A strange and wondrous Thing has happened. Suddenly, The Huntress: Sky – book two of The Huntress Trilogy – is less than eight weeks away from taking flight! The final cover is just as dreamy as the cover for Sea, with lots of glinting gold foil and heaps of drama.
This is thanks to a very talented team of illustrators and designers. To celebrate, I wanted to bring you a special treat – an exclusive interview with the one and only Laura Bird, book designer extraordinaire at Egmont. Here we are at the Egmont annual party, where we spent an evening geeking out over the beyond beautiful aesthetics of Leighton House.
I had many questions for Laura and was very excited to get the chance to ask them, as I’m completely fascinated by all the different roles in a publishing house, and all the people who work their magic to bring a book into being – making a book is a truly collaborative process.
So here’s the transcript from our interview!
Sarah: Hi, Laura! Could you tell us a little bit about your role at Egmont and describe a typical day in the life of a book designer?
Laura: A typical day for me would be starting around 9.30. I read my emails and follow up on any requests. I’ll also check in with Ray my junior designer and our freelance designer if we have one in that day, to make sure they have enough work to do and any copy or direction from me that they may need. Tuesdays I’ll be getting covers ready for a covers meeting on Wednesday morning. This entails designing typography and advising Ray on type for titles he’s helping me with. Chasing artists for artwork and comping ideas together to show to sales, marketing, editorial and design as well as designing illustration sheets for new artists we may like to commission. Keeping everyone busy to hit our deadlines and ensure a smooth running of our schedules is a big part of my job.
Other days I’ll have creative meetings with editorial or my design team. Every last Thursday of the month the whole design team, picture books, fiction, brands and licensing look at what’s going on in London design wise. We discuss any exhibitions or shows we have seen or heard about and any talks we’ve been to or would recommend. We’ll also talk about Illustrators we are keen to commission.
S – Where did you start out on your path to being a book designer?
L – After leaving college in the West Midlands, I studied Graphic Design at Kingston University. I got my first job at AKA, an advertising agency in the West End, designing print for West End shows. After another job designing DVD and video covers, I joined ECC, part of Egmont. I designed Disney Princess magazine for 7 years. After a redundancy back in 2010 I was lucky to meet Margaret Hope, my art director at Randomhouse. She took a chance on me as I’d never designed a book cover before. I was promoted shortly after joining Randomhouse to senior fiction designer before RH merged with Penguin and I headed off to work for Penguin Randomhouse. I joined Egmont as Senior fiction book designer July 2016.
S – What is your favourite part of the job?
L – Working with an inspiring team and commissioning amazing illustrators. The launch parties are pretty good too!
S – Do you have a favourite ever book design/series/edition, or style of design?
L – Oooh! Favourite book would be Memoirs of a Geisha or Alice In Wonderland. I also used to love the Worst Witch, my friends and I used to act out scenes from the books in my school playground.
I have 52 wildlife encyclopaedias that my grandad brought me in the 80’s that I used to draw from when I was bored. I still use them for research. I love really old books, visiting the RandomHouse archives in Rushton a few years back was amazing.
S – How do you experiment with different ideas – for example, do you make mood boards or mind maps?
L – I mainly sketch out ideas then work them up in photoshop or illustrator, I do design layouts for each job if I’m trying to get an idea across to an illustrator that isn’t straight forward. I did this for the Huntress: Sky.
S – Do you have to do a lot of research?
L – Yes, that’s a big part of each job.
S – Do you have any key ‘tools of the trade’?
L – My mac, Wacom, imagination.
S – How did you first come up with the concept for the cover of The Huntress: Sky?
I supplied illustrator Joe McLaren with a few pages of my research ideas, Joe then supplied a section of scraper board pattern which I used to create the cover, I drew birds flying around the title and then added lightning flashes to create a more atmospheric sky. I wanted a dramatic powerful sky, the sun bursting through the clouds.
I’m working on Storm as we speak.
(S – EEK! Exciting! And I LOVE this collection of research images!)
S – What’s been your proudest design moment to date?
L – The shout out from you to me at your launch was pretty epic!
(S – Aww! You mean, the launch party where we realised we were wearing the same ring? <3 )
L: And it’s always nice to get book of the month at Waterstones. Which we did!!
S: That we did. And I’m still pinching myself. Thank you so much for answering my questions, Laura!
Thanks for reading! Keep your peepers peeled for more exciting teasers and treats here and on Twitter as the launch of SKY approaches.