Coralie Bickford-Smith talks design ideas

Coralie Bickford-Smith - photo by Tom Lehman

An interview with Coralie Bickford-Smith
Senior Designer at Penguin Random House. Her debut book The Fox and The Star was the Waterstones Book of the Year 2015.

Can you describe a typical work day?

My day will typically start with a cup of coffee whilst checking my emails. It is important for me to sort out the immediate requirements and make a list of what I would like to achieve and deal with questions that need to be answered for production and editorial first. Then I usually disappear into the world of a design project for as much of the day as possible. I make sure there is at least one day a week with no meetings so that I can totally get absorbed into one project.

What’s the first thing you do when you begin working on a new book? What’s your ‘way in’ to the project?

Read the manuscript and talk to the book’s editor. Then I would typically research the author, the theme of the book and at this point I will have found a lead that starts the whole creative process.

How do you initially present your design ideas to the rest of the publishing team?

We have a design-in-progress meeting one morning every week where the design team talk ideas and show what they are up to. It is a creative space where we think about how we are doing things and why, we also discuss certain books we might be excited about or are in the process of working on. When our cover ideas are ready they go off to a weekly meeting with the Managing Director, the Art director, the Picture Editor, Editorial and Marketing. This is when the ideas for the covers are discussed and our recommendations for sharing with authors are chosen.

How much of your work is done by hand and how much do you work digitally? What techniques/ tools / programs do you use?

It very much varies from book cover to book cover and what the vision is for the design or illustration. Generally, for myself, it always starts off with pencil sketches of the initial ideas. Which then get drawn up more neatly, if it feels like it is a good idea that will work. I then scan in the drawing and take it into illustrator or Photoshop to be cleaned up and made ready for the printing process.

Read the rest of the interview on the popular blog Laura Bambrey Books

You can find out more about Coralie and her work at 

For more info about book designs, check out the Penguin Random House Design Award


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