Welcome Oli! Please tell us about your journey to becoming a book cover designer.
I’ve always been into art – there are photos of me drawing whilst on the potty aged 3. Now, I generally use a desk. ? So, I knew from a young age that I wanted to create art. The trick was to actually make money doing it. This led me to art college and from there university where I studied graphic design and print making. After uni, I worked in London for 10 years or more at various agencies, growing from junior designer to art director and then running my own studio. I’ve also run a studio in the Swiss Alps where we created European ad campaigns for The North Face and did a lot of amazing hiking. I still run my design business, Komodo Creative and I expanded into book cover design when a friend showed me her book covers which were dull, poorly artworked and didn’t represent the genre well. I was pretty shocked that they were so amateur so I redesigned them for her.
Do you have a favorite project in particular? What about that experience made it unique?
I loved designing Celine Jeanjean’s ‘Viper and the Urchin’ series. There’s a lot about these covers which makes them a little different from the norm whilst still being on genre. I really enjoyed combining custom illustrated objects with structured design elements (brass ring and cogs etc), and I love the typography. It’s an original layout for a book cover but the composition and font work so well for steampunk. These elements combined to form a super strong series branding for these books which makes them stand out from the crowd and allows readers to easily identify the next book in the series they want to read. I also had fun with the back cover, which is an area I feel is often neglected or done as an afterthought, but I created a cool series numbering device – a little brass and glass bubble – which I also used on the title pages.
What does a typical day look like for you?
It varies as I’m a digital nomad, and I try to achieve a good work/life balance that allows me time to appreciate and be inspired by whichever cool location I’m in. Currently? I’m on a tiny island in Indonesia hiding out from Covid. Design in the morning, swim with sea turtles in the afternoon. Hmmmm perhaps there are mermaid covers in my future!
What do authors need to know to have the best outcome when working with a professional cover designer?
Something I always try to explain to my clients during the briefing consultation is what the job of the book cover is. Many authors want their cover to tell the story. That’s not the aim. Your cover needs to grab attention and inform the genre, which will lead to customers clicking on your cover in searches. Once you’ve grabbed your reader’s attention and you have that click, then you can hint at story because they’ll see your blurb.
What are you reading right now?
LL Raye’s ‘Saving Time’ series. It’s a cool time travelling sci-fi series about a guy who can go back in time to ‘fix’ history’s problems. Of course it doesn’t turn out as simple as that. I designed the covers for this series so it’s great to read the books and get an understanding of the story and potential inspiration for the next cover.
What are your top 5 favorite fonts? Is there a font you hate that everyone else seems to love?
There are sooooo many. I try not to have favourites as they all deserve my love and I like to keep variety. I don’t have font hate but it does make my eyes hurt when people don’t pay attention to kerning (space between letters), or if they just slap the font on top of the image without giving the title the care it needs to integrate with the design. Font rage? Is that a thing?
What do you do when you’re not designing? Any hobbies?
I’m a big nature fan! When I’m not designing I like to volunteer with wildlife conservation projects. I’ve been doing this since 2001 and worked with some wonderful animals. This little guy is a baby white handed gibbon. Sadly this species is becoming increasingly rare due to illegal pet trade and deforestation. I’ve spent several years working with a project in Thailand to re-introduce confiscated gibbons back into the rainforest.
What book cover trend do you hate?
I don’t hate anything, but I’d love to see more variety and originality in UF as a genre.
What do you enjoy most about being a book cover designer?
The playfulness of the creativity, and the fact that you can let your imagination run wild. From a lifestyle perspective it really suits me as I can control the workflow and work from anywhere on the planet.
Do you listen to music while designing? What are some of your favorite tracks to listen to?
Depends upon what I’m designing. For dark fantasy – Florence and the Machine, for gnarly thrillers perhaps the Foo Fighters or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. For sci-fi maybe The Pixies… incidentally the cover design for the Pixies albums was beautiful and of great inspiration in my early years. Done by a fabulous guy named Vaughn Oliver, now sadly departed.