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I get a surprising amount of traffic here on the blog from people searching for pictures of black tiles with black grout (or black pennyrounds, or just black bathroom floors in general), and a lot of those people then email me to ask about whether I like having all of those things in my house and what the maintenance is like. It’s been about 4 years (!!!) since we put them in our downstairs bathroom, so I feel like I can speak with a bit of experience about them at this point.

We used matte black pennyrounds from Nemo tile (the style code is m890) in our bathroom with Polyblend sanded grout in Charcoal, which really does read as black to my eye. It took a bit of hunting to find it locally, but Tec makes sanded black caulk (Raven) that matched the grout pretty perfectly. (Grout is for between the tiles, and caulk is for joints — like where tiles meet at a corner or where your tile meets the tub.) Including the tile underlayment and all of the “ingredients,” the whole floor cost about $350.

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The caulk line looks a little grayish here, but that’s really just the photo. After four years, the color hasn’t faded at all — it still looks rich and black. Several people have asked me whether using products like talcum powder in the bathroom would be an issue with black grout. That’s not something I ever use, but I do wear loose face powder every day that I brush on with wild abandon…and I’ve never noticed it showing up in the grout. I have dropped bits of broken pressed powder onto the floor, though, and that does definitely require some clean-up, but nothing that a regular sponge and warm water can’t take care of. (Note: I did use a sealant after grouting. Not sure if that actually makes a difference, but it can’t hurt.)

The other thing that comes up a lot is the question of whether dust and water spots show on the tile. In short: No. Nothing shows on this tile. Even if I were a total pig and didn’t regularly clean my bathroom, I could go for a really, really long time before the floor looked dirty. Like…months. At least. I’m not going to try it to find out, but seriously, this is NOT a nightmare floor. I think that’s probably because the tiles are tiny/visually busy and because they’re matte. If I had 2×3′ polished black marble tiles, I might be singing a different tune!

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Next up, cleaning! I don’t do anything special to clean the pennyrounds. The first thing I do when I’m cleaning any bathroom is vacuum, because otherwise I’m just pushing hair around with a sponge and EW. Usually I just follow up with a wet Swiffer cloth, but every couple of months I do get down on my knees with a bucket and a sponge and go to town on all the nooks and crannies. Again, though, this is just something I’d do regardless of the type of tile, not because the floor looks grimy or anything.

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Alright, so you can’t actually see the tiles at all in these pictures, but I’m including them anyway because I love this bathroom so, so, so much. I’m still really proud of all the work Evan and I did in there (even though it did take us the better part of a year!). It was such a sad, ugly room when we bought the house, and now it’s one of my favorite places to be. Maybe that’s a weird thing to say about a tiny little bathroom? I really do love everything about it, and we learned so much in the process. That was my first time tiling!

BONUS PICTURES!! I recently saw this black-floored Brooklyn bathroom on Remodelista and fell in looooove. It looks to me like they used polished black marble hexagons with a slightly lighter grout than I did, but the effect is very similar. For your ogling pleasure…

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Photos by Sean Flattery for Remodelista. (There are more photos on designer Elizabeth Roberts’ website — click through the slideshow for more bathroom shoots!)


The result of last week’s haircut. I had about 3″ taken off the overall length, and I’ve gone back to a deep side part…and black dye!

What?
Somehow I’ve managed to let more than a whole year pass since my last Go Ask Anna Q+A session! I think Twitter has a lot to do with that—it’s just so easy to get engaged in dialogue over there. It’s high time for another free-for-all on the blog, though, so let’s do it. All aboard the ego train, haha…

You have between now and Thursday, August 9th to get your questions in! I’ll answer in the comments as the questions come in, and as always, if a lot of you are interested in something specific that requires a long-form answer (like how to make a circle in Photoshop or cut an ENJE window shade), I’ll do my best to turn it into a future post.

RULES:
✚ You can ask anything you want, but please remember that everyone has boundaries.
✚ If I feel a question is either overly-personal or creepy, I reserve the right to not publish (or answer) it.
✚ Please check the FAQ page first.

p.s. I can’t believe I missed my blog’s birthday! Door Sixteen turned FIVE YEARS OLD in June. Does that mean it’s ready for kindergarten?

Between the categories page I designed for sfgirlbybay and the multitude of round icons I’ve made in the last couple of days on Twitter, I’ve gotten a lot of questions lately about how to make a circle with an image in it. Because it’s such a huge part of my daily working life, I tend to assume that everyone (a) owns Photoshop, and (b) knows how to use Photoshop, so it doesn’t occur to me that things that seem so simple (making circles, putting type on photos, etc.) to me might not be as obvious to everybody else. This is super-easy, though. I promise.

Okay, first things first: I don’t know how to use any image editing programs other than Photoshop. I’ve been using Photoshop for 17 years (that doesn’t seem possible, but I double-checked with a calculator to be sure…EEK!), and I’ve never had any reason to use anything else. I’m sure it’s possible to accomplish these results with other programs, but I can’t tell you how. I’m sure there are tutorials out there, though!

Second things second: These instructions assume you are creating a graphic element for use on the web. This is not how I would create a similar element for print. Designing and creating documents for print is a whole ‘nother ball of wax!

Now that that’s all out of the way, let’s get started…

STEP ONE: Open your photo. For this demo, I’m using an Instagram photo of Rick Moranis as Vinz Clortho, the Keymaster of Gozer in Ghostbusters.

If your photo is really huge, now would be a good time to knock down the pixel width to a manageable size (Image > Image Size). Remember, when you view something at 100% in Photoshop, that’s the same size the image will appear when it’s on the web at screen resolution.

STEP TWO: Choose the Elliptical Marquee Tool from the toolbar.

See the area I highlighted in yellow above? Make sure that Feather is set to 0px, Anti-Alias is checked, and Style is set to normal.

Click and drag the marquee tool to select the area you want to make into a circle. Hold down the shift key to keep your circle perfectly round. If you need to move your selection around as you drag, hold down the space bar at the same time. (You’ll get the hang of it, trust me!)

STEP THREE: With the selection still active, crop your image (Image > Crop) to remove any extraneous areas.

Double-click on the Background in your layers palette to turn your image into a free-floating layer. A dialogue box will pop up—just hit OK—you don’t need to change any of the settings.

STEP FOUR: With the selection still active, click the “Add vector mask” button at the bottom of your layers palette (highlighted above in yellow). WOAH! Magical! Circle!

STEP FIVE: You’re pretty much done now, but for extra bonus points, you can now save your circle with its transparent background intact. That way, if you use your circle somewhere with a colored background (like on Twitter!), there won’t be a white square around it.

Go to File > Save for Web & Devices and choose PNG-24 (highlighted above) from the pull-down menu. Make sure the Transparency box is checked. Click Save, name your file, and you’re done!

It’s been a year and a half since my last Go Ask Anna free-for all, and I’ve been getting so many questions about stuff via email lately that I figured it’s probably time to do it again.

Go ahead, ask away! I’ll leave the comments on this post open until Thursday, June 9th, and reply with answers between now and Friday.

RULES:
1. You can ask anything you want, but please remember that everyone has boundaries. I reserve the right to not answer creepy or overly-personal questions.
2. Please check the FAQ page first.

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I sort of feel like this has been done already (um, probably because it has—see the links at the end of this post!), but so may of you have asked me for a tutorial on cutting ENJE roller shades from IKEA that I figured I’d try to document the whole process from start to finish as best as I can. I swear it’s REALLY EASY, even though I have an unfortunate knack for using a lot of words to describe very simple things (I was really annoying in college, but you probably guessed that already).

If you, like me, have 40,985,934 windows in your house that are all odd, non-standard sizes, you’ve probably discovered that custom shades are ridiculously expensive. Like, $100-300 per window. Multiply that by 40,985,934, and you’ve got…um…empty pockets. Enter ENJE. They look really good, function well (even the ones I’ve opened and closed several times a day for more than a year still roll smoothly), filter light beautifully while providing privacy, and they’re affordable. And you can cut them to fit, which is why we’re all here today.

Supplies:
• An ENJE shade (you probably guessed that)
• A metal ruler/straightedge
• Pliers or a wrench or really strong fingers
• A sharp pencil
• An X-Acto knife
• A decent pair of scissors (preferably fabric shears)
• Painter’s tape
• A jigsaw with hacksaw blade or a manual hacksaw or a Dremel with a metal-cutting blade*

*Don’t fret about the saw. You can get a manual hacksaw for less than $10, and you’ll use it all the time. If you already own a jigsaw, though, spring for a hacksaw blade.

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When you open up the package the shade comes in, you’ll find a long strip of cardboard with the product information printed on it. Don’t throw it away. It’s a template (see those holes at either end?), and aside from functioning as a guide for drilling mounting holes, it’s very handy for determining exactly how much to trim off of your shade in order for it to fit nicely in your window.

First of all, don’t take the measurements on the IKEA website and the ENJE packaging as gospel, especially if you’re in the US (or another non-metric country). They’re converted to inches from centimeters, and the numbers are usually rounded up or down a bit. 1/32″ isn’t a big deal when you’re talking about a sofa, but window frames aren’t flexible! Instead of going off the printed info, measure the cardboard template yourself and make note of the number.

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I’ll bet you’re wondering if I went to MIT, right?

Here’s me doing basic math. Snicker all you want, but I have to write everything down (and use circles and arrows), or else I get all confused and make mistakes. In case you can’t figure it out, the first number is the measurement of the cardboard template (i.e., the actual width of the entire ENJE fixture, including the mounting hardware), and the second number is the interior space of my window frame. The third number is the difference between the two—in other words, that’s the amount I need to cut off of the shade in order for it to fit perfectly.

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See what I mean about my tendency to over-explain? I probably didn’t need three photos to show you how to remove the cap at the end of the bottom rod, but there you go. If you can’t pull the cap off with your fingers (sometimes they come off more easily than others), pliers or a wrench will do the trick. Just make sure you wrap it up in some tape first, or else you’ll scrape the crap out of the cap and then you’ll be sad.

Also, make note of how the blind sits in the rod before you slide it out. It’s not complicated—it’s just a strip of plastic at the bottom that slides into a channel inside the rod—but sometimes you need to see how stuff comes apart in order to put it back together again, right?

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Supposedly there was a pseudo-recall on these blinds last year, but as far as I can tell, the extent of it was that they made the choking hazard warning sticker on the rod REALLY REALLY hard to remove instead of just being really hard. At this point in our project, I highly recommend that you pass the rod off to someone with more patience than you (Daniel was sitting right next to me when I was doing this, so he was the lucky de-stickerer. It took him about 20 seconds, whereas it takes me 30 minutes and half a bottle of Goo-Gone, so this was a smart choice on my part) so you can get on with the rest of the blind-trimming rather than wasting half the day fussing with these stupid stickers.

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Time to start measuring! This is not a complicated operation. Yes, the blind is a little unwieldy because it’s so lengthy, but as long as you don’t, like, kneel creases into fabric, it’s okay to roll it up and fold it in on itself as you go. Remember that 6¼” measurement I wrote down a couple of steps ago? That’s where I drew my line. Just make little marks every few inches, then connect them with a sharp pencil using your straightedge. Don’t worry about the pencil line showing when the shade is up—it really won’t. Just don’t go using a fat, dull lead or a Sharpie or anything like that and you’ll be fine.

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Okay, I’m going to be totally honest with you here. If you need a photograph to show you how to operate a pair of scissors, this project is probably not for you. Normally I would have left this visual out, because how do you take a photo of yourself cutting something without growing a really long, third arm? Okay, with a timer, sure, but really? Anyway, Daniel was nice enough to snap this “action shot” of me cutting the fabric (he had to take three, actually, because I was convinced my cutting motions didn’t look natural enough—I’m really not comfortable being in front of the camera!), so I figured I’d post it.

Note that I am not heeding my own advice to use good fabric shears and am instead using a pair of 30-year-old, glue-encrusted Fiskars that I inherited from my mother. That’s because my fabric shears are MIA (I blame Fritz), but you should do as I say, not as I do. I’m pretty good with scissors (hey, I went to art school) so I was able to get a nice, clean line, but if you’re less steady, fabric shears really do make a HUGE difference when it comes to cutting textiles.

Seriously though, don’t panic about the actual trimming. It’s no big deal. The ENJE fabric is really stiff, so it’s almost like cutting paper. Even if you waver from the line a little, it’s not going to show. (I bet you could also use one of those fancy rotary cutters, too, but I don’t have one, so I can’t speak from experience.)

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When you reach the top rod, it’s time to pull out your X-Acto knife. Trim around the circumference of the rod, then peel off the excess fabric. The glue used here is much less stubborn than that used on the sticker, so it should come off really easily.

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Here’s a tip you’ll thank me for later: Instead of just letting the shade flop all over the place while you cut the top rod (especially if your tools are in the basement and your basement looks like this), roll it up loosely and let it hang down a few inches from the rod, secured in place with a loose loop of tape.

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Measure the amount to cut off of the top and bottom rods (this should be the same number as the one you used to trim the fabric—6¼” in my case), and use tape to mask off the good side—in addition to giving you a guideline for cutting, the tape will protect the metal from getting scuffed by your saw.

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I find this photo absolutely mortifying. I tried my best to crop out the basement, but you can still see the squalid conditions in which I operate my jigsaw. Also, I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to let your hair hang down like that when you use power tools, right? Sigh. Again, do as I say, not as I do. This is why I usually don’t take pictures of the process! I don’t want anyone scalping themselves or losing digits.

If you’re using a manual hacksaw, cutting the rods will take a minute or two. A jigsaw will go through them in seconds. You could probably also use a chop saw with a metal-cutting blade, but mind the position of your fabric!

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So…you’re done! Put everything back together, and mount your shade. It’s easy! (Really!) I know I make everything seem more complicated than it actually is, but I promise it’s not scary.

See also:
1. Morgan’s post from September 2008
2. My post from April 2009
3. Nicole’s post from June 2010

Yeah, Part One was insanely long. I’m kind of surprised that anyone actually read it! Sorry, I’m not a good condenser. Part Two is going to be a little easier to read, though, I promise!

Do you read the books before you design the covers?

Yes, for the most part. I’m very conscious of wanting to respect the author’s intent when I’m working on a cover, and as a reader, I know how nice it is to read a book and see the imagery on the cover start to take shape in words as the story progresses.

See that photo up at the top of this post? Those are all uncorrected manuscripts, and I’m usually reading one or two of them at any given time. Usually they just come to me as a stack of loose papers, but every now and then I’ll get a bound copy or a previous edition of the book if it was previously published elsewhere (in the UK, for example, or by a self-published author whose work took off). I usually clip together about 50 pages at a time to read during my commute to and from work so I’m not dragging the whole thing around with me. While I’m reading, I’ll fold pages that are visually evocative. Sometimes I’ll take notes if I get a specific cover idea that I don’t want to forget, but usually I just try to absorb the tone of the book and pay attention to recurring themes and any special objects in the book that might hold significant meaning.

The only times I don’t read a book before getting to work are, obviously, if the manuscript isn’t available yet (this tends to be the case with most non-fiction titles, as well as with some authors who have scheduled, multi-book contracts), or if the book is serial genre fiction (mystery, romance, etc.) with a pre-defined “look”. At the very least, I’ll get a short description of the book and its plot, and I can usually ask the editor to ask the author for character descriptions and location details.

How much say do authors have in the cover design?

It really depends on the author. Some are very easygoing and hands-off, and others prefer to get more involved and specific about exactly what they’d like to see. In general, though, by the time my art director comes to me with an assignment, the publisher, editor, author, and agent have all discussed the subject and taken various factors (sales of previous books, comparable competitive titles, publication season, etc.) into consideration.

As the process progresses, the publisher and editor will decide which submitted covers to share with the author and agent, who will then give feedback and request changes. In other words, there may be dozens of cover options that filter through various channels within the company before the author even sees a single one, but generally speaking, nothing goes to print without the author giving a stamp of approval.

Does the author get to decide who designs their cover?

It’s very rare that this happens, but when it does, it’s usually an outside designer with some kind of personal connection to the author. The publisher will always have the final say, though—Aunt Betty doesn’t get to design a cover in Microsoft Word just because her nephew with the book deal wants her to. If Rodrigo Corral is your best friend, though, then yeah, you can probably pick him to design your cover.

What’s your favorite part of your job? Least favorite?

I have a lot of both, but the best moment for me is always getting an email from an author letting me know that they love the cover I designed for their book. That’s the best feeling—even better than seeing the book hit the New York Times bestseller list (that makes me feel good too, though!). I really appreciate it when authors take the time to thank their designer. Not all of them do.

My least favorite part of the job is probably getting stuck and running out of ideas. This usually happens when I’ve gone through a dozen rounds of revisions and 30–40 different covers, and I’m nowhere closer to having an approved cover than I was on day one. That’s a bad feeling, and usually culminates in me getting very teary-eyed and sad when I come home at the end of the day. I don’t like feeling as though I’ve disappointed everyone.

Do you keep copies of all the books you’ve designed?

No. I design a lot of book covers—at least a hundred or so every year. Out of a hundred books, I’d say I’m happy with about ten of the final covers. I keep copies of the ones I like, though, as well as any that I might need to refer to in the future when working on subsequent books by the author. I don’t bring any of them home, though—they’re all on shelves in my office. I have an arm’s length mentality about that kind of thing.

How long is your commute to work?

If I’m coming from Newburgh, it takes about two hours door to door (ferry, train, foot). If I’m in the apartment in Manhattan, it’s about 35 minutes (subway, foot).

Do you ever get to meet with the authors face-to-face?

Yes, sometimes! Just a couple of days ago I got to meet Liza Marklund, who was lovely and charming and very kind when speaking about the cover design for Red Wolf. Sometimes authors I design covers for will find me online, which is fun. A couple of them read this blog! I always try to let authors know when I like their books, too. One of the best side benefits of my job is getting to read stuff I might not have known about otherwise.

Okay, that’s enough for now! I still have a bunch of questions to answer, and I promise I’ll get there. Thank you for reading along this far…

“Imaginary Friends”, 1997. I was very into Reid Miles/Blue Note at the time.

So, wow. That’s a lot of questions! I was kind of expecting the usual five or six that I get asked all the time, but some of you got in really deep—I’m finding myself thinking about aspects of my job that I’ve never even considered before.

I’m floored by the variety of jobs that you all have, too, including a few that I didn’t even know exist. Isn’t it amazing how many things we humans need to know how to do in order to make our sustain our societies? I remember my parents telling me at a very young age that every single job is an important one in its own way, from garbageman to president to dancer to doctor, and I truly believe that. Every single person has something they can do well and love, and the luckiest among us are the ones who know what that thing is.

I tend to be a little lot on the wordy side when it comes to writing (I think I was the only person in my college art history classes decreasing the leading and margin widths on my papers in an effort to make them seem shorter), so I’m going to have to break my responses up into categories. It might take me longer than a day or two to answer everything properly, so please bear with me!

The most-asked questions were about (a) how I got to be a book cover designer, and (b) what one has to do to become a book cover designer. I think the easiest way to answer those questions is to first give some background on my own educational experience.

I was raised in a very artistically-minded family (my mother is a graphic designer and painter; my father is a painter and art instructor—and that’s just the first generation of my immediate family), and while it’s easy to say that growing up in a creative environment led me to where I am now, I have a bunch of older brothers and sisters who wound up doing doing completely different (and super cool) things for a living. The common thread among us is an ability to creatively problem-solve. That, and we’re all kind of nuts.

I did grow up knowing that professional careers in the arts are possible, though, and I think that’s something that might be eschewed by a lot of guidance counselors and well-meaning parents. I’ve been exposed to the realities of working in fine art and commercial art for my entire life, and jobs in those fields are what seem “normal” to me. That said, when I enrolled in college at SUNY Purchase in 1993, I did so not in the School of the Arts, but in in the Liberal Arts department. I thought I would major in English Literature and become a writer. I’ve always been an avid reader and book-lover, and writing is something that comes naturally to me, so why not?

I realized about halfway through my first semester that I didn’t want to continue on that path. There wasn’t anything wrong with my classes or my professors, but I just knew in my bones that I wanted to do something else. Like maybe what my parents do. I remember seeing one of my suitemates spreading out squares of colored paper and creating Josef Albers-eqsue arrangements to complete an assignment for her Color Theory class, and just feeling so jealous. And like I’d made a huge mistake.

Long story slightly less long, I wound up transferring to the School of Art+Design at Purchase College (same campus, completely different program). I got my BFA through the graphic design program. The approach to graphic design at Purchase leans heavily toward the fine art aspect of the field rather than commercial application, and, as the program description on their website states, “encourages overlaps with other areas in Art+Design (e.g., printmaking, photography, furniture design, video, and new media)”.

I’m not sure if this is still the case, but Purchase used to be one of the only schools in the country to offer an MFA program with a concentration in Book Arts. The art department included a letterpress studio with a huge lead-type foundry, a book bindery, and an offset lithography press. The printmaking facilities were also impressive, and I was able to take classes in all of the above areas, as well as silkscreening, intaglio printing, photography, and plenty of art and design history classes. My foundation was still in graphic design, but the emphasis of the program was not on learning computer programs.

Yes, I did learn the basics of the computer programs that were in use at the time (I remember when layers were first introduced in Photoshop—very exciting!), but that was really secondary. I do realize that this has probably changed as the years have passed, and I absolutely think it’s important to have a very good working knowledge of the tools best suited for any job (in other words, you really do have to know InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator in order to work as a graphic designer in 2010), but that knowledge alone does not equip a person with the ability to be a good designer. I cannot emphasize this enough. Furthermore, graphic design is not the same thing as painting or photography or any other creative field, and it’s a common misconception that a person with a good visual sense in one field can easily translate it to another (I say this as someone who is endlessly frustrated by my lackluster abilities as a photographer!).

Because I’ve always been a workaholic freak with a fear of downtime, I had a full-time job while I was in college full-time. I worked at Borders, first as a café barista (you should have seen the adorable signs I made for the pastry case!), and then as a bookseller and new book merchandiser. I love books. Love, love, love. I can’t get enough of them. I love holding them, smelling them, borrowing them, lending them, touching their pages, and yes, even reading them. For my senior project, I designed, offset-printed (with the help of my advisor and mentor, book artist Philip Zimmermann), and bound 20 copies of an image and type-based book about imaginary friends. I commissioned an illustrator, Derek Van Gieson, to make a drawing of me for the cover. Looking back on it 13 years later, I can see that my aesthetic hasn’t really changed that much—but I have gotten much better with my execution!

One of my professors at Purchase, Bill Deere, approached me at my graduation ceremony (my commencement speakers were Chuck Close and Wesley Snipes!) and asked me if I was interested in designing book covers. I said yes. He said cool. I said yeah. And then he gave me a piece of paper with a phone number on it, and told me a former student of his was an art director at a big publishing house, and that I should give her a call. So I did! I set up an interview and got together my portfolio (filled entirely with student work). I was literally one week out of school when I went in to meet with the department head, and I had no idea what I was doing. I’ve never been a plan-ahead kind of gal, so I really just winged it. He liked my portfolio, but he kept coming back to the fact that I’d been working in a book store, and that I really love books. As much as he could see that I was a competent entry-level designer, I think it was the fact that I understood the marketing and saleability of books and what makes them attractive to consumers that gave me the extra edge.

A week later, I had a job offer. I gave my two weeks notice at Borders, and started my job as a book cover designer exactly one month after I graduated from college. I still work in the same art department at the same publishing company today! Over the years, I’ve advanced from Designer One to Junior Designer to Senior Designer, and I’m happy being at this level and having the responsibilities that come with this position. I work with a lot of the same people that were there when I started (four of us went to Purchase, though not all at the same time), and the environment is very tight-knit. I definitely have days when I dread going to work (mostly because the dogs look soooooo comfortable lying in bed), but it’s never because I don’t like what I do or who I work with. I am a very lucky person, and I hope my coworkers know how much they mean to me. (Hi, guys!)

So that’s the story of how I got where I am. I’m sure there are a lot of ways to become a book cover designer (I mean, it’s not like I’m an architect or anything super-superior like that, after all), but this is how I did it. The number one most important thing is to LOVE books and LOVE typography and LOVE all kinds of design, and the number two thing is to accept and understand that the job of a commerical designer is almost always to please a client, attract a customer, and sell a product. I do think art school is a great thing (specifically a school with a design program), as is a knowledge of art and design history, but I’m sure there are plenty of self-taught kids out there doing amazing things, and far be it from me to say their work isn’t valid just because they don’t have a formal education. If you want to do this, you kind of just have to start doing it. Design book covers for self-published authors. Design a bunch of fake book covers (portfolio content doesn’t have to be “real”!). Go to bookstores, and see what’s on the shelves. Check out some graphic design history books from the library. Look at book design websites. Put together a portfolio that will show an art director you know what a book cover needs to do, and that you’re able to bring something new to the table, too.

I realize this might not be the specific advice you were interested in getting regarding breaking into the industry, but it’s all I’ve got. I do recommend that you read some of the “Ask Nubby” posts from fellow blogger and designer Nubby Twiglet, too, because she’s much more practical than I am—and she’s got some great advice: Ask Nubby!

(More essays answers to come!)

I love hearing about what people do for a living; about the ways their jobs function and how they started doing what they do in the first place. I always feel a little embarrassed and even kind of shy when I’m asked what I do (I design books), because as much as I love my job, it’s hard for me to image anyone else being interested in hearing about it.

Much to my constant amazement, though, people are really interested in book cover design! I get so many emails and comments asking me about how it all works, so I thought it might be nice to try to answer as many of those questions as possible all in one place.

Go for it: Ask me anything you ever wanted to know about being a book cover designer. It would be extra-cool if you also told me what you do to bring home the biscuits, too . . . even if you don’t have a question!

Keep in mind that I work in-house (not freelance) for a publishing company, so I can’t answer questions about self-employment and that kind of thing.

I’ll answer all of start answering your questions on Wednesday!

EDIT: I had to close the comments, sorry. I never expected to get SO many questions—it’s going to take me days and days to get through them all! I’ll do my best to answer everything.

Okay, it’s free-or-all time! Got a question for me? Ask away.

p.s. Check the FAQ page first!


Me in 1980, smiling for my kindergarten photo.

Hello! I’m still alive! I unintentionally took a week off from posting, apparently. Sorry about that—I’m still working away on the bathroom, but none of it is particularly interesting (staining the saddle for the doorway, nailing up tongue-and-groove paneling, etc.). Things should be more photogenic by the weekend, when we start painting.

Meanwhile, I’m also really busy with job-stuff, and I’m getting completely bogged down with emails and questions. If you’ve asked me something and haven’t heard back from me, I’m truly sorry. I’m an awful communicator (and excellent procrastinator) in the best of times!

Since a lot of the questions I’ve been asked lately have been related, I think it might make sense to answer some of them here. I tend to get kind of wordy, so getting it all out at once is a good idea.

These are the top 3 questions I plan to answer in exhaustive, potentially boring detail:

1) NEWBURGH? Seriously??!! Why did you move there? Wait, should I move there? And doesn’t the commute make you crazy??

2) Do you read all of the books you design covers for? How does the whole process work? And what do I need to do to become a book cover designer, too?

3) I’m about to buy my own fixer-upper, and I need advice. How did you learn how to do all of this stuff? Do you have a list of resources I might find helpful?

I’ll do my best to answer these questions this week. If there’s anything else (um, within reason) you’re DYING to know, feel free to ask in the comments!