HOW TO BECOME A BOOK DESIGNER
Originally posted May 2, 2014 on RetreatByRandomHouse.com
First get educated in a bunch of design theory stuff. Be passionate about typography. Learn to visualize words. Balance harmony and order in your compositions. Form and function applies—good book design shouldn't create a ruckus for the reader. Understand the print production process. Know your software then know when to practice restraint. Simplicity, not Photoshop filters, is what makes for well-crafted books.
Once the academic side of design is complete, get outside and play. Be inspired by not just art, but absorb the world around you. Step out of your comfort zone. Listen. Observe. Experience. Read something you normally wouldn’t and understand why people like things that you don’t. Spend some time in a bookstore. Find ugly books and give them a make-over. Show great spine, flap and back cover redesigns. Don’t forget to beautify interior pages too. Be ruthless. Be brilliant. Relish in the designing of an object without the design direction from non-designers. (You will miss it)
Organize your work in a traditional/digital portfolio. Your first show cover should be strong, your last even stronger. Shamelessly flex your creativity in ten to twelve pieces. Edit your work ruthlessly before someone else does.
When your work is ready, contact a book designer or start with someone else in the industry—publishing is a hive for some very smart folks. Maybe consider starting as an intern, junior or freelancer. Leave your ego behind. Open your mind. Accept feedback. Ask tons of questions. Smile. Fearlessly rework and reorganize your portfolio. Create something better, stronger. Bounce back. It’s the superpower of most book designers everywhere.
Finally, ask yourself—am I really ready for a glamorous high-paying design career? If the answer is yes, perhaps consider entering the world of advertising design. If you just love everything about books and being around people who share that very same passion, then creativity, perseverance and a dash of luck in this small publishing pool may make for a happy ever after living.