Sara Wood

-Where are you from and how long have you been illustrating and designing?

I'm from Chester County, PA and I've been illustrating/designing on a professional level since, uh, March of this year. I'm very green.

-Do you feel that U Arts prepared you to be a good illustrator/designer since taking on some projects?

Sure. UArts taught me to have high standards for myself and to always work hard, no matter what.

-I know when I graduated from art school, the economy just tanked, so our optimism was very low. When you graduated, what were your feelings when hitting the streets with things still looking a little dim but slowly getting better?

Well, I'm not sure that the creative job market is much better in 2010 than it was in 2009—especially for the crazies, such as myself, looking to enter the "dying" publishing industry, designing covers for "obsolete" bound books. This is why I've spent my daytime hours more or less as a temp since graduation, and am I ever grateful! A temporary job is better than no job, and while I'd love to have the peace of mind that comes with a full-time gig with benefits, I'm really enjoying the experiences that I've had thus far in the industry. I started off at Oxford University Press in June, and after getting used to the quick pace of academic publishing and the production process in general, I was asked to come and join Harper Perennial (an imprint of HarperCollins) in September as an in-house freelancer. The books at Harper are really fun and varied, the particular series that I'm working on is keeping me consistently challenged, the design department is top notch, and it feels like a great fit so far. Looking forward to whatever the future holds... It's all I can do!

-Your work feels very designed and has an old appeal while remaining fresh, which is very nice. Could you go into alittle bit of detail your process when working on a job?

Thanks... My process is a bit haphazard. Even in art school I never really had a "set" way of working. I've always used a variety of media, but my stand-by tools are my pencil (lately I've been using grease pencils as well), trace paper, my scanner, and a small library of textures that I bring into Photoshop. My work is most definitely a traditional/digital Frankenbaby. I like juxtapositions of smooth against rough, of lines that are refined against those that are just a little bit more spontaneous, and bringing my physical drawings into Photoshop gives me a great deal of flexibility for exploring that.

-So a while ago, you were working for Oxford University press as a designer, but now your working for Harper Collins. Could you tell me alittle bit about what you do there on a day to day?

I met the geniuses of Perennial (art directors Robin Bilardello, Milan Bozic, and publisher Carrie Kania) at a Portfolio Review event that they held at the Art Director's Club earlier in the summer, and after a few months of not hearing much, Robin asked me to come and work with them on a major project—80 titles by one of England's most famous authors. Most of the books already had cover designs that were being adopted from the UK, but those designs needed to be altered, resized, and in some cases completely redesigned. It's a massive undertaking involving many tiers of approvals, and when I'm not working on those titles or designing their promotional materials, I'm taking on mechanical designs (spines & back panels) and outside cover projects. I get to illustrate a lot, which is great.

-What's the best way for an illustrator to get their work infront of you and not piss you off as a book designer?

I'm no art director! But I work closely with the art directors and hear their complaints, so I can tell you that since office space is limited when you're designing 200 books per season, promos can really pile up. Make something that will stand out! Book people love to touch, open, and explore paper objects, so try incorporating even a slightly interactive element. A mini book, or an accordion-folded mini portfolio perhaps... So long as your promo catches the eye, invites the viewer to pick it up, and can fit tidily on an average-sized cork board, you're good.

-If someone was looking to become a book designer, what would they need to do to prepare, and where do you find out about where the jobs are posted for these in house design jobs?

First and foremost, you have to love books. Plain and simple. Read avidly, and when you go to a bookstore, jot down or mentally note the names of the people who designed your favorite covers. Also note when you see that a certain publisher seems to have a good number of beautiful designs. Research, research, research. The book design world is a very small one, and it's not too difficult to determine who is the Senior Art Director of this imprint, or Creative Director of that... Get sneaky, and once you discover that most businesses have an email naming convention like "First.Last@publishername.com" you can send personalized emails that say "I love your work so much! Here's a link to my portfolio site: etc." As far as in-house job opportunities go, my staple sources are bookjobs.com, mediabistro.com, and sometimes publishersmarketplace.com. Go ahead and join Design:related as well, if you can get an invite. That community is chock-full of people worth knowing if you're interested in book design (or any other sort of design).

- What do you love to do more, Illustrate and design book covers/posters or single images for publication?

Covers/posters definitely! Type has become such a tool for me, I miss it when I'm making a single image. Also, there's something about the practical application of book covers and gig posters that really satisfies me.

-What are you thoughts on digital tablets (ie: iPad, Nook, Kindle)?

I'm really not as afraid of them as some might think I ought to be. I actually had a brief conversation about this with Henry Sene Yee recently... He said that people will always need beauty. That really sums it all up, I think. Whether that beauty is printed on paper, or backlit on a screen, it doesn't matter. Apple has obviously recognized that fundamental truth with the iPad: its e-book app appears as a library of books displayed face-out on the shelf. While I will always have a deep-running loyalty to bound books, I'm not afraid of the fact that others might come to prefer digital media.

-After hours, what are you up to?

I often stay late at the office, which means that most of my "after hours" are spent sleeping, but I do work on freelance projects on top of my 9-5. Book covers mostly, but I also have a lot of fun doing gig posters for Redbird Management out in LA. I always have so much freedom, and I really relish the opportunity to scratch a creative itch or sometimes just create a beautiful image. Gig posters are just the best, aren't they?

-Goals/plans for next year?

1) Get a job with benefits!
2) Continue learning about my craft at my current momentum, and
3) Successfully plan my June wedding to Jim Tierney

-What are you loving about illustration/design right now?

The increasing union of the two! I love seeing illustrators try their hand at type, just as I love seeing designers try to draw their own imagery. I think people our age and current students are doing a great job of bridging the gap between the worlds of illustration & design.

-Advice for young illustrators trying to get their start.

The internet is your bestest friend! Get a website, start a blog, join Flickr, get a tumblr, join

Design:related. Branch out your web presence, and it's amazing who will find you, and in turn, who you will find. Gobble up inspiration from your blog feed and keep yourself informed. It's amazing how lucky we are to have this tool these days... It almost makes up for the horrible economic conditions we're contending with.

-Advice for the veterans?

God no! Oh wait, here's one: please teach me more.

-Final Word?


Thanks again Sara!

You can find her work here: www.sara-wood.com

and she has a flickr with alot of other stuff too: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thewoozle/sets/72157603425545381/

All images copyrighted Sara Wood

1 comment:

  1. Such a helpful interview for a newbie like me. I'm bookmarking this for the future.

    * Julia