A career in...design, with Nicola Price

A career in...design, with Nicola Price

Are you interested in a career in design? Nicola Price talks to jobs in books about her career journey and shares her advice.

How did you start your career in publishing?
I started my career in publishing in various short term positions, at places like Pearson and Walker Books. It was a great chance to meet other people in a similar position to me trying to break into publishing, as well as getting to know the industry a bit better. I then got my first permanent publishing job as a design assistant at DK within the preschool and 5+ team.

What led you to a career in design?
I studied graphic design at Camberwell College of Arts. Whilst I was studying I particularly enjoyed working in anything print, be it books, magazine layout, print making or letterpress. After an internship with the design department at the Whitechapel gallery and a few months at a multidisciplinary design studio I realised I could pair up my love for books and illustration with a job in design and moved into publishing.

How did you progress into your current role?
I started at Frances Lincoln Children’s Books just over 4 years ago now as a designer. Not long after that my colleagues Rachel Williams and Jenny Broom joined and launched the Wide Eyed Editions imprint. From then our creative team of 7 have grown both lists and expanded our publishing into many areas. It’s been really exciting to be part of something from the beginning and to see how far we’ve come, as well as helping Frances Lincoln grow in new areas, whilst retaining it’s core values and backlist. The books we make are a dream to work on as a designer, we’re lucky enough to work with a lot of amazing illustration talent. Also as a team our vision for the books really gels together. This means I have a lot of creative freedom in terms of the look and feel of our books which has really helped me develop in my role. I have been lucky enough to progress from designer to senior designer and I am now the art director of our lists.

What skills and experience are needed for roles in Design?
Obviously a good eye for colour, type and a good understanding of all the Adobe programmes.  Having good taste in design and good computer skills wouldn’t be enough on it’s own. My job is often problem solving and satisfying the requests and opinions of a number of people. Being able to visualise these thoughts into a coherent design needs a good understanding of the book market here and internationally, as well as an understanding of your customer. A huge strength in our list is the illustrators behind our books. Finding the right person and pairing them with the right format and subject matter is key to my role, I have a pretty large Pinterest board where I am constantly saving inspiration for the future! We are a small team producing a fairly large number of books, so organisation and project management skills have been invaluable to me. I need to keep many long projects ticking along over long periods of time, making sure the illustrator has the space to create the best work they can, and we have the time to nurture them though the process. Finally, in a small team like ours, being able to do stuff quickly around book fair time and really busy periods can be very helpful!

How do you continue to learn and improve your skills?
Staying aware of what is going on in the children’s book world is important. I am going to Bologna book fair for the first time next year which I think will be a really interesting experience. I make sure to keep on top of what is happening in the design and illustration worlds too. We never restrict ourselves to children’s book illustrators to work on our books, which hopefully keeps our books looking fresh and new. Developing new novelty formats, or using new finishes is a great way to keep broadening my skills too.

What advice would you give to someone trying to start or progress their career in a design role?
I think having a clear vision of which area you want to go into really helps.  When I realised it was specifically children’s publishing which I was most passionate about it was much easier for me to focus on getting that experience and a suitable portfolio. Also in my current role being vocal about what types of books I really love working on and being able to show how my skill set suits this work has meant I have been able to grow into commissioning in these areas, and has really helped me grow from a designer into an art director.

What is your favourite piece of design work that you have worked on?
The 50 States Illustrated by Sol Linero was the first of our large format Wide Eyed books that I worked on, so I will always have a soft spot for that book. More recently I have enjoyed seeing series come together like Illuminature and Illumanatomy with art by Carnovsky, and other titles such as All Aboard the Discovery Express illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole or Pirates Magnified illustrated by Harry Bloom which have a really strong look and striking covers. This will allow us to expand these as a series and cover other subject matters.