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Posted by Steph, September 14, 2012

What does a book designer do?

After a very lovely blog post by Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam illustrator Steven Lenton yesterday, I have taken a deep breath and decided to write my first blog post – on the subject of what I think a book designer brings to the table.

I have often been asked, ‘If you don’t do the pictures, and you don’t do the words… what do you do?’ To which I reply, “Well, I ‘do’ the fonts, the format, and the cover design. But actually, my most important role is to extract wonderful, story-telling illustrations from the artists.

When I read a text, I have a very strong sense of what the illustrations on the page should be. I usually have a feel for the layout even before I’ve commissioned the illustrator, and to let you in on a secret… sometimes I even thumbnail out the entire book before briefing the artist so I know what to suggest when we first meet to talk over ideas for picture content.

From the first briefing meeting to delivery of final artwork, it’s my job to support the artist – and sometimes the author – through the book-making process: it’s all about good personal working relationships. Each book is a different journey that can have highs and lows, laughter and tears (though hopefully tears of joy, and usually mine, when a beautiful piece of art is sent in, something that actually happened a week or so ago). I recently likened my job to that of the midwife, from the moment an artist is commissioned, through to publication. I am there to reassure, mop brows, calm panics, install confidence, and to make sure after a sometimes long and painful labour, a beautiful book is delivered. And rather like a baby, a book that everyone involved loves, is immensely proud of, and that everyone else will want to pick up.