Meet Penguin: What does a Junior Book Designer do?

Ever wondered what a day in the life of a designer looks like? As part of the Student Design Award we joined Amy, Junior Designer at Cornerstone to find out.

Amy Musgrave, designing on computer,

Hello! My name is Amy and I’m the Junior Designer at Cornerstone. I studied Illustration at university, and my love of books meant I stumbled across UCLAN’s Masters course in Publishing, which covered everything in the industry from design and editorial through to marketing and production. I was pretty sure I wanted to be an editor, but after one lesson in book design I was hooked. I applied for the Junior Designer role at Cornerstone whilst I was still at university; luckily my tutors were incredibly supportive and extended deadlines to help me put together my portfolio in time – and the rest is history.

The Junior Designer role is never dull, and the day to day tasks are really varied. The majority of my job revolves around artworking covers – laying out the spine and back covers for an approved front cover, making corrections from editors to the artwork, adapting cover size for our market from American titles like Star Wars and Stranger Things and most significantly, designing my own covers! As a Junior Designer it's key to be a good problem solver and work well under pressure to meet many tight deadlines. 

Let me bring you along to my Thursday at work...

Image of Amy's desk with design and books

9:15am – I start the day by checking my emails. If any American cover files were to come in we’d likely get them overnight, but nothing today.

9:30am – Job bags have arrived! These contain cover artwork that has circulated around the editorial floor to be checked for corrections. One of the titles, Biased is almost ready to go to print, it’s come back from the editors clean after it’s fourth time circulating, so now it just needs to go round one last time to be extra sure there are no mistakes.

Thursdays are our cover meeting days – the Art Director takes all the designer's visuals for the covers we’re designing to be discussed with the Managing Director, Editors, Sales and Marketing. There’s no set length of time that these meetings last, it completely depends on how many visuals are being taken through. I have a few covers in for today so fingers crossed!

10:00am – The Production team have sent over spine widths for covers that they need soon. I still have an urgent American cover to finish artworking – a Middle School title, which is one of the spine widths sent over. The paper back needs to be sent as soon as possible for the Australian market too, so this is my priority now I have all the info I need to finish it completely. The kids titles are always fun to work on – they usually involve picking illustrations from the inside pages and colouring them to go on the front cover.

Amy in a meeting pointing out design work

11:15am – The Art Director is back from the covers meeting with all our feedback. This meeting is a nice weekly opportunity to see what everyone else has been working on. For me, it's been an adapt of The Wedding Guest from hardback to paperback with a small colour tweak and the latest three covers in the Georgette Heyer reissues have been approved.

All of these now need to be sent to authors and agents for their approval before we upload them to feed through to the booksellers. Another one I'm working on, Taking Up Space is almost there, but they need to see more colour variations of a few visuals they liked best. I’ll work on these later and they will go back in for next week’s meeting.

11:40am – The Rights team are preparing for the London Book Fair and part of that includes them taking a Rights Guide with all of our titles in. Every time they need a guide for a fair, I design a cover for them based on one of our leading titles. This year, the London 2019 Guide will be based on The Power of Nunchi, so I will mock this up and get visuals sent over to the team for them to check over.

12:30pm – A very important part of the day – lunch!

Book covers Amy has been working on

Amy writing on design work, making notes

1:30pm – In the afternoon I’ll start on more ‘design heavy’ tasks. I’m working on a reissue of a saga title, Where the Heart Is, which still needs some images for the background sourcing, so for now I’m working on picture research looking for people to fit into a World War Two background.

2:45pm – Images found, they’ve been run past the editor and I can now start putting the visuals together. The aim is to get them ready for the next cover meeting.

3:15pm – Around 3pm has turned into our office tea break, without one it can be a long afternoon at a screen!

3:30pm – Back to working on Where the Heart Is visuals.

4:00pm – Onto Taking Up Space visuals. If I work on one title for too long I find I stop ‘seeing’ it, so it’s good to have a couple of projects lined up to flick between.

5:00pm – I was pretty happy with the Where the Heart Is visuals earlier in the afternoon, but coming back to it last thing today I can see a few things to tweak – mostly the placement of people in the background to get the perspective right. I have some time to edit it now and can then look again first thing in the morning with fresh eyes.

And that's my day as a Junior Designer. It's incredibly varied and creatively challenging, with alot of responsibility. If this inspired you, why not work towards becoming a Book Designer by entering the 2020 Sudent Design Award? 

Student Design Award designs

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