Considering how much of my life is spent at work, it’s kind of funny that I’ve never done a post about what my office looks like. Whenever I’m invited by other sites to share my workspace, I feel a little bit disingenuous sending in pictures of my desks at the house and (former) apartment. I mean, truthfully: The “office” at the house has become Evan’s music studio, and we don’t even pretend to call anything at the current apartment an office, unless you’re counting the sofa, which is where I do all of my blogging. No, my work happens in an office-office, one with bad industrial carpeting and a dropped acoustic ceiling and fluorescent lights and all of the other stuff nobody is particular interested in looking at pictures of.
Last summer, after 15 years spent working in the same spot in the same building (with most of the same awesome people), the entire art department was moved up one floor. Same building, same corner, but 20 feet higher. Aside from the joy that came from sifting through 15 years of accumulated junk and throwing away 75% of it, I decided to commit myself to turning my new workspace into a place I like to walk into every day.
I don’t have an office with walls. All of the designers in my department sit in a big, open room—that was our choice. We like to be able to talk, and we like to have tons of light. The light, of course, is the best thing about this office—it’s a landmarked building (one of the original art deco Rockefeller Center structures, completed in 1939), and that includes the enormous, steel-framed windows. Windows that open, mind you, though I don’t necessary recommend doing that on a windy day when you’re 14 flights up!
Anyway, because I work in an open room with other people (and other people’s stuff), It’s a little tricky to take pictures that show all of my space. I promise I do actually have a computer and a chair and a phone…and a very full inbox.
I don’t think there’s any way to fight generic office blah other than with bright colors and things that make you happy every time you look at them. “Elegance” is tough to pull off in this kind of environment, and I don’t even bother trying.
Over in this corner, I have an Alexander Girard PLYprint (these were issued by Columbia Forest Products in 2009, and sadly discontinued very sooner after), a bent-plywood “Clouds” clock from my own K IS FOR BLACK shop, a bootleg Andy Warhol poster (more on that in a minute), a letter A print from Ferm Living, and a vintage bus roll that I found at Three Potato Four.
So yeah, the Andy Warhol poster! Hah. If you read Scandinavian design blogs and frequent Swedish real estate websites, then you know that these Warhol posters—part of a series of reprints from a 1968 exhibit at Moderna Museet—are apparently issued to all Swedes along with their birth certificates. In the US, however, it’s next to impossible to get your mitts on one! I had dreams of buying one when I was in Stockholm, but the closest I was able to get to Moderna Museet was taking a longing photo from a window in a building next door.
So I decided to be a loser jerk and make my own. The real thing wouldn’t have fit in this spot anyway, and since the sentiment is pretty much the most perfect thing to be on a book cover designer’s wall, it had to happen. I knew what font they used for the poster, so…OK I’M ASHAMED. A little. But it’s not like I’m going to sell them (and no, I won’t send you the digital file), and if I ever do have the opportunity to buy a real, full-size one from Moderna Museet, I definitely will. Then I’ll hang that one in in my house, and keep the bootleg miniature at work.
This part of my desk is usually completely covered with book cover comps, but I had to move them all out of frame since they’re for titles that haven’t been approved yet. The work you see there is what became the hand-lettering for this book (just approved yesterday, yay!). My vintage Snoopy came from Three Potato Four, and the snake mug…
I LOVE MY SNAKE MUG!!! If you’re a fan of Craig Ferguson (and you should be), then you know Craigy is never without his trusty rattlesnake mug. I bought mine on eBay, and it’s identical to Craig’s—with the exception of the gold tooth, of course, which is a Late Late Show props department customization. (Weirdly enough, the snake mug sold by the CBS store is clearly not the same one Craig uses, which confuses me—but I’ll drop this subject now since I suspect it’s not very interesting to anyone but me…)
In case you ever wondered if 30 Rock was filmed on location, the answer is…actually, I have no idea (Update: It’s not—thanks, Bethany!), but if it’s shot on a sound stage, someone did an amazing job with it. Every time they showed Liz Lemon’s office, I had to smile at the 1930s radiator covers—the same ones are in every office throughout all of the old Rockefeller Center buildings. Same old windows, too.
I put those raindrops on my filing cabinet a few years ago, and they still make me happy. They’re just cut out of white paper with adhesive on the back, nothing fancy. The chair is an Arne Jacobsen Series 7 in a discontinued, terrifying shade of acid green that I love. I found it in the hallway in a storage pile during a company-wide office cleanout years ago, and I grabbed it. It still belongs to the company, of course, but I like having it in my area. The cute raindrop pillow and the triangle wall stickers are from Ferm Living.
I suspect I may be the only person working here with their own rug. It’s the same Nate Burkus Arrowhead rug (discontinued, alas) that I have in my dressing room, but in a smaller size. I would’ve gone bigger, but then my rolling chair would be getting caught on it. Office carpet is almost always a depressing thing, so it’s nice to have a tiny corner of happy floor covering to take the edge off. The bird hanging in the window is an Icelandic Krummi (raven) coat hanger designed by Ingibjörg Hanna Bjarnadóttir.
If you follow me on Instagram, then you’ve probably seen a lot of pictures of this view! My window overlooks 6th Avenue, and I’ve been documenting what I see out there during every season for the past 16 years. Here’s a compilation of some from 2013…
BOOKS! I can’t keep every book I’ve designed, obviously, but I hang on to the ones that are in series—multiple titles by the same author—since I often need to refer back to them later. (If you’re interested in seeing some of the covers I’ve worked on, I have a portfolio site.) Speaking of which, I have strict rules about books at this point. I don’t take ANYTHING home with me from work unless I really, really want to read it. I’ve already read most of what I worked on when it was in the manuscript stage, and if I start taking home every book that catches my eye (and there really are books EVERYWHERE when you work at a publishing company—it’s amazing), there will be no more room for people or dogs in my house. I cracked down about 10 years ago, and I’m glad. I love love love books, and (contrary to the Warhol quote) I really do love to read a whole lot, but there are limits.
And on that note, it’s FRIDAY, and I’m outta here! Have a great weekend!
Your office is awesome, I love all the prints on the wall!
Looks SO GOOD, Anna! What a happy place to work – although it still sounds like you spend waaay too much time there…
Have a great weekend!
Love your work space! So much light and beautiful graphics.
I have those same exact feelings about the Warhol poster. I’ve thought about making my own version, because yes, it is almost impossible to find one here in Canada. You’ve encouraged me to actually do it and make my own! I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing if we can’t get our hands on a legit copy….
Haha. Don’t blame it on me if they haul you off to prison, Nicole! I’m setting a bad example here, I know…
I had fun going through your portfolio–Frida Kahlo book cover is particularly incredible! Thanks for sharing your work space, I really enjoy your blog.
Thanks, Katie! That cover was a dream collaboration with my friend Lisa Congdon. 🙂
Craig Ferguson’s snake mug was broken this week by Geoff the skeleton robot side-kick!
That was a repeat! The mug was “repaired” by the next episode. 😉
This looks like such a bright workspace, despite the downfalls you described of being in a corporate building. I love all of the art you have chosen and I especially love that rattlesnake mug. I am at the front of a corporate office (hellllo reception!) and I dream of having an office like this.
Wow it is a long period of time to work for the same company, I never spent more then 3 years on one job, lots of project work and fixed-term contracts. I like to work in shared office if I share it with 3-4-5 and not more persons, otherwise it ist too vivid.
About your job, do you make your own photos for covers or buy them online?
Both! I also commission photos and artwork. Many covers are digital composites of lots of photos, too (the one I linked to in the post is four separate photos, for example)…you don’t want to see how the sausage gets made. 😉
What a cool post, Anna!
And do you know what’s the coolest thing? I’m a literary translator from Portugal and I’ve translated Liz Tuccilo’s How to be Single! I didn’t know it was one of your covers!
Oh, that IS cool!
i have always kinda wondered what your work space looked like. awesome makeover! and…snoopy! 🙂
I <3 <3 <3 Snoopy!
What an exciting place to work, right in the heart of Manhattan in a cool job. The new book cover Charlie’s Glass Slippers is gorgeous. I should customize my space a little. It’s not quite MY space because officially I’m freelance and not there a lot of the time but I’ve been with the same company for years so it would be fine. My colleagues did perched a toy budgie on my wall with a paper speech bubble stuck behind it saying “tweet”, a little poke at my favourite waste of time.
I had no idea you freelanced in-house, Fiona! I always assumed you worked from home…
How fun I love that you showed this. So has your little makeover inspired your workers with the space they have yet?
They all have their own things going on already. 🙂
Wow Anna, you have New York at your feet!!!
Just have to love your office. I once redid a company with the same ceilings, I replaced the panels with 6mm birchwood ply (it was a low budget overhaul), changes the entire feeling of the thing.
Have a wonderful weekend.
Hej hej, I’m close to Moderna Museet in Malmö, so I’ll see if I can find the poster for you when I’m next there. 🙂
Kait, thank you! Shoot me an email if they ever get them back in stock, I’d happily pay for that!
Your office is amazing!
I was browsing the books you have designed and I have to ask: is that you on the cover for The Long Shadow by Liza Marklund?
Hah! No, it’s not, but one of my friends at work asked me the same thing.
Beautiful transformation! How lucky you are to work there.
That’s awesome! I’m a book cover designer too, although I’m at a super small company in CT and don’t have an office like that… But someday!!
Enjoyed your portfolio Anna. There are a lot of people’s backs! 🙂
Hahaha, yeah, that’s kind of my thing…especially if there’s a body of water in the distance, haha. 😉
That snake mug is too cool for words..! 😀
As soon as I saw that mug, I thought, I bet she’s a craigyferg fan! I can’t ask him so I’ll ask you, does the snake face get in your way when you’re drinking? It seems it would hit you in the cheek…
I have to confess that I don’t actually drink out of the snake mug, mostly because I’m so scared I’ll drop it! It’s pretty enormous, though, and I have held it up to my face—the fangs cleared my cheek no problem. 😉
I just discovered your blog and I absolutely love it!
Thanks, Emmi! Welcome 🙂
Love your office. You are so lucky to have the corner and that view! I would really like to know where the two skulls on your windowsill are from. Thanks
Hi Kathy! The little white skull on the left is from Mudpuppy, the glitter skull in the middle is a Halloween prop (it’s styrofoam covered in glitter and it has light-up eyes!), and the one on the right came from one of those paint-it-yourself pottery shops (I spray-painted it matte black).
Just want to let you know you spelled one of the designer’s name wrong. The woman who makes Krummi is Ingibjörg Hanna Bjarnadóttir. I know they say it’s Bjarnadottor on the website but that is a spelling error 🙂
Here is her website if you want to comfirm it: http://www.ihanna.net/about.html
Thanks, Sandra! Fixed. 🙂
Cool office! I didn’t realize you designed book covers, seems like a really fun job. How do you feel about the criticism of certain authors on the marketing of their books as “chick lit” based on the cover art?
I think that discussion would really have to be about specific titles/authors and what their argument is, but there have certainly been plenty of times when I pick up a book and am surprised by the disconnect between the cover design and the tone of the book—not just with “chick lit” (a term I really dislike and try not to use), but with any kind of genre fiction as well. As a designer, it’s not just my job to interpret the book and create a package to represent it, but to listen to the publisher and editor and sales team and work with their input as well. It takes a lot of people to create and sell a book! What’s more troubling to me is that books written by women are often seen as being fluff/lightweight/disposable regardless of what’s going on on the cover. You might be interested in reading Jennifer Weiner’s recent piece in the New Yorker:
Man oh man! Your workspace is the stuff of my dreams.
I’m a product designer but my company’s (pathetic excuse of an…) art department is just a single row of standard issue cubicles. No email accounts, no phones, one lonely 8×10 scanner; it’s bare bones over here.
On my first day of work, I was told by a coworker, “Welcome to Malden! This is where designers come to die.”
Sadly, the Rhode Island/ Massachusetts area isn’t exactly a hot bed of design opportunity…..
And on that depressing note, thanks for posting!
I enjoy your photos on instagram & it’s fun to see where you take them from! It couldn’t be further removed from my suburban life in Oklahoma. The world is wide & so interesting.
I just looked at your portfolio website and… V.C. Andrews!! I first read Flowers in the Attic and the whole series in the 7th grade I had dislocated my elbow and my mom gave me a bag of all her V.C. Andrews books and I was hooked. She’s such a guilty read for me. I might have to buy them now with your covers. Does this mean you’re doing the covers for the rest of the books in the series?
Hi Patricia, I’ve been designing all of the VC Andrews book covers since 2007. The first two original titles were recently repackaged to coincide with the Lifetime movies. I have no idea whether the rest in the original series will eventually be repackaged, but I will be continuing to design all of the future new titles as well.
Anna, I am just so inspired by you! I work at a book publisher in DC (we’re distributed by Random House) and love to see how big publishers are all set up. You do beautiful work and have great taste!
I’ve been working at Random House for about three years now and I still fall into an acquisitional fugue state every time I pass a free book shelf. Just one of the reasons my workspace looks like an actual garbage heap next to yours!
Oooh, Emma, I hear you. It was around year four that I really cracked down! (Also, I’ve carefully cropped out my entire office stash—believe me, there are PILES of free books that I’m “definitely going to read” just out of camera range…)
You’re so smart to have decorated your office space. I wouldn’t say that doing so is discouraged here at my office, but no one has really personalized their space. It’s a bit boring to sit in such a messy, beige space for so many hours each day! Now I’m planning to start my own business (!!!) and work from home. I don’t really have a dedicated office BUT I am determined to at least carve out a lovely nook for working 🙂
Love your office, and how I envy that you have a coveted corner spot.
30 Rock was not filmed on location except for a few exterior shots. It was filmed in LIC at Silvercup Studios. They did a great job of recreating the look of the building though. Now Girls is using Tina’s old space!
Nor sure if you will read this, anyhow, I did not know who Craig Ferguson was (because I am very bad at names) but I saw a clip of him a while ago with his mug and than I put this post and him together. I am with you on Craig Ferguson, love love love. Too bad he is quitting his show, but who knows what he will do next? Maybe more movies. http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2014/apr/29/craig-ferguson-leaves-late-show-best-clips
Have a wonderful day!