of these tombs; Tim Jacobus. He’s not one of the artist for these books, but THE artist for the entire series minus Be careful What You Wish For and Stay Out of The Basement. In a world of design houses, one off freelancers and overworked illustrators, Tim was a man of his own company, an army of one and was as much Goosebumps as R.L. Stine.
Tim drew his inspiration from the great album cover designers of his time such as Roger Dean.
With some of his first covers almost copies of that style. He later grew into his own and evolved within the issues of Goosebumps.
The saying goes never judge a book by it’s cover, but as kids that’s exactly what drew us towards these books. The covers were the main selling point to us as kids. They didn’t have trailers like movies or commercials like video games, so the cover needed to be strong. It was that elevator pitch, it needed to tell the entire story without a single word, artistic yet designed to be understood by 6th graders. The title sat back seat to the demented slightly sickening ultra realistic and warped perspective images boarded in those covers. While he’s considered an artist, he used various best practices and design techniques to make eye pleasing and catching covers. He was the advertiser for these books whether he knew it or not.
The way he utilized primary and secondary colors in a complementary way to represent horror is something we don’t see that much in teen horror books today. Almost whimsical, the now drab always mellow design of today’s covers lack that character. Relying more on movie or tv tie-ins, stand alone book covers can’t compete with the artistic styles of Goosebumps. From his first cover Scholastic knew that Tim was right for the books and with Egg Monster From Mars; showcased his evolution of cover design by creating dramatic warped perspectives to make you feel small or make an egg yolk feel evil and dark in a familiar yet nightmarish kitchen.
Tim is a masterful artist using traditional paint with air brush to get that smoothed oily look. This was done before the days of Photoshop and Wacom tablets. And while this style can be seen throughout his work, through the goosebumps books this became his trade mark design. And while he’s done other stuff after goosebumps. He’ll always be the face of Goosebumps.