02 the catcher in the rye

A reimagination of the classic book's cover

The Catcher in the Rye project image header


The Catcher in the Rye is a story about a boy called Holden Caulfield and his struggles with teenage angst and resistance of maturity. After facing expulsion from his prep school, he wanders around New York City where he is faced with the prospect of adulthood. This classic novel has been embedded as one of the greatest and most important stories in the literary world. This project revolves around the question ‘how can this classic piece of literature be contexualized within the modern era using the same, significant literary themes?’


The research process began with cross-analyzing the visual themes found on the original book cover and in the literature itself.

  • Main Themes
    • Alienation as a form of self-protection
    • The pain/inevitability of growing up
    • The resistance of maturity
    • "Phony"
  • Characters
    • Holden Caulfield (subjective narrator)
    • Phoebe Caulfield
    • Mr. Antolini
  • Symbolism
    • “The Catcher in the Rye” song
    • Red Hunting Hat
    • The Museum of Natural History
    • Carousel
    • The color Red
    • The ducks in Central Park
  • Motifs
    • Loneliness
    • Deception
    • Denial

Visual Components

Based on the research and literary analysis, I began to choose elements to incorporate into the cover design. The chosen elements helped me determine to pursue a direction in which to combine the three visual symbols to signify the story as the main visual: Holden’s Red Hunting Hat, a field of rye and a child. Early iterations of the hunting hat

Early iterations of the hunting hat

Other thematical components of design

Other thematical components

Final illustration of the hat with other elements

Final version of the hat with thematical components

The final visual is comprised of all three visuals combined, with the red hunting hat alluding to a cliff in which the children might fall off of at any moment, symbolic of a child’s loss of innocence and Holden’s greatest fear.

Final illustration of Holden looking up

Image of Holden looking up

Different Iterations

Having all of the elements meant just structuring them onto the actual cover design itself. My primary purpose was to emphasize Holden’s fear and disdain towards growing up by playing around with the illustrations’ placement on the design.

Project typography and color scheme

Typography and color scheme

Early cover iterations

Earlier iterations of front cover

Final front cover design

Final front cover design

Final Outcome

The final composition consists of children playing in a field of rye, which is in reference to the song Holden associates with his fear of “falling” into the traps of adulthood, while Holden’s red hunting hat is exaggerated in scale and doubles as the cliff in reference to the Catcher in the Rye song. His hat, and the color red in general, represents innocence in Holden’s eyes. And lastly, a figure of Holden looking up helplessly at the scene above him. This highlights his individuality and inevitability of his maturity.

First display of final book cover design Second display of final book cover design