Welcome to my new monthly feature "A Day With" where I invite someone in the book industry to walk us through their day. A Day With was inspired by Harper Bazaar’s “24 Hours With” it’s a monthly article in which a designer will talk about their daily routine. I hope you enjoy this new monthly series of posts!
Michelle Taormina - Graphic Designer & Illustrator
Thursday Feb 21st 2013
8:30 am: Quiet Time
This is when my day begins. Well, when I get into work anyway. I wake up at 6:30 to get ready for my hour commute from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn (It’s a real place, google map it) to 53rd street and 5th avenue. That is where the Harper Collins building resides.
The office is a ghost town at this time. I’m one of the few crazy people who would rather come into to work early, rather than an hour late. I check my Twitter, Facebook, make my fake coffee (Teecino) sometimes I mix some real coffee in there cause well, I need to wake the heck up. I eat my breakfast. All the while making a list of what I’m going to get done throughout the day, which is usually a pretty damn long list of book related activities.
10:00 AM Cover Meeting
We had one of our weekly cover meetings this morning, which I am always in charge of coordinating. This happens twice a week. The designers and editors meet to discuss cover design directions and ideas. Today I showed a few comps (compositions) I did for Suzanne Young’s new Harper Impulse title. Related to her A Need so Beautiful series. We don’t have a very big budget for these E-Pub titles so I was limited to searching for images on istockphoto.com. I shouldn’t say limited. They have an amazing array of Royalty Free images to purchase and I did find three gorgeous images. One of which was approved by all! Done and done! I love it when covers are easy. It so rarely happens.
I also showed new cover concepts for the paper back version of Patricia McCormick’s NEVER FALL DOWN. While I absolutely love what my art director and I did for the hard cover jacket. We were asked to redesign this for the paperback version. Not a problem! It’s never really a problem is it? You sort of have to bite your tongue and just say, “OK well what are you looking for this time around?” We do have a huge Newberry finalist sticker to place on the jacket so maybe a redesign isn’t such a bad idea. This is me looking on the bright side. Something you will learn to do as a designer. If you don’t a nervous breakdown will ensue. So learn it! Anyway, I digress. I showed new comps that were very different from what you see here. The editor had a clear favorite, so that means we move forward with that one and push it to look perfect. More color contrast, type variations, sticker positioning etc. Then I’ll bring it into the meeting next week for more feedback. Pray for me!
12:00 The Occasional Department Meeting.
I really love the people I work with and this rare meeting is one of the reasons why. I have worked at many publishing houses in my 7 years of designing book covers and I can not once recall ever having a staff meeting like this one. We all sat down and went over issues, hiccups, concerns that were circulating throughout the department. I guess you could say it was a a bit of a designer venting session. We like to talk it out here in the Childrens Design department. Kleenexes, hugs and all.
My amazing creative director takes notes and makes sure everything is dealt with in a tactful and swift fashion. It’s really amazing to have Art Directors and Creative Directors who stick up for their designers. That’s why I give them my all. They’ll fight for my designs, and any concerns I’m having within the company. I’m never afraid to speak my mind for fear of being fired. More offices should function this way. You all know who you are.
1:00 I’M STARVING
That was a stupidly long meeting. My stomach is making sounds I’ve never heard before. Luckily I have a lunch date with one of my good friends and fellow designers. We used to work together at Simon & Schuster. Those were good times. Anyway, being a Harper employee we get free access to MoMA (museum of modern art) which has an amazing café. In short…awesome lunch with my buddy =)
2:00-5:00 FINALLY GET TO DESIGN
I hope you’re still awake? I’m sorry I’m not a member of the Bigfoot Research Organization or a cast member on Mythbusters. You would probably not be so bored right now. But I promise it gets a little better.
Now I begin to design at my awesome stand/sit desk, so I’m not sitting on my bum all day! Exciting right?! Blood circulation is important, people! Anyway, I tend to wear many hats here at Harper (this is what my art director tells me). I do a lot of my own photo retouching and that is much of what I did today. I also created some hand lettered title options of one of my titles. I also like to search for new photographers and illustrators. I have a keenly trained eye when it comes to looking for the perfect image/model to use for a cover. It’s a gift, really. Everyone here has their own strengths and photo research and manipulation just so happen to be mine. I like making contacts with new talent. I try to reach out to anyone I feel will be a major asset to the beautiful covers we are working to create. Today I contacted 4 photographers for the new cover I’m designing for Kiersten White’s sequel to MIND GAMES. So excited about this title! And designing for an author like Kiersten is a joy! She always gives awesome shout-outs to her designers in her acknowledgements. Most authors don’t do this, which is a shame. Designers work really hard (time, attention, research, type solutions, blood, sweat, tears, migraines) to make your dream covers come true.
We have some wonderful in-house and out-of-house freelancers that I’m so grateful to have access to. I’ve learned to delegate my work. Give them projects I may not have the time to complete. They’re so helpful and wonderful. Love my freelancers!
What else did I do today? Oh yes. Another one of my many skills is organization which is why I’ve been put in charge of processing invoices. Today is invoice day. You might be saying to yourself, “but Michelle, you are a wonderful, amazing designer, why oh why would you be processing invoices?” Because I’m damn good at it that’s why. My Creative director refuses to let anyone touch them but me. I think I’ve done TOO GOOD of a job! Ugh! In all seriousness, I do a lot of freelance work outside of my 9-5 job so I know what it’s like to wait for a check from a big company like Harper. It could take forever!!!! And ever!!!! To get paid! People need to pay their bills and eat, so I like to see that they receive their payment in a timely fashion. You’re welcome.
5:00 If you are still reading this, I love you.
Today was a bit lengthy with the meetings. My work day is over. Now I’m heading to Cross Fit, then home before having dinner with some good friends (I have no freelance work tonight for a change). Then I’ll fill out a job application with Mythbusters before playing some lotro, reading Game of Thrones and going to sleep.
Thank you for spending the day with me