1. Recently you’ve produced graphic designs for books from Twelfth Planet Press, including the Twelfth Planet Press Double of “Roadkill” by Robert Shearman and “Siren Beat” by Tansy Rayner Roberts (published back to back). Does book design hold particular challenges compared to other sorts of projects? For example, how do you find working with cover artwork produced by another artist? Perhaps most importantly, how do you know when you’ve found the right font???
I’m not an illustrator, so I often work with other people’s art. I really enjoyed working with Dion’s artwork for Twelfth Planet Press. He really captures the mood of the books he illustrates for, and he has a similar approach to me when it comes to suggestions for changes, which is that he’s open to ideas, but you have to convince him.
Designing book covers has been really fun. The design process isn’t that much different from any other work I do, but it’s certainly more exciting to get the finished product.
Choosing typefaces is often more about the rejecting all the wrong ones until you finally run out reasons to reject one. I think Kate actually minuted the moment I finally announced that I’d decided on the typeface for the Natcon 50 logo. It took a while.
2. You have a BA in Political Science and Philosophy, and also specialise in political campaign materials. Can a good designer do everything or is it better to specialise? How important is having a knowledge of the subject matter when designing material?
I don’t think it’s necessary to have prior knowledge about the subject you’re designing for, but you definitely need to research and get that knowledge. A lot of the design process is about asking the right questions. Finding the right answers is usually much easier than figuring out what the question is.
I’m sure that philosophy, politics and graphic design seems like an unusual combination but they really complement each other well. They are all about communication: what are you saying, to whom are you saying it, what’s the most effective way of doing that? But it suits me just fine for them to remain a rare combination.
There isn’t one way to be a good designer. For me it’s about the balance between specialising and getting better in a few areas, but also making sure that I’m pushing myself to do new things as well so that I never get to the point where I think I know what I’m doing.
3. You’re part of the Natcon 50 project and I love the fun and very retro logo (with antenna!) that you’ve designed for the project. What were your inspirations?
Thank you! The Natcon 50 theme is retro-futurism, so I’ve been looking at lots of mid-century depictions of their future and our present. The Jetsons, of course, had a lot to do with it! Mostly I hope it makes people smile. We want next year’s Natcon to be about celebrating the past and the future, both the stories and the people who love them. It’s going to be big, but more importantly it’s going to be lots of fun, so I wanted a logo that conveys that.
4. Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year? What have you enjoyed reading?
Well, if people like Jonathon Strahan and Shaun Tan don't pick up a Hugo or two in front of a home crowd then something will have gone wrong!
Peter Ball’s Horn and Tansy Rayner Roberts’s Siren Beat were fantastic stories, and Deb Biancotti’s collection of short stories were brilliant. At the risk of sounding a little biased, Twelfth Planet Press is putting out really smart, original stuff and it’s great to see them getting the attention they deserve.
5. Will you be at Aussiecon 4 in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to about it?
I’m still not sure, but I really hope so. As always, it’s all about the people: smart, hilarious, crazy people.
This interview was conducted as part of the 2010 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We'll be blogging interviews from Monday 15 February to Sunday 22 February and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at: