Designing the Harry Potter Audio Books

Production efficiency through design solution

Magic moment

Our initial meeting with Helen Nicoll, owner of Cover to Cover, took place sitting on unopened boxes in what was then our new studio in Dalston, East London. Little were we to know where our journey together would take us.

Star turn

Helen founded the audio book company Cover to Cover with the aim of producing quality, unabridged recordings of classic books using the best talent available. This approach had secured her the licence for the soon to become phenomenon of Harry Potter. And in another example of insight, she'd commissioned the multi-talented Stephen Fry as the voice of the best-selling books.

Fast forward

Back then cassettes were the most popular format for audio books with sales of CD versions harder to generate. We were initially asked to design a new way of packaging cassettes that would create a unique presence in the audio book market.

Flash of inspiration

We knew that most audio books are listened to while people are driving or travelling and so wanted to make the tapes as easy to use as possible. We went back to basics, removed all the unnecessary materials; card, jewel cases etc and created a polypropylene case with a simple slip sheet. This new approach cut the packaging costs for audio cassettes by 70 per cent and the design gave the product far greater presence in store.

Hall of mirrors

Having proved ourselves, we were then asked to look at packaging for CDs. We took the same tack, dispensing with jewel cases and using packaging intended for software not music or audio.


Early on we realised that Stephen Fry was our greatest asset in distinguishing the audio product from the books. To capitalise on this we began commissioning regular photo shoots to provide us with original images to use in marketing and on packaging. It's an approach that has continued to produce inspiring results as the Harry Potter series has developed.

Never ending story

We produced all of the packaging and marketing for Harry Potter audio, successfully building a recognisable brand for the product. So successful in fact that our client sold her company to BBC Audio, but that's another story.

Photo of Paul Nunneley

Paul Nunneley

Founder and Digital Strategy Consultant

Paul is co founder and director of UXB London. With more than 20 years commercial expertise, he is a Digital Strategist and Experience Designer with a background in branding, graphic design and photography.

Paul is the lead consultant and planner on major client projects and acts the chief architect of the solutions we devise. As well as having big picture ability that helps him quickly grasp the business context of the work at hand, he is a very experienced UX designer able to focus in on the detail of interactions that can be the difference between simple utility and delight.

Paul is a trusted advisor to many key clients such as A.N.D, The Audience Agency, Trinity House and Willmott Dixon.


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