Sunday, October 23, 2011

The social designer

When partnerships between the digital arena and publishing are mentioned most people immediately think of eBooks. But the digital world is also affecting the publishing of 'real books', most interestingly through social media. New relationships are being built in all departments, leading to better understanding and a bigger sense of belonging to a project.

Now, for me social media is a big ol' marketing power term, just like 'Web 2.0' but for the purpose of this blog I am going to use it (liberally) to describe user generated digital media, like twitter, blogs, image aggregator sites and Facebook.

I am print based book designer, who's upbringing by a computer programmer father lead me to become something of a digital nerd at heart. I've had my own website since I was a moody teenager in the early 90s and now revel in my many social media accounts: twitter (@astred), Facebook,, linked in, Flickr and of course my own blog ( And it is through these many sites that I have been able to take part in something very exciting.

Social media is breaking down the barriers between publisher, author, designer and audience. Allowing each party to catch a glimpse of information that may not have been forthcoming without it.

As a freelance designer I have found myself down the rabbit hole and following threads I normally wouldn't see. Excitingly, I am able to follow authors (whom I have designed books for) as they post updates on their writing progress, along with their reactions to milestones in their publishing process (like seeing cover concepts). While fans and book bloggers in turn post their responses.

For me (and a small group of mainly young adult authors I design for) the dialogue between author and designer has expanded. This in no way cancels out the need for publisher, nor do I take design direction in this way, but the outlet has allowed for a deeper, mutual respect.

Friendly discourse can often lead to the author having a sense of ownership over the design of their book. Which can close the gap that has often existed between author and designer. Understanding the value of good design and trust in your publisher's chosen designer can enrich the experience for the author as well.

Upon accepting the 2011 Man Booker Prize for his novel 'The Sense of an Ending' Julian Barnes thanked the designer of his book: 'Those of you who've seen my book - whatever you may think of its contents - will probably agree that it's a beautiful object. And if the physical book, as we've come to call it, is to resist the challenge of the e-book, it has to look like something worth buying and worth keeping.' - source

Having a 140 character conversation on Twitter with an author and sharing the excitement when a design comes together is a fun experience. Even more so is stumbling upon a fan site on Tumblr that analyses the 'sneak-peak' cover design for an up-coming book. Dissecting every element on the cover, then revelling as they uncover the designer.

Following your authors twitter or Facebook can also lead to other discourse. A few months ago I was interviewed by author Tristan Bancks for his guest blogger stint on the Random House website. It was funny to be interviewed and discuss my process in that realm.

This is just the tip of the iceberg for social media activity I have been involved in over the last six months. With the instances steadily rising.

The whole process enriches the experience of writing and publishing a book for all concerned. Following these behind the scenes processes also expands the readers enjoyment of the book.

Book publishing is not dying it's evolving.


  1. i have listened about web designer
    but it is first time that
    what is that sir ?

  2. Thanks for your post Astrid. Wanted to upload the Julian Barnes designer mention from the Age but haven't had the time. So thank you for doing so. Book design is evolving I agree. Much more to learn and be a part of and be inspired by. I too have enjoyed a little more contact from authors through Facebook. That they take the time to consider the design process and make comment is warmly welcomed.