Only 5 more weeks until. . .
2nd Annual Pamlico Writers Conference & Competition
The Art & Craft of Writing!Washington Civic Center 100 Gladden Street Washington, North Carolina March 8, 2014, from 9am until 6pm
We’ve planned a day filled with creative talent and you won’t want to miss it, so register soon.
And now to this week’s interview.
Artist, graphic designer, book designer, and more, Daniel has agreed to participate in the Pamlico Writers Conference panel discussion on the Craft of Writing. He will specifically address the contribution a book designer gives to an author’s finished product. He has a master’s degree in Interactive Design from Elon University and currently works with Sable Books in Durham, North Carolina.
The following are Daniel’s responses to an interview for the Pamlico Writers Blog.
Interviewer: Is there a single event that led you to become a commercial artist?
Daniel: Not really, it was more of an accumulation of events beginning with my inclination toward art & design-related courses at university. I basically wandered around for two or three years, taking courses from various disciplines (if I remember correctly I was an undecided major until junior year). I had everything from Latin to calculus to computer science, but the courses that continually stuck with me were in the design department, and at a certain point I thought to myself, “Yeah, I could do this type of work for the foreseeable future.”
Interviewer: Although your career began as a graphic designer you wear many hats, including book designer. Which type of art would you consider to be your “passion”?
Daniel: Actually, my career began as an interactive designer, i.e. web and interactive application design. Even then, I’ve done more development than design in that area, although I have often fulfilled both roles at once. My heaviest design work is in the area of book interiors and covers, so it would be accurate to say that’s currently my strongest area of expertise design-wise. I’m not sure I could nail down a single type of art or design that I’m passionate about; what I’m primarily interested in is creating works that make sense in their own role and environment, and when it comes to books, I consider content-design cohesion to be of the utmost importance. It almost sounds utilitarian, and I also don’t want to imply that there is a single correct answer or approach to any design (because there isn’t), but essentially what I’m most passionate about is creating work that looks the way it “should,” that feels natural, based on the context in which it exists.
Interviewer: I’m impressed. Which book design do you consider to be the most successful or simply your favorite? Why?
Daniel: My favorite recent piece is the work I did on Maura High’s The Garden of Persuasions. I had the opportunity to work with a great artist friend of hers for the cover imagery, and it was sort of a “themed” work, which gave me the chance to play with visual thematic reference (i.e. the faded edge technique that we often find in Chinese calligraphic art). The color contrast that I had available in the artwork allowed me to make a cover that I think is really striking, holding stark contrast but also formal cohesion and visual intrigue. One of the other things that made this especially successful in my mind is that the cover stock we printed with really captured the pure color tone and smooth texture that I envisioned for the cover. The type of paper used and the degree to which it matches the content is often overlooked, but I think it’s an integral part of any printed design.
Interviewer: Please bring a copy of that cover to the conference. What advice would you give to someone interested in developing skills as a book designer?
Daniel: I think the first piece of advice I would give is to avoid the “mainstream” industry practices and just do what comes naturally based on their art/design training and experience. These days, formulaic book design is becoming increasingly common, mostly due to the volume that large publishers have to move. People get stuck on certain fonts, layouts, or color systems far, far too easily because this type of templated design is considered acceptable by the industry. Each book should be a work of art in its own right, not just some variables plugged into a formula. The other major piece of advice I would give is to become familiar with how your work will be converted for print. Every printer and every type of print process requires different materials and produces different end results depending on how you format everything. Especially when it comes to color replication, even consistency within one printer can be hard to come by. Learn to know what ink ratios, color numbers, and export profiles you need; don’t trust the image you see on your screen. That will help troubleshoot when a proof comes back looking strange or off.
Interviewer: In other words, just because an author has some art or design skills doesn’t mean they should attempt book design without the education and practical experience necessary to do it well. I am an artist as well as a writer, and was pleasantly surprised to see how a professional book designer was able to dramatically improve my cover, interior layout, and more.
If you were to begin your career over again, what would you do differently?
Daniel: If I were to begin over again, I’d probably try to take more classes on the production side of art. I’ve had a decent amount of theory, but I’m no artist or illustrator. It would be a great boon to my process to be able to say, “I’d really love this type of imagery here; let’s draw it,” rather than, “I’d really love this type of imagery here; who do I know that can accomplish that?”
Interviewer: What or who has been the greatest influence in your art?
Daniel: I’m not really sure. Honestly, I think my greatest influence is just the synthesized totality of everything I’ve ever been exposed to. The more experience you have with various types of art and design, the more tools you have to deal with every challenge. So in a way, I guess you could say “uniqueness,” or maybe “chaos”, has been my greatest influence—whatever it is that causes everybody’s work to be so varied in both approach and execution.
Interviewer: Is there a particular humorous or touching story in your experience as a book designer you can share with our readers?
Daniel: While I could tell a pretty large number of stories related to book design, I don’t think any of them would really qualify as humorous or touching (or even interesting, really). Generally, my experience has been relatively uneventful, which I consider a good thing because usually when these things do become exciting, that means that someone messed up in a major way.
Interviewer: And that’s the perfect way to end this. Because, without you actually saying it, I think you have proven to me what I already thought: having a pro do your finish work, whether it is editing or designing, takes the stress out of a very complex process and has a much greater chance of resulting in a successful product. Hooray for that! And hooray for you!
For conference, workshops, presenters, and panel information, along with lodging links, visit our website at: www.pamlicowritersconference.org