Matt Roeser is a graphic designer in St. Louis, Missouri where, for the past five years, he helped make creative matter as a senior designer on the talented team at Atomicdust. Just over a year ago, in an effort to achieve his dream job of being a book jacket designer, he took some of his favorite books and created new covers for them. His covers have been featured on several design blogs, been the talk of some literary agents in publishing and have resulted in several freelance projects from publishers. In October, he joined the staff of Candlewick Press as a senior designer and is now fulfilling his dream of designing book covers full-time.
Little Nuggets of Inspiration
If you have a degree in what field is it? I have a BA in communications from Saint Louis University.
Which designer (or design studio), other than yours, do you most admire? It’s probably a cliché by now, but Chip Kidd. His book jacket designs are always a treat. I still remember, at ten, reading my first “big person” book, Jurassic Park, with his awesome T-Rex silhouette gracing the cover. To this day, it’s still one of my favorites; I think, if I could travel back in time, I could point to it as the genesis of my love of book design.
What’s the strangest request you’ve received from a client? Make the logo bigger. Actually, that happens all the time. I think I’ve successfully suppressed all of the strange requests I’ve received from clients to the deepest recesses of my mind. For now.
If you weren’t working as a designer what would you be doing? I would probably be on some Hollywood backlot creating props for movies and TV shows. There’s something that’s always fascinated me about creating everyday (and sometimes not-so-everyday) objects; it seems like it would be a fun challenge.
What well-known identity is most desperately in need of a redesign? Sherwin-Williams. There’s a store down the street from me and I like to drive by it with my mouth gaping open in awe. Their logo is our planet being drowned in red paint, with the tagline “Cover the Earth.” I’m convinced aliens made it.
From where do your best ideas originate? The best ideas I’ve had for my covers always inherently come from the story. Finding that little nugget of inspiration is always somewhere within the pages of the book.
How do you overcome a creative block? For me, it’s always taking a step back from my work and seeing what other artists, illustrators and designers I admire are up to. Twitter has made this so easy; I’m inspired constantly throughout the day by what others are doing. And while it doesn’t always solve the block, it does kick me into gear and make me want to make the cover I’m working on better than all of the ones I’ve done before it.
What’s your dream project (not client, but project)? For me, a series would be a very tempting challenge. A good series design has to have elements that connect the various titles so they look a part of a cohesive whole, yet each title still has to stand, and sell, on its own.
Do you have creative outlets other than graphic design? I mentioned prop-making earlier. It played a small part in my previous obsession with the TV show Lost. I would throw these elaborate season finale parties, where I would deck out the whole house to look like something on the show: the jungle, the hatch, etc. This spiraled into little teaser videos that served as invitations each year which got more and more out of control. Needless to say, the final season’s video was about 40 minutes long, was partially filmed in Costa Rica, involved me dressing as an old lady for a scene and caught the attention of several of the show's producers (who I actually got to talk to; a major geek-out moment). Now that the show’s over I’m doing a rewatch of the entire series, along with a couple of friends, and writing a blog that follows us through each episode. I don’t think I’ll ever let go.
What’s your approach to balancing work and life? Thankfully, my work fuses two of my hobbies, reading and design, so it doesn’t always feel too much like work. In my free time, I like working on my house and piddling around in the backyard, which also serve as additional creative outlets for design. So, am I always working then? I guess so.
What product/gadget can you not live without? Books. I know they’re not a gadget, but I’m not ready for everything to be digital yet.
What’s your favorite quote? “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don't know what is.’” —Kurt Vonnegut
Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Make sure that you’re passionate about what you’re doing, because that’s when the best work comes out. Many of the happiest people I know are thrilled that they get paid to do what they do each day. And, be ready to listen to others around you; they’re not always trying to muck up your work—despite how it may seem at the time.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? That it’s okay to fail; that failure is part of the creative process. As Wieden Kennedy’s pushpin mural says, “Fail Harder.”