A render of the front cover of the book 'Haunting Ashton Court, A Creative Handbook for Collective History-Making', edited by Elinor Lower and Jack Young. In the background a hazy gradient goes from a deep violet to a cold sea green. Disparate abstract scraps of photographic, painted and collaged imagery float around the cover, linked by a black chain which snakes its way from top to bottom. Around the perimeter, a graphical motif of a gateway tries to contain these forms, but they spill out beyond the threshold and the edge of the book itself.
A render of the back cover of the book 'Haunting Ashton Court'. The background is a deep violet and the text is white. Around the perimeter is a graphical shield or perhaps an upside-down door motif, which contains the text within. Towards the bottom of this shape, just above text which reads

Part map, part torch, part shadow

The expansive project that is Haunting Ashton Court is all of these things—via a trio of written commissions responding to the gaps in the Ashton Court archives, a script from a live performance by young Bristolians and a creative toolkit to help its readers make their own first steps into collective history-making.

They were the ideal collaborator, steering us in the right direction and pushing us to make bold choices whenever we were being cowards. The finished book is astonishingly beautiful and a really meaningful “artefact”.

Elinor Lower editor of Haunting Ashton Court
The inside cover spread of the book 'Haunting Ashton Court’. The left page is partially obscured by the flap of the book's front cover, which has a gradient background that fades from blue to violet, and a continuation of the chain motif from the front. Below the flap is a repeated pattern made up of the book's logo in rows, bisected by rows of the same chain motif on top of a black background. The right-hand page has two paragraphs of text centred vertically.
A spread from the book Haunting Ashton Court. Both pages have a deep orange background; the left page is blank whereas the right-hand page has an outlined abstract doorway illustration containing the Haunting Ashton Court logo motif, and the word 'Writings' in a large, decorative sans-serif that is shaped to match the curve of the doorway.
A spread from the book Haunting Ashton Court. Paragraphs of text run across two off-white pages. At the top of the left-hand page is large serif text that reads 'Silent In Sight-circa 1640, Zakiya McKenzie'.
A spread from the book Haunting Ashton Court, which has a very light violet background. At the top of the left-hand page is large, decorative serif text that reads 'Haunting Ashton Court: An Example of How A Show Might Go'. The right-hand page is made up of several paragraphs of much smaller text.
A spread from the book Haunting Ashton Court. Both pages are made up of full bleed photographs. The left hand-page shows the silhouette of a person, seated and facing to the left. They sit in front of a surface which emits a calming orange-red glow. Faint shadows of tree-like objects are projected onto the surface. In the background of the right-hand, a figure on a figure reads into a microphone on a fairy-light-lit stage, which sits in front of a shadowy, arched doorway. The figure's dress is lit by bright, white light, giving them a somewhat ghostly appearance. In the foreground the face of a second figure is turned towards the camera. Their eyes are closed, and their head is tilted upwards, as if in a trance.
A spread from the book Haunting Ashton Court. Both pages have a very light blue background and black, serif text. The left-hand page has two small paragraphs of text at the top, while the right-hand page has a grid of 6 boxes with turquoise, rounded borders. The text within the boxes reads, from left to right, top to bottom, 'Warm-up Games 144', 'Getting Started 152', 'Devising 160', 'Creating Movement 166', 'Writing 179' and 'Reflection & Evaluation 189'.

Subverting the lock

When Jack first approached us with the nascent seeds of this project, we quickly formed some key aesthetic roots that would underpin it: collage (in the sense of archive), threads, fragments, gatekeeping and decay, amongst others. We also had a strong predetermined idea of the importance of the books breadth and appeal: it should be engaging and accessible to anyone and everyone, and therefore it needed to play aesthetically with a subversion of the ideas of gatekeeping—both academic and social.

To quote the text that adorns its back cover, Haunting Ashton Court is an invitation to join us in thinking differently about history: which stories make the cut, who is given permission to tell them, and how we might re-shape them. In response to this ideology, our cover design centres around eerie, floating abstract forms—like burned paper fragments of artefacts from the project—held captive by chains around a graphical motif of a gateway or window (both ghostly portal and uncrossable threshold). Typographically, the typeface of the title (the Upstairs) theatrically enunciates this spectral essence, and that sense of both theatre (literal or otherwise) is reinforced with the fluid, alternate-heavy strokes of Orpheus Pro, which attempts a contemporary visual translation of historical, calligraphic letterforms—seen here as the books subtitle and throughout the book on title pages.

The triptych structure of the book was an exciting challenge to design, and we attempted to use subtle visual pointers throughout to make its use as intuitive and immersive as possible to its potential users: each of the three main sections—commissions, script, toolkit—are delineated by a different palette, and each section is interspersed and bookended by the full-bleed imagery (often the wonderful photography of Maria Meco Sanchez).

The Haunting Ashton Court insignia. A gateway or window shape surrounds the letters 'HAC', in a decorative, calligraphic sans-serif font. The 'H' lies on its side, like a roof sheltering the other two letters.
The insignia we created for Haunting Ashton Court

Working with Frontwards Design could not have been simpler or more of a pleasure. Throughout the design process they were the ideal collaborator as we shaped both the visual language and the overall shape of the book. Publishing a full-colour, 230-page book was an alien experience for us, so it was immensely reassuring to have them there to steer us in the right direction and push us to make bold choices whenever we were being cowards. Best of all, they answered all our silly questions (and made sure we never felt silly for asking them) and even built a simple site so we could actually sell the thing once it was complete. The finished book is astonishingly beautiful and easy to read and a really meaningful artefact of our sprawling, unclassifiable live performance / text / archive / history-making project.

Elinor Lower editor of Haunting Ashton Court