A Day in the Life of a Graphic Designer
By Nicole Jones Sturk
Being a designer for Atlantic Publishing is a fun and creative job. At any given time, I can be working on several titles, all at various stages with a number of design needs. I keep in close contact with the project managers, who assign the work and provide the materials and information I need to do what I do.
There are several different tasks that I perform regularly as a book designer for Atlantic. Some of these include:
front and back cover design
book interior layout
various graphic designs, generally for marketing purposes
Covers are very important since they are the face of the book and need to make an impact on potential readers. Since the front cover is usually one of the first steps in designing a book, its look will inform later decisions as I move onto the interior and back cover, which are usually done afterwards. When I am assigned a cover, I am often given a questionnaire that was filled out by the author. In it, the author provides vital information about the book’s contents and their own vision for the finished book. They give a brief description of their manuscript, as well as any pertinent details that may be useful, such as their potential audience (age, interests, etc.), the setting and mood, and similar books in their market. Authors vary in the amount of input they give — some have a very clear vision and specific ideas they want implemented, while others are happy to rely wholly on my design expertise. Once I get a sense for what the book is about and what the author wants, I will play around with different typography and stock images to create the design. Generally, I will provide 3 or 4 rough mockups of front cover ideas for the author to choose from. Once he or she chooses one and provides feedback, I create a final, polished version.
Interiors, for me, are the fun part! I will first receive a manuscript from the project manager, as well as any photos or illustrations to be included. I lay out books using Adobe Indesign software. My first task, after I’ve imported the manuscript into a blank template, is to browse the text to get a good idea of how it is organized. I look for parts, chapters, subheads, and special design features. From there, I start formatting, applying appropriate styles and making decisions about the typography. I like the interior to reflect the style of the cover and use similar fonts and design elements for chapter openers, headings, boxed sidebars, and tables. Initially, I will hand in just up through the first chapter to the project manager, who in turn shows the author, and I let them give feedback before proceeding with the rest. I take the raw, unformatted manuscript and make it look “professional”. By the end, everything looks consistently designed and expertly laid out — it finally looks like a book. Once I have the formatting done, I set the table of contents, then glance through the pages once more and make final tweaks. I double-check that everything appears to be formatted correctly and make sure lines and pages break at good points. At this stage, the editors — who proofread the entire manuscript one last time — and myself until it’s ready to finalize for printing!
After the print book is done, I am tasked with creating the e-book version. This involves converting the print Indesign file into a format that can be read by e-readers, such as Kindle. This format is a little different from the print versions since text is flowable in an e-book, as opposed to static on a printed page. In other words, the formatting changes with the screen size. Fonts also vary. Because of all this, there is no need for page numbers, running heads, or careful formatting of paragraphs since these will all change depending on the reader.
Edits and Other Miscellaneous Tasks
In addition to the tasks described above, I will often help out with other things the project managers need assistance with. They might need edits made to books that are in progress, or promotional materials designed (business cards, posters, etc.). I make sure the covers and interiors are correctly exported as PDFs to be uploaded to the printer. I also work on ads and catalogs for Atlantic from time to time. Basically, whenever there is a graphic design need, I am there to help!
Every day is different. I love the variety of books I get to work on. My favorite part is seeing all the various parts — the manuscript, photos, author notes, etc. — become a fully realized book that is ready to hit the bookshelves. This truly is a fun process in which I get to take part.