How to design a Book and other stories

Introduction | Four decades in…

How did that happen?

The other day I worked out that I have been working in publishing for over 40 years. My career to date has been over a period of rapid and seismic shifts in print and graphic design, of digital processes and, oh yes, the battleground of today’s content, the Internet.

From a teenage money making scheme and start at Sphere Books to working with all the major UK based publishers including, Slatter-Andersen, a publishing design specialist agency, setting up on my own consultancy 2H and, more recently, co-founding The Big Ideas Collective – a branding team with our own independent publishing imprint. There isn’t much I haven’t seen, or heard, or, quite frankly, would ever care to witness again, when it comes to creating books.

Despite the sleepless nights, I’ve never lost the thrill of happiness when I come across, or see someone with one of the books I have designed. From finding a Tolkien book in The Venice Beach Bookstore to the Japanese edition of an interactive gaming series. Whenever someone picks up a book I’ve worked on I know my design matters.

Throughout the last forty years I’ve been busy. I have been lucky enough to work with some extraordinary people on some incredible projects. I have spoken at conferences and literary festivals; run design workshops for college students and creative seminars at TEDx events and been interviewed for promos and podcasts.

I vividly remember a moment at TEDxVitoriaGastiez in front of a packed room of international delegates, I thought to myself, “If I could tell my 15-year-old self what would be in store, he wouldn’t believe it!” and I still don’t.

Having now designed over 4000 book covers and around 200 complete books, as well as working on numerous promotional campaigns, I have gone through my archives and dusted off a few that I think you’ll find interesting. Some I had forgotten, some I like, some I really don’t, but, all of them have a story. From The Rolling Stones to Danielle Steel, Kirk Douglas and Mary Berry; the story behind books on political scandals, ethics professors and plays, even an unexpectedly revealing meeting with Rupert Everett in LA (although this may come as no surprise to anyone lucky enough to know him) and many, many more.

Throughout my life music has been an important touchstone to my creativity. Each post has a piece of music that ties in with the story. The playlist is growing over on Spotify. This first track is a very short track that, for me, describes the need to keep going. BEWARE a little swearing for emphasis.

Ned, 2020