Duration: Five years.
Location: London, United Kingdom.
Education: Bachelor of science in multimedia from Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland; masters in communication design, graphic design, from Kingston University, London, United Kingdom.
Career path: After finishing university, I found myself in a graphic design role at Tower Records in Dublin, and I had no idea what I was doing. I soon got hooked on making visuals, but I felt hindered due to my lack of knowledge or training in the field. So I decided to move to the United Kingdom and get my masters in graphic design. There, I met book designer Nick Castle, who helped me secure an internship at Little, Brown Book Group. Now I design book jackets and work in-house for the United Kingdom–based publishers 4th Estate and William Collins on both fiction and nonfiction titles.
Artistic influences: Apart from other book designers, I’m really interested in film title sequences. Like film posters, I feel that title sequences are in a similar realm to book covers in that they graphically represent the tone and feel of someone else’s work.
I’m also always looking at the music industry. Album artwork and merchandise designs can be sources of beautiful, bold work, and can often afford to be slightly braver than commercial book design. I used to share a house with illustrator/designer/musician James Burgess, and we often joked that to predict next year’s visual and graphic trends, all you had to do was look at what the punk scene was doing last year. There’s a lot to be said for people creating visuals outside of the mainstream and not being confined by industry parameters.
Favorite projects: A series of 4th Estate Matchbook Classics, which came out earlier this year. I’d never worked on a series of this scale before, and everyone involved in the project was open to experimenting with different things. We ended up with a series of ten books, the covers of which are inspired by midcentury matchbox labels. We did everything differently on this project, from overprinting a limited palette of Pantone colors to adding a “second spine” wraparound and creating a giant matchbox boxset to house them.
Over the past two years, I’ve been drawing a font for the author Kurt Vonnegut. This has grown from a personal project to design his full backlist using my font KURT as the main component for some type-led covers. During that time, 4th Estate decided to reissue three Kurt Vonnegut books, and they came out in July with covers that originated from this personal project. I had never drawn a full font before so that was a great learning experience.
Work environment: I’m in-house in a publisher’s office, so I have a desk in the beige sea of an open-plan office. I like being able to work closely with everyone involved in publishing; I’m a big advocate of having conversations with people in person as much as possible instead of over emails, and our work environment really encourages this. I also get to sit alongside my fellow design department members Julian Humphries, Jo Walker and Heike Schüssler, who are all brilliant to collaborate with and receive feedback from.
Aspirations: I hope that I’m still designing book covers and still finding the process equal parts exciting and challenging. I hope that I can keep producing work that’s relevant. I want the opportunity to work with as many people and on as many different projects as possible. Having said that, I would like to branch out into other mediums, specifically album artwork, magazine work or movie posters. Coming from a book design background, there’s transferable skills that I can bring into these areas, but those kinds of projects would also force me out of my comfort zone. In a good way.
Philosophy: To be able to wake up every day and look forward to going to work is a very rare thing. I’m so motivated by the infinite possibilities of what any given book cover can be. That moment when you start working on a book cover and the door’s wide open is very exciting.