Tag Archives: book design

The Blog Is BACK!!!

It’s finally time to resurrect my blog from its long hiatus!  I’ve actually missed being on Walking In Public… digging up blog content has always kept me engaged with the publishing/art/design industries, and it motivates me to write and draw regularly.  So, I’ll be back on the blog for a long while, with all-new features and updates on my journey to success in the children’s book world!

What have you missed while I’ve been away from the blog? Here are the best things that happened, circa 2011:

Annie’s Top 5 2011 Professional Developments

1. Illustrated and designed the Little Farmer app.

You may remember that I began a project working on a toddler game app, called Little Farmer, back in May.  Well, after months of illustrating, designing and developing, we released it for sale in the iTunes store in October!  It has been a really wonderful experience working with a talented developer, Anita Hirth, to create artwork that children can interact with, right there on any iPhone.  There’s much more to say about the process of creating an app, and my future in the digital world… but those are subjects for bigger posts!

In the meantime, purchase the app here, or watch the video trailer, above!

2. Joined the Children’s Book Council’s Early Career Committee.

I’ve been attending events for young adults in the publishing industry for awhile, so it was exciting to be asked to represent Penguin Young Readers (and designers everywhere) on the Children’s Book Council’s Early Career Committee.  This organization creates opportunities for those in the first 5 years of the children’s book industry to network, learn, and become more involved in their fields… so their mission is right up my alley!  Since becoming a part of the team this summer, I’ve had a TON of fun making great friends with 20-somethings in different houses, through planning creative programming.  I’m also having a blast designing fliers, making good use of my design time and talents.

If you haven’t already, make sure to catch up on the CBC and ECC’s fabulous social media enterprises – Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

3. Made friends with WordPress.org.

One of the biggest hurdles in creating marketing materials for Little Farmer was: what to do about the website?  A website is obviously essential for promoting any business or product, but my knowledge of web design is spotty at best.  I’ve taken a class on Flash, but I gotta admit, coding scares the bejeezus out of me. So I turned to the platform I knew best – WordPress, home of this very blog!  WordPress.org is actually slightly different from its blogging sister WordPress.com. In a day or two, you can create practically any site imaginable, using existing templates, posts and pages, and update new content anytime – hardly any coding required.  The process is worth a separate future post, but here are the first two sites I made:

www.smartcookiestudios.com (using Suffusion theme)
www.anniebethericsson.com (using Blue Bubble theme)

4. Designed a few picture books.

What was I up to at my real job? Designing wonderful titles with Putnam and Nancy Paulsen Books!  In addition to my regularly scheduled board books, anniversary editions and novel interiors, I had the opportunity to have my own picture book assignments.  My first book, Half-Pint Pete the Pirate, was quickly followed by Dave Horowitz‘s hilarious, “spaghetti-western-style” Chico The Brave.  I also was honored to redesign Jan Brett‘s Beauty and the Beast reissue, and also redesign the jackets of a few international imports.  My favorite? The Aussie “new classic”, Maudie And Bear.

5. Freelanced Projects.  

Lastly, I’m happy to report that in addition to my busy schedule and pet app project, I also picked up a few freelance gigs.  Chief among them was an exhibition catalog for the Simms Taback retrospective at the Museum of Ventura County.

I’ll never forget that I was able to get to know Simms and work with him on this 16-page booklet of his work, in the few last months before his death this December.  He was a truly exceptional man with a kind heart, a keen eye for design, and an inspirational wealth of artistic creativity.  It was always wonderful to speak with him, and I loved that he was so involved with every aspect of his craft.  It does give me comfort, though, that before he passed, he saw the publication of his final book, Postcards from Camp, the opening of the exhibit, and travelled with friends and family.  He will be sorely missed!

Read more about Simms’ amazing life and work here.

. . .

And now, looking forward to 2012… keep reading here for more posts, new content, and as always, a love of illustration, books and design all around! 

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Best of Student Work 2011 – Part 2: The Pratt Show

Mozart at the Beach from Christee Curran on Vimeo.

Oh, the Pratt Show . . . it’s hard to believe that it’s been a full year since all the momentous graduation-related events were happening to me!  It was great to be on the other side of things last week… browsing new artists, sipping champagne and catching up with old classmates, without the stress of having my own work in the show.

This year’s class certainly didn’t disappoint in talent!  I was so proud to see many familiar faces represented at the show, from Sarah Mimo‘s swoonworthy clocks, to new textile prints from Alexa MacFarlane and new comics from our former Putnam intern, Kris Mukai.  I’m also jumping for joy to showcase Christee Curran‘s video storyboard project (above). How adorable is that kid at the beach?!

In addition to old friends, there were also a few new faces at the show.  Here were my favorite kids’/book related discoveries:

1. Alexandria Marie Compo / I loved her quirky animal characters, and combination of digital and hand-crafted work. In fact, we were all so taken with her 3-D figures that they almost “walked” away with us!  Very well suited for the pages of a trade hardcover picture book.

2. Michelle Lynch / Michelle’s range of work is crazy – I’ve honestly never seen a graduating student grasp the concept of licensing so well!  Her style may be “simple”, but she captures a bright, cute and fun spirit with ease, and then translates it to a wide variety of products, books and character designs.

3. Erin Maala / Erin’s intricate paper-cutting skills had all of us Penguin employees drooling over her book jackets like Wuthering Heights and The Bell Jar. Another classic book series in the making, perhaps?

4. Zoe Norvell / With smart, sophisticated humor, Zoe designs books that are seriously attention-grabbing.  I especially appreciated the wit and depth of information in her collections The Future Of The Book and OKCupid.  Oh, and – how could I forget? – she redesigned Harry Potter, and we liked it. A lot.


lil zines and silkscreens from jane mai on Vimeo.

5. Jane Mai / Her work might look like it could be for kids, but trust me . . . it’s grown-ups only.  But her irreverent, freaking-hilarious style translates perfectly to comics, zines and more – so make sure to head on over to her site for the full experience!

AIGA’s 50 Books/50 Covers Exhibit

On Monday, the Art Department took a field trip to see the AIGA’s 50 Books/50 Covers of 2009 exhibit.  It was a worthwhile show to attend, but I had mixed feelings about it.  For one, the non-traditional gallery presentation (above) brought both advantages and challenges.  I loved the low bleacher set-up for books, because I could sit and relax while browsing heavier volumes.  But the bleachers did the covers a huge disservice; not only did you have to bend down repeatedly to pick up each individual cover, you had to flip the card over to even see the image.

But the main reason that I left ambivalent over the 50/50 exhibit encompassed more of my greater feelings about design in general.  Without a doubt, the books on display were creatively inspiring.  I loved thumbing through the photos and art, the lavish paper stocks, and the 3-dimensionality of a beautifully-presented package.  Books like these make me want to go home, stay up all night and make ART.  It makes me feel a little inferior that I’m not doing that kind of work already.

At the same time, though, many of these books get right to the heart of one of my greatest pet peeves: design for design’s sake. Design should always serve a purpose, complement its material, and make content accessible to its consumer. I love design because it places equal importance on being functional AND visually pleasing.  But many of the 50/50 books suggest the opposite. Type running into more type, or scattered across the page, or written in tiny Helvetica Bold . . . these things appeal to the hipster art-design community, but aren’t the best solution for the general reader.  Go ahead and be as artsy as you want, but please, let it make sense.

That being said, I’ve composed some highlights of the exhibit to present my case.  I’ll showcase my favorites, as well as some titles that really made my blood boil.

A perfect example to explain my point?  Two books, no type on the cover:


Afrodesiac (AdHouse Books) – Perfectly captures the 1970s exploitation and comic book crazes. The interior contains pictures, not words. Generally all-around badass.

vs.

Manuale Zaphicum (Jerry Kelly LLC) – Yes, the letterpressed interior is absolutely gorgeous, but I found a blank cover for a book about a type designer to be annoying-ironic, not funny-ironic.

See what I mean?  Okay, now on to some favorites:

Pictorial Webster’s (Chronicle Books) – Gimme gimme gimme those vintage engravings!

What Is Affordable Housing? (MTWTF) – A clear, accessible and handy guide that speaks to non-designers, but doesn’t sacrifice a bit of design. Bravo!

Silhouette: The Art of Shadow (Gabriele Wilson Design) – My pick of the “elegant art books”.

The Monsterologist (Sterling) – Oh hey, it’s a children’s book!  One of two, the other being Alphabeasties and Other Amazing Types (Werner Design Works, Inc.).

One Million (Think Studio) – Scanning through a million dots is a great way to give abstract numbers some concrete, visual interest.  Image

And now, the best-of the pretty, “touchable” books:

The Original Of Laura (Knopf) – A beautiful way to showcase Nabokov’s last notes with removable versions of his original index cards.

For Jean Grolier And His Friends (Jerry Kelly LLC) – This 500-page doorstopper is an exquisite tribute to fine bookmaking, but I don’t feel worthy to flip through it.

Riley And His Story (Matthew Rezac Graphic Design) – The typographic cover made this one stand out, and I love the layered cut-out trim sizes of the the interior pages.  A moving book of photographs.

Wine Labels (Eduardo del Fraile) – Using cork as the cover and a vertical trim size are perfect examples of out-of-the-box design that actually make contextual sense.

Edward Gordon Craig (Base) – The slice of bright green peeking out from the inside redeems this from the . . .

Helvetica Wall of Shame!!!

50/50 Designers, why do you so often use Helvetica (or something close to Helvetica), when there are an infinite variety of typefaces in this world?!  Is it just so that you can appeal to the hipster, “modern design” consumer with such ease that you don’t have to think about finding something better suited to your project?  For shame!

Note: Some of these books are truly great, but it doesn’t save them from THE WALL.

Everybody Dance Now (Pentagram) – The fun rainbow foil makes this “history of the hipster parties” book… but just barely.

D’Apostrophe (ZAGO) – Love the 3-D cover, but there are plenty of other typefaces that “resonate with the notion of geometry and living forms within positive and negative space.”

MEC (Mevis & van Deursen with Danielle Aubert) – Juror’s comments: “The design and type selection are as cerebral as the work”.  Enough said.

Fabrizio Giannini: Live Without Dead Time (Sidi Vanetti) – Akzidenz-Grotesk = same thing.

SVA Undergraduate Catalog 2010/11 – Also in the “almost-Helvetica” doghouse, but props to them, because I can’t help but look at this book and get jealous.  Why did Pratt give us nothing like SVA’s promotional material?

At this point, you may be asking, do I just have an illogical beef with hipster design and sans-serifs?  Maybe.  Luckily, this is my blog, and I get to rant about it here.

Top 5 Things To See/Know/Do This Week

Since the week has been so crazy for me preparing the Spring 2012 picture books at work, here are a few announcements/discoveries to keep y’all busy:

1. Seems that Coralie Bickford-Smith, senior cover designer over at the UK’s Penguin Books, has been on everyone’s brains lately . . . I received two links to her in the past few days!  I have always been a huge fan of her Clothbound Classics series, but I hadn’t seen her full site.

And, my goodness, take a look at her newest work!  I’m getting giddy looking at this Penguin Great Food series (link courtesy of Creative Review, via Ryan, extremely cool fellow designer/cubicle neighbor).  Each plate is based on vintage ceramic patterns, and I seriously can’t get over how gorgeous they are.

2.  Speaking of how the UK dominates beautiful patterned covers, let’s move along to White’s Books, a small London publisher directed by David Pearson (a former Penguin Books designer himself).  In a different way, these patterns draw the reader into other imagery and bring visually potent symbolism to distinguished classics. Thanks to Kevin Stanton, amazing paper-cut illustrator from the Illustration Week extravaganza, for referring me to Jessica Vendsen’s blog!

3. On a local level, I have to give a shout-out to a new show opening up in town: Maira Kalman: Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World).  I’ve mentioned before my infatuation with Maira’s work, and since she’s a Nancy Paulsen Books author/illustrator, I get to drool over her new children’s books on a regular basis.  Can’t wait to check out this exhibit of many of her best-known works, as I know it’ll be as original and out-of-the-box as ever.

Maira Kalman: Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World) is on display at The Jewish Museum from March 11 to July 31, 2011.  For more info, check out this blog post, with plenty of links to get your Maira fix.

4.  Hey, did I mention I’ve been busy doing some freelance design work for Elizabeth Knight Jewelry?  If you’re in the mood to accessorize, head on over to her website, where you can find collections of nature-inspired, mostly silver work. When we stopped by a group sample sale last week, it was completely mobbed . . . so get this stuff while it’s hot, fashionistas!

As for me, I’m going straight for the Frog Pearl Necklace and Vertebrae Earrings.

5. Times are tough, folks. Amid the economy cutbacks, we gotta defend what’s worth spending money on. Support Planned Parenthood and writing programs like Reading Is Fundamental by clicking on the links, signing your name, and/or writing to your representative.  You’ll be standing up for millions of underprivileged children who gain access to literacy though RIF, and millions of adults who need access to life-saving care (like cancer screenings, HIV testing, and birth control).  Let’s keep our country healthy and wise.  Thanks!

Penguin 75: An AIGANY Panel

As I’ve mentioned before, this year is a great time to join the Penguin team – it’s the 75th anniversary of the classic paperback publisher.  Since (of course!) I feel that Penguin’s greatest strength is its design and branding philosophy, I wasn’t going to miss the chance to hear about it from some of the best creative brains in the company at last Thursday’s AIGA panel.

First of all, can I just say that AIGA kicked off the event with some hilarious and heavily-accented (do those two things go together?) moderators!  Board member Matteo Bologna, founder and president of Mucca Design Corporation, introduced Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich, an amazing book designer and creative director in his own right. You may know him as the creator of the children’s book Bembo’s Zoo (don’t miss the amazing online version!), which always reminds me of the best Type II project anyone could produce. I mean, it’s the same concept as your standard “play with letterforms” exercise, but blows every student out of the water.

Anyway, Bologna and de Cumptich got the crowd warmed up for what would continue to be a very witty discussion on the process of book cover design.

The featured guest of the evening was Paul Buckley, Executive VP and Creative Director of Penguin, not to mention editor of the featured Penguin 75 book.  Aside from jokes about his former ’90s mullet and current “Penguin-esque” bald look, Buckley had some seriously enlightening things to say about the evolution of covers.  Since Buckley was/is an illustrator as well (that’s his first love and original life plan), he’s passionate about integrating art and design, and pushing the limits of how the two can transform the surface of a book.  Although he oversees hundreds of titles per year, you can still see his mark on the direction of new and old classics, such as the mind-blowingly AWESOME Penguin Ink series featuring tattoo artists.

Bridget Jones’ Diary, illustrated by Tara McPherson

Moon Palace, illustrated by Grez at Kings Avenue Tattoo

Two of Paul’s designers also took the stage: Gregg Kulick, whose punk-rock meets kitsch sensibility is just as cool on book covers as it is on show posters, and Jim Tierney, whom you may recognize from my last post (um, what a coincidence! We’ve met! We started Penguin the same day! I really did not put any of it together until I got to this event!).  One of the most surprising things about their talks is that they showed a lot of their past work – what they did as a student, where they went after graduating, that sort of thing.  It’s both encouraging to see one’s style evolves after graduation, and intimidating that they were just as talented then.  I’m at home redo-ing my senior projects, but these dudes? Publication-ready from the start.

I spent most of the evening astounded by how many completely different versions of adult covers get made before the final is approved.  Penguin 75 showcases these shelved variations, with added commentary from the designers and authors involved. Interestingly, some of the essays are brutally honest, such as (the guru of Minnesota Lutherans) Garrison Keillor’s scathing review of his cover, Love Me.

So it was only appropriate that they brought up an author, A.M. Homes, to comment, improv-style, on the unseen covers of her novel, This Book Will Save Your Life.  I give her major props for going up in front of an auditorium of judgy discerning designers to talk about the subject they know most.  And she really held her own, keeping it light, funny and honest, and still sounding intelligent.  The panel added their “insider’s view” of the evolution of her cover, and while any number of the versions could have worked well, I think they ended up with a great result.

This Book Will Save Your Life, hardcover and paperback covers

I’m looking forward to reading the rest of Penguin 75 soon… can’t wait to hear what more authors have to say about their classics!

From The Slush Pile: Hand-Lettered Type

While going through the slush mail today, I came across a pair of standout illustrators in a pile of recent UArts grads. Jim Tierney and Sara Wood, a young Brooklyn couple, have a fantastic approach to book cover design.  Their masterful combination of type, hand-lettering and drawing makes both of their portfolios equally impressive.

Check out Sara’s D. H. Lawrence book cover series, and Jim’s interactive Jules Verne thesis (there’s a video too!).  I put the cards up on the “Wall Of Stuff I Like” in my cube, right next to our other favorite hand-drawn type designer, Kristine Lombardi.  Lombardi’s cards have been up on our wall for ages.  While her cards have more of a feminine, fashion style (although I do like her Kids page!), they are the first thing that designers walking by are ALWAYS drawn to.  Check out a great interview (including the below image of her promo card) here.These designers got me to thinking: where’s the place for hand-lettered type in children’s books?  Before the age of thousands of freebie fonts on the internet (hey, it wasn’t that long ago!), hand-lettered display type was commissioned for book covers all the time. I recently worked on the anniversary edition for Jacqueline Woodson’s The Other Side, and I was so impressed to discover that the handsome title was calligraphed by the original in-house designer.And while I’m sure it took a lot more effort than downloading a font, there’s something careful, purposeful and yet whimsical to hand-drawn type.  So it’s no surprise that it is experiencing a rebirth of magnificently hip proportions. Now, type everywhere looks like this:Want 5,000,000 examples?  Just head to Flickr.  The New York Times.  Or anywhere.  I used to make fun of the fact that you could tell all the films addressing the teen “Napoleon Dynamite” audience (or that have Michael Cera in them) by their hand-drawn titles.In art school, we used to hear constantly, “if you want it to look hand-drawn, do it yourself.”  Designers, as a whole, have embraced this ideal. Children’s books, on the other hand, don’t have the same prejudice when it comes to handwriting typefaces.  Hand-lettering might work for display type, or a few very special people (ahem, Maira Kalman and Oliver Jeffers). But on the whole, handwriting fonts keep kids’ books looking consistent, read-able and changeable over 32 pages. 9 times out of 10, a handwriting font will actually look better than what you could do yourself. That being said, when it comes to display type and interesting details, I’m all for hand-drawn type in children’s books.  It’s fresh, playful and unique.  And with the rapid changes in technology, we may not need to draw type anymore, but I have a feeling that more lettering opportunities will open up for type designers anyway – just because we’re craving that physical, hand-created feel!

Designers Of The Day

Today, I’m obsessing over…

1. Geoff McFetridge

My first “find”, which I snagged from a take shelf (read: free books) on my way in to work, made up for everything that was hideous about the slush pile this morning.  I have no idea why this profile on McFetridge (published as part of a series of designers by Gas As Interface) was in the office, but we are absolutely lovin’ it.  While this L.A.-based designer with Champion Graphics creates everything from graphic posters to motion graphics/titles for films, I’m particularly loving his original wallpaper prints.

McFetridge’s book might be a bit overboard on the Helvetica, but his projects were so intriguing that I had to find out more.  Pick it up here!

2. Marian Bantjes

Ooooooh la la… if someone took every fancy trapping and visual treat and put it all in one book, it would be Bantjes’ I Wonder, which came out in gilded hardcover this month!  The exquisite integration of text and art brings to mind that this is probably the single modern book that 15th-centrury monks would still be proud of.  The price may be steep for a starving artist ($40), but all those elaborately designed pages look priceless.

Check out the rest of her projects as well… I can’t get enough of her seamless mix of materials and both old and new world design.

Thanks to Book By Its Cover for the link!

3. Rebecca Kutys

I’m not the kind of girl who has been planning her wedding since the age of 6. In fact, I’d be much happier with a lower-key ceremony than some of the events I’ve already planned in my life!  But there’s one thing that I know for sure – letterpress? It makes my heart swoon.  Don’t ask me why I’m drawn to typography in relief… I just think it makes everything elegant and personal. And if I have to spend money on anything when I get married, it’ll be on invitations like those made by Moontree Letterpress in DUMBO, Brooklyn.

It was so great to hear Kutys’ Biz Ladies post about the perfect business card on Design*Sponge today, so don’t miss going to her separate project as well, Brooklyn Social Cards.