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Category: Design briefs

Design Unplugged panel

Can design thinking transform your publishing strategy?

Wednesday 13 November saw another packed house at the Century Club in London, for the last BookMachine Unplugged event of 2019. Hosted by BookMachine Editorial Board member Sophie O’Rourke (Managing Director, EMC Design), the evening gave us a chance to focus on design in its broadest form: not just about the visual aspects of book design, but about design thinking as a concept. Sophie’s panellists were Belinda Abbott (Head of Faculty, Design Thinkers Academy), Dean Johnson (Design, Technology and Innovation Consultant at activrightbrain), and Donna Payne (Creative Director at Faber & Faber).

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Cover designer interview: Anna Woodbine of The Woodbine Workshop

Anna Woodbine is an independent book designer and illustrator, based in the hills near Bath. She works on all sorts of book covers from children’s to adult’s, classics to crime, memoirs to meditation. She takes her tea with a dash of milk (Earl Grey, always), loves the wind in her face, clompy boots and that lovely, damp smell after its rained. Find her at thewoodbineworkshop.co.uk.

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Design case study: illustrating The Dragon in the Library

It takes a village – or at least a team – to produce a book, and in this article, author Louie Stowell, Nosy Crow designer Elisabetta Barbazza and freelance illustrator Davide Ortu share insights into how an illustrated book comes to life.

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Successful book design

A recipe for successful book design

Nada Backovic is an award-winning book designer, graphic designer and illustrator with more than 20 years’ experience working with major publishers and self-publishers in Australia and the UK. Find out more about Nada and her work at www.nadabackovic.com.

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Production Controller

Junior Designer [JOB POSTING]

Quintet Publishing, part of The Quarto Group, is looking for a Junior Designer to join our busy team based in Brighton.

The Quarto Group is the world’s leading independent publisher of illustrated books; our mission is to educate, entertain and enrich the lives of readers. Quintet creates non-fiction books across subject areas ranging from creative technology and activity, to travel and design. Our titles maintain the highest editorial, design and production standards, and we work with co-edition publishing partners worldwide.

We are looking to appoint a creative and proactive Junior Designer as part of our in-house team. The ideal candidate will be enthusiastic about illustrated publishing and possess excellent InDesign skills. Bursting with ideas, you’ll be keen to make your mark on our successful and diverse list.

Assisting the Art Director with the creation of 50 live books and 80 new presentations annually, a key part of the role is liaising with freelancers and working closely with the editorial team. This varied role could see you creating PDFs for a sales presentation in the morning, conceptualising a cover design by lunchtime and preparing print-ready files in the afternoon.

• Good organisation and time-management skills
• Strong interest in illustrated non-fiction publishing
• Meticulous attention to detail
• Excellent knowledge of InDesign, Acrobat and Photoshop is essential, Illustrator would be a benefit
• Creative and keen to learn

To apply for this position please send your CV and cover letter to: james.evans@quarto.com

(Deadline for applications: Friday 2nd February 2018)

The successful candidate must possess the right to work in the UK. Quarto Publishing plc. is committed to a policy of equal opportunity and treatment, ensuring an inclusive and diverse environment.

Concept, Creation, Marketing – why we all need a good brief [EVENT NOTES]

It’s ironic that an event all about a good quality design brief started with me totally failing to pay attention to my own brief for the evening: after a long Tube journey, I rocked up at The Library, ready for BookMachine fun, only to discover everyone else had gone to The Driver at King’s Cross. So I arrived… a little late.

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Stuart Bache design

5 author tips for briefing your designer

Stuart Bache is Art Director of Books Covered, a design agency for publishers, independent authors and literary agents. Here he shares his top tips for authors briefing designers. 

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Publishing Services Manager

How to write a design brief and why it’s important to get right

One of the biggest aspects that can make or break a design project is the briefing process. The best design work comes when designers are confident, as with many walks of life. If designers are given great briefs, that they’re confident in understanding, then they can spend the full amount of time designing instead of querying what is meant by confusing and sometimes conflicting information in the brief.

Poor briefing impacts us hugely as a design agency, a bad brief will send us round in circles wasting precious time, effort, resources and the clients money in a lot of situations. So getting it right at the beginning and being clear can save hours of wasted time and costs on developing and designing concepts which are off brief.

As designers, our role is to bring all of the ideas from the client together to create the final product. However, we can only do this if we have been provided with enough context to be able to make those visual decisions and interpretations. It will contain clear, defined instructions, which are as specific as possible without being too restrictive. The more contextual detail the better.

So how do you write the perfect brief and why is it so important? Well firstly it’s useful to understand what we do when we’re first given the brief.

What do we do when we first receive a brief?

  • Read, re-read and then read it again.
  • We highlight the key things that we believe have the most importance.
  • From this we’ll brainstorm and do our own visual research (often using Pinterest to capture ideas and snippets of themes we find) and then we will start working on initial concepts.
  • We’re essentially trying to get to the meat of what the client is asking for as quickly as possible so that we can spend as much time creatively working on the concept. And that’s where we add the most value.
  • Depending on how concise the brief is, in some circumstances we may share our initial research with the client to try and elicit a defined route if the brief is too open.
  • It’s also at this stage that we find a face to face meeting to discuss the brief really valuable.
  • Depending on the budget we may get a few designers to work independently on the brief to see the different ideas we come up with initially before we start refining them to devise the final concepts.
  • With anything creative there are usually a number of different outputs that will meet the same brief – so we will often work on a couple of concepts that all meet the brief but that gives the client some options for developing ideas further.

What should be included in a brief?

  • The use of the product/title – without this it can have a big impact on a cohesive brand being established.
  • Key Markets (preferably some of the pertinent market research is included and focus group reports from the end user are also really helpful).
  • Who is it aimed at? (sector, ages, end user profiles).
  • Information on how the end-user is going to use the suite of products? Your vision for the overall outcomes and reasoning for creating the product.
  • Trends in the key markets it will be used within, for example design, fashion, magazines, crazes etc.
  • Also any trends the authors have identified can be really helpful too.
  • Identify what you believe to be the competing titles and products and what you deem to see as the main good and bad points of these – particularly with reference to the look and feel not necessarily the content.
  • Provide examples of other designs and visual stimuli that you like or sometimes more helpfully what you don’t like the look and style of. Avoid personal preferences and try to focus on the end user as much as possible – use focus groups to help with this if you have the resources.
  • It’s also useful to know what financial parameters you have. For example is this going to be a very prestigious, new flagship product that has received a high level of investment and therefore the design needs to reflect this? Or is it a fairly bright and breezy, quick reaction to a market that’s opened up that doesn’t require as heavy an input on the design?
  • Sometimes it can be money really well spent doing several iterations at this concept stage – but that’s only really if there is money in the budget to accommodate this. And to a certain extent if there is a limitless budget then the brief can have a bit more of a life of its own and organically develop.
  • In a nutshell for us the brief shouldn’t ask questions. It should provide the answers that will enable us as designers to creatively interpret what you are asking for.
  • Ultimately though we are flexible and if we don’t feel the brief has enough detail for us to provide a solution we will of course get back to the client to help refine that before we start designing.

Three common problems we often see with a brief

  1. Vagueness – we’re not sure what we want, just have a go and see what you come up with.
  2. Open briefs are the hardest for us as because we then have to spend a lot of time doing our own market research to try to second guess what the client wants. And this eats up into the budget.
    We always feel that most clients have a good idea of what they want up front, but sometimes aren’t willing to share these ideas through fear of stifling the designer. In actual fact, the more detail the better. And as designers we should be able to suggest without fear of hurting people’s feelings if we don’t think something will work. And equally as designers we would respect someone who isn’t a designer telling us it’s hard to read or it’s not working for them, after all, they are the end user – or are at least representing the end-user.
    When a brief is really open it’s often good to have a call or a meeting to discuss as that’s where some of the best ideas come from – a collaborative approach is always a stronger way of getting a great end result fast.
  3.  The end user gets forgotten about – we often find that personal preferences can hinder the briefing process especially where there are many stake-holders needing and wanting a say in defining that brief. The end-user can sometimes be forgotten about in these situations if no one-person takes the ultimate responsibility for pulling it together and re-focusing on who that end-user is. Personal preferences are important, but not to the expense of the target user – after all in most cases the target user is often from a completely different mindset than the person doing the briefing.

In many ways, as with most parts of a publishing project, the process is and needs to be a collaborative one. And external designers working on concepts from an initial brief should have the opportunity to ask questions about the brief if elements are un-clear. The most important reason though for honing down this brief and getting it right (or nearly right) at the beginning is to ensure that everyone on the team is clear on what the end goal is and who they are developing this new product for. If that’s not tied down (through the process of creating a brief) at the beginning everyone can end up going round in circles wasting valuable time and resources and sadly missing the market opportunity that was spotted in the first place.

This post was originally published on the emc design blog.

Marketing vs Design: Matt Haslum interview

Matt Haslum is Marketing Director at Faber & Faber and is speaking at our next event: ‘Marketing vs Design, which matters more?’. Before publishing, Matt spent 8 years building an award-winning digital creative agency. Since joining Faber, he has built a list-focused consumer marketing team alongside an award-winning website and Membership programme. 

1) When did you first know that you were interested in a career in marketing?

When I saw one of my first ever copy lines (as part of my first creative agency job interview) appear on a press ad. It was a great feeling, and from that moment I have taken real pride in seeing my work in ad form, whether it’s on outdoor, radio/TV, digital or social.

2) How do you work with designers in your current role?

Faber’s marketing team works with our in-house creative team, in-house design resource and external designers and our digital agency. We are involved in the cover process, we collaborate on jacket-led creative for campaigns and work together on briefing design both in and out of house.

3) Any tips for marketers who need to communicate effectively with their designer colleagues?

Here are 3 tips that I think are important:

1. Be extremely clear during the briefing process. Don’t leave things to assumption, unless you’ve worked extensively with a designer who knows you well. This will achieve the results you want quicker and more accurately.

2. Give context – background and aims – and a don’t over-brief look and feel, as that is what you are trusting a good designer to bring to the project.

3. Don’t write lengthy feedback. Make notes on the design so it can be implemented in situ / context, rather than the designer having to read, digest and then try to figure out actually what you mean. There are loads of collaboration tools online which are used a lot for web design, but I think they are great for campaign creative feedback too.

4) What might we hear about in your talk on November 2nd (don’t share it all…)?

Hopefully lots of interesting things! Maybe a little bit on collaboration, awareness of both teams needs in terms of creative output, growing skills and knowledge. All that sort of good stuff…

You can hear Matt in London on 2nd November at Marketing vs Design: Which matters more? Grab a ticket here.

Experienced designer

How to brief a book designer

This is a guest post by Annette Peppis. Annette is an enthusiastic early member of BookMachine. Annette helps publishers attract more readers by creating a professional look that builds their business and reflects their values, and offers smart and stylish solutions. You can read Annette’s blog about about graphic design here.

Anxious about briefing a designer? Don’t be! Any designer worth their salt will want to help you project the right image, communicate successfully with your readers and get your message across clearly, so will help you write the brief. There are a lot of things you can do to make life easier for both of you and ensure you get the result you want. Here are a few ideas:

1) What is your target market?

Think about who your target market is. A design aimed at women of a certain age will not attract young males, and vice versa. Don’t say ‘everyone’ – there will never be a design that appeals to all.

2) Who are your competitors?

If using someone out of house, tell her as much as you can about your publishing business, and let her know who your competitors are so she can check out what they are doing – you’ll want to differentiate yourself from them, while making sure your book fits into its genre. Show her examples of successful books which are similar to yours.

3) Mood

Think about the type of image you’d like to portray: cool, calm and collected or bright, vibrant and outgoing? Sophisticated and professional or reliable and friendly? Colour and typefaces can be used to create mood.

4) Colour

Your designer will have some knowledge of colour psychology. It’s important to get your branding or book to look right for its genre and target market.


Orange is a friendly colour, vibrant and energetic. However, it can also be perceived as cheap. Blue is traditionally favoured by business publishers; it inspires confidence and trust.

5) Fonts

Each font has its own personality and evokes different moods, and your designer will know which fonts will suit your subject matter. Don’t rule out a typographic-only cover; often these are the strongest.

6) Image

Rather than being specific, give your designer a synopsis of the book and some sample chapters to read. Designers are creative and will come up with good concepts.

7) Style

What kind of visual style do you think would be suitable for the book? Modern or traditional? Simple or complex? Techie or new-age? Clean and bright or subtle or dark?

8) Cost

What is your budget? Good design is worth paying for, but it can be disheartening to discuss a brief that you later find you cannot afford. Make sure you ask for a quote and agree terms in advance. (The book design is only part of the story; you may want to get other marketing materials printed too, and may require a micro-site near launch.)

9) Time

Good design takes time and collaboration to get right. Don’t expect a designer who you have never worked with before to produce a miracle result overnight! It can happen – but it probably won’t. Good designers are can be booked up in advance by regular clients, so planning ahead is advisable.

Once you have discussed all this and more (size, extent, etc), you and your designer should between you be able to write a brief and a schedule. This may seem like a lot of work, but if you want your designer to really ‘get’ you, it’s well worth the effort. It’s important to trust your designer. A good designer will have trained professionally – usually at degree level and will have the skill and experience to interpret your brief and provide a solution that both looks good and does the job it should. Giving them freedom within the constraints of the brief will result in a design to be proud of, and ultimately more sales for you.

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