What does your typical day look like for you?
At the moment I get up at around 5am and start by doing some creativity exercises. Then I'll write, maybe a blog post, or the outline for a video. Following these two things I’ll start on whatever the most important task is. After breakfast I’ll check my emails and get ready for the day. If I don’t have to go to my day job I’ll keep working on whatever is most important. I love getting up early because I can get so much accomplished before the rest of the world is awake.
Do you have any particular methods for coming up with concepts?
Yes. I use a method that I call 3x3, which I’m going to film a video on shortly. Each morning I get Goodreads to randomly generate three titles that I’ve read in the past, and I have to come up with three concepts for each. They don’t have to be good ideas, but I find that this is a great way to give that creativity muscle a workout every day. It also means that I have a library of ideas at my disposal whenever I want to do a self-initiated project.
Where do you look for inspiration?
It depends on the project. If it’s a period piece and that’s what I want to focus on, then I’ll look for typography from that time. That usually starts with a Google search, although sometimes it’s nice to go straight to my bookshelf. For things like colour schemes I’m more likely to look to physical books.
How do you know when a design is finished?
You don’t exactly. You can always push a design further, but there's a time when that ceases to be helpful. I try to work on a design in concentrated periods of work. If I let it sit around for too long it becomes stale and I can’t look at it objectively - that’s where I really struggle to know when it’s done or not. Speed is the best way I’ve found to combat this.
What is the single most valuable thing that you do in your design work?
Recently, the creativity exercises. It often pushes me out of my comfort zone, but there isn’t that pressure to make anything great. I just have to come up with three concepts. They don't have to be good ones.
Have you got any exciting projects coming up?
Yes! I’m working on some typographic covers for Sarah Waters’ novels. It’s been a few years since they were updated and I thought it would be a fun challenge to help me practice my hand lettering. I’m also going to be doing some Harry Potter related designs, which is always fun. In the month of July I’ll be doing 31 days of Harry Potter hand lettering, based on the titles of books in the Wizarding World. I’m also planning a series of covers for the Harry Potter books themselves, which I’m Siriusly excited about!
What ratio of your work is analogue to digital?
Probably about 90% of what I do is analogue. I like sketching, but don't enjoy doing it on a computer. For a final design it’s probably more like 60% analogue to 40% digital, but if we include all of the doodles, sketches and scribbles, then the vast majority of my work is done on paper.
What design resources do you use on a regular basis?
My everyday tools are a sketchbook and pencil. I like to use a mechanical pencil, and I carry these two things with me everywhere. The social media platform I use the most, aside from YouTube is Instagram. I’m working up to posting on there daily again. In July I want to be posting my Harry Potter designs each day. For inspiration I use Pinterest to keep track of visuals that I want to be able to reference again. I also read Spine Magazine, which is an online and print magazine about book design. The interviews are especially fascinating, as I’m always interested in the processes of other designers.
Do you have a favourite project that you’ve worked on?
It’s always the one that I’ve just finished, or the one I’m working on. I have a tendency to look back on my work, even from a few months ago and say ‘I could do that better now.’ It’s good because it means that I’m always growing, but it’s very frustrating too. Sometimes I have to restrain myself from going back and changing old designs, because I think it’s important to see that development over time. As I do better work I can always replace the old designs in my portfolio.
You use a variety of different mediums in your work. Is there one that you most enjoy?
What I most enjoy is mixing it up. If I just worked in watercolour, for instance, I think I’d get bored of it pretty quickly. One of the great joys of book design is that you can work in so many different mediums. I’d definitely go stir crazy if I could only work digitally. The tactile and potentially messy side of things, the process of figuring out how to photograph something in the most effective way, or how to use unlikely found objects to create a typeface - to me that’s the true joy of creativity.
What do you think makes a great book cover?
It always comes back to an element of surprise. I can’t say that I always achieve this in my own work, but it’s something I strive for. Whether it’s something hidden on the cover that isn’t apparent immediately, or something truly surprising in the design at face value. I think that it’s our job as designers - to challenge, or delight the viewer, and sometimes both.