Publishing 101: Pip Watkins on Being a Book Designer

It’s that time again – all the goss on the publishing world! Today we’ve got the first of our guest posts. Pip Watkins works on the Adult Design team at Simon and Schuster and she’s going to share all her secrets with us!

belle library slide

Working in Book Design

How did you get into book design?

I graduated in 2014 with a degree in Illustration from Winchester School of Art, and was very lucky to land a Junior Designer role in a very small design agency outside London. I didn’t touch any books during that time, but my experience there was invaluable.

I was there for almost nine months when I was sadly made redundant – and the job hunt in book design really began. It had been my dream from the beginning of university to design book covers, so now was the time! I applied for an absolutely INSANE number of jobs – and eventually I heard back from the lovely people at Simon & Schuster. I’ve been working in the Adult Art team for just over a year and it has been a TOTAL DREAM.


What degree should I Do?

One of the most frequent questions people ask me is: ‘What degree should I do?’ ‘Should I do graphic design or illustration?’

The good news is that there is no right or wrong way to get into book design, my colleagues’ degrees range from Illustration to Graphic Communication. Yippee!

A solid choice (if possible) is to go for any kind of Graphic Arts or Graphic Communication course, as most give you the option to choose a pathway you would like to specialise in after trying them out. My course offered Graphic Design, Illustration, Motion Graphics and Photography.


Tips and Tricks

Do your own thing: This is one of my biggest, biggest tips. Forgive me for making assumptions, but I’m going to assume you are passionate about books if you would like to design them. So, to display this to not only potential employers, but the publishing industry: DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! If you want to go mad on your book design, keep designing book covers. Put them online. Create an online presence. Start a blog. Start a project on your own or with other book lovers. I started a Booktube channel 3 years ago, which was one of the best decisions I have ever made. These are the things that will make you stand out, so go for it!

Design! And not just books! I know it can be mentally exhausting, but keep designing as much as you can! Any experience designing IS essential, even if it’s not something that really excites you. Do you have a friend who needs a wedding invite? A relative who needs a poster designing? It all looks great on your CV. Try and seek out opportunities. Gogogo!

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Keep changing your portfolio: As you are designing all the time, keep updating your portfolio with all of your shiny new covers/designs! Even if a design is not yet fully realised, a killer idea can really push your portfolio.

Give yourself a break: Design can be exhausting. Constantly coming up with new ideas and trying to execute them is a draining process, so don’t beat yourself up when you find you can’t do it for a while. Give yourself some time off to chill and seek some inspiration. It’s amazing what it can do.

Be patient: Don’t let a lack of job offers demotivate you. I know you see this little tidbit of advice all the time, it actually drove me a little insane when I was job hunting. But do not let the silence from potential employers upset you. It can take months of cover letter writing before you even manage to land an interview. It’s okay if it takes some time to find your voice in design and your style. You will find your perfect job, it just might take a little while.

I was NOT the most successful university student, for me self-doubt and design almost go hand-in-hand. But you really can do it. Believe me, if I did, you can too! GOOD LUCK!!!

Check out my YouTube Channel PippityBop if you fancy it and if you need some design advice do give me a tweet @PippityBop2!

Previous Posts

Publishing 101: What do publishers do? Part 1
Publishing 101: What do publishers do? Part 2
Publishing 101: Meet the Publishers

Coming up!

Guest Post: Faye of Faye Rogers PR
Guest Post: Hayley Steed
Publishing 101: Getting into the Industry

and much more!

What do you want to know? Let us know at @maximumpopbooks!

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Written by Sophie Waters

Sophie is the Head of Commercial at Maximum Pop! Having studied English Lit and Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, she came to MP! to satisfy her passion for books. Sophie is a diehard Hufflepuff and feminist. She's also a huge cat lover, and can often be found rocking her socks off at a gig.

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