Art + Design + I Design Stuff

Weekend? What?

See these piles of manuscripts? They are a pretty good representation of the number of unresolved, undesigned, book covers I’m working on right now. Three times a year, there’s a big crunch as we get our covers ready for the next seasonal catalog (summer 2009 is being designed right now). It’s kind of an awful feeling for a couple of weeks, and then there’s a (brief) period of relief before everything comes back with requests for changes and reworking.

A couple of my titles are giving me grief right now—things I thought would come together quickly, but somehow nothing looks right. That tends to happen more with the books I enjoyed during the reading stage of the process. I’m always amazed when the comps finally DO start flowing—where were all those ideas before, and why didn’t they come to me sooner?

Yeah, it’s coming home with me this weekend. (And no, I don’t have Monday off!)

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  • Reply Bailey October 10, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    Quick question. I’m re-entering college at 22 and am interested in eventually trying to get a job designing book covers. What did you major in and how did you end up getting your job? I’m looking at majoring in Multimedia (photography, graphic design, typography) and was wondering if the major would be relevant or what I should look into doing to make my resume more desirable once I’m finished with school.

  • Reply karly October 10, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    ugh, don’t you just love working weekends? It’s the story of my life (no pun intended). I try to remember that it’s worth it for my awesome job, and you certainly have a great one as well!!!!

  • Reply erin@designcrisis October 10, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    I feel really stupid, but it never occurred to me that you actually had to read all of those books just to design the covers! Of course it completely makes sense that you would need to do that.

    Best of luck getting everything done with grace… lucky that you have such an awesome job!

  • Reply suzanne October 10, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    the creative process is a big bitch!

    sometimes i come here and read your blog and the parallels in our lives are just spooky. i am a graphic designer (in midtown no less!) and really struggling to come up with a concept for a certain project too. looks like we have similar plans for the weekend. good luck!

  • Reply Vicki October 10, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    I design CD covers…but fortunately (for the most part), we don’t have to listen to the music before we design. Unfortunately, we barely have any time to come up with designs – we normally don’t see the job folder until the day the proof is due! I feel for you, though, I HATE that feeling.

  • Reply Emily October 10, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    Best of luck getting your work done. I feel your pain. I have a huge essay to wright this weekend.

  • Reply Anna at D16 October 10, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    Bailey: I get asked this kind of question a lot, but I can only give you an answer that reflects what I did — there are certainly a lot of paths a person can take to arrive at a particular career. That said, I have a BFA from an art school. My major was in Visual Arts, with a concentration in Design. My (informal) minor was in Printmaking/Art of the Book. I also studied Art & Design History in depth while I was in school. My personal belief is that the academic aspects of an Arts education — specifically Art & Design History — are absolutely essential. Whether or not a BFA is more likely to get you a job you love as a working designer, I don’t know. I do know that spending 5 years immersed in studying Art & Design on both technical and academic levels gave me a far greater appreciation and understanding for design and its importance in society, and that makes me like my job a whole lot more than I would otherwise.

    I started working at my current job 10 years ago, less than 2 weeks after graduating from college. I had made connections through professors who knew I wanted to work with books, and things really just fell into place. My portfolio contained only school projects and a few small freelance jobs. I think my work was good for a beginning designer, but what probably got me the job was my direct experience with the book industry. During college, I worked full-time for Borders as a new book merchandiser, and I wound up gaining a vocabulary and knowledge of the publishing world on a marketing level. That brief period of time spent in retail work has helped me immensely. At the very least, I would suggest that you spend a lot of time in book stores. Watch how people shop; pay attention to what they pick up when they’re browsing. Read the New York Times book reviews, and watch the bestseller lists. Gain a working knowledge of what sells. Ultimately, your job as a cover designer is to sell a PRODUCT — it’s not to create art. Art (or at least very good Design) might ultimately come out of that effort, but your own vision will always be secondary (or tertiary, or…).

    Sorry that was so lengthy! Whatever you do, GOOD LUCK. 🙂

  • Reply sweet fine day October 11, 2008 at 11:11 pm

    Same here. I’m at the beginning of 2 design projects and working the weekend (but that isn’t new). And I’ve been endlessly procrastinating and distracted as I try to come up with a concept and comp that works.

    Oh, and yes…black floors!

  • Reply kay* October 13, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    you’re job sounds so incredibly creative and fun to me. i have always loved books and looking at the covers – wondering why something was designed the way it was, was this image considered…etc…and never really thought that designing the cover was an actual job! a cool one at that! and being able to read books in advance would be a bonus. do you ever get to meet the authors? or do their revisions come back through their agents or something? very cool.

  • Reply RIchtsje November 1, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    That’s some paperwork indeed! Whooosh…
    Sounds like a nice job, yours; lots of creative thinking and working!

  • Reply Lulu February 2, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    I sent you an email earlier…this post however answers my question. I hate that I asked a question that you probably have been asked a gazillion times…lol

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