Monday, 26 March 2012

Portfolio Visit 9 - Aurea Carpenter

Portfolio Visit 9 – Short Books

Aurea Carpenter, Short Books

Pine Street, London

My second portfolio appointment in London was with Short Books located in Exmouth House, Pine Street. Short Books are a fairly small book publishing company founded by two former journalists and seem to take the more high-risk ventures that the larger houses wouldn’t look twice at. This was a group appointment for me, Philippa and Becca at 10:30 on Thursday 22nd March. After yesterdays performance my confidence levels were even lower than usual, but my nerves weren’t nearly as bad as I sought comfort in numbers. The building itself is gorgeous with old rickety floor boards and enormous glass panes with breath-taking views out over the square, which is much quieter than in the centre, lined with cafes and boutiques.

We took the stairs up because those lifts with the manual doors scare the life out of me, they look like they’re about to go down to a coal mine! Up to the third floor and pressed the buzzer, or at least Philippa did anyway, she seemed to be as cool as a cucumber. The office staff were all extremely pleasant and smiley and pointed us in the direction of Aurea’s office. She took us into a meeting room which wasn’t as formal as it sounds due to the wooden floors and desks and bookshelves full of, well, books! Wood seems friendlier and less intrusive than glass, this I have noted over all of my portfolio visits, people can’t stare through it at me and it doesn’t sound false, just natural, I like that – at one with nature. She leafed through our portfolios individually and gave individual feedback, I was last in line. Some would see that as a blessing, others would be petrified as they would just want it to be over with, me? I wasn’t bothered either way as long as the feedback was positive and nice.

Aurea seemed to like all of my work, in particular the graphical collage characters and liked to see that I had already taken on the task of designing book jackets and photographed them in context to give her a better vision of how they would/could look. Unlike my visit to the Guardian, there were no awkward silences which I felt I had to fill and explain in, Aurea was a very nice lady with what seemed a passion for all illustration types. She too noticed that I like to use nature a lot in my work with the inclusion of animals and their environments and habitats. Unlike Sarah, she loved the hand stitched type and thought it worked really well, though she did offer a key piece of advice, to stay away from white backgrounds for book jackets, they pick up too much dirt and grease and are apparently a nightmare to work with, the dark green of the Wonderful Wizard of Oz by contrast works much better in her opinion. Surprisingly, she was interested to know how I went about making my images and how I put them together and why I preferred Photoshop to Illustrator software wise. I explained that Illustrator doesn’t like textures very much and because I work in quite a textural way, Photoshop gives me a better finish. She went on to say that she particularly looks for a designer who can create type and have a good handle on that as well as the illustration as it gives a better cohesive look than adding a separate layer on top which you can tell a mile off. Integrating illustration and type is key for her which at the moment the book cover trend seems to be a bigger focus on type than illustration. She went on to show us a current cover they were working on and the roughs that they had been sent. Another surprise was her interest in our opinions on the covers she’d received and agreed with the comments we made!

On reflection, looking at the roughs that were sent to Aurea, the majority of them had a ‘Harry Potter’ feel, where the type imitated a magical aesthetic which suggested older teen rather than a woman’s novel. The colour didn’t suggest a woman audience and the aesthetic was more comical than was required for an older audience. It is a good tool to look at others people’s work and make a judgement of where I think they’ve made mistakes to aid my own selection of ‘appropriate’ elements.

By contrast this appointment was much more encouraging than the one I had yesterday with the Guardian. Aurea seemed interested in my views and opinions and was more involved with my work than Sarah was. Sarah seemed to sit at a distance from it and only want to give criticism whereas Aurea couldn’t do anything my encourage the three of us and give positive comments. If I were offered a job opportunity at either establishment, I would choose Short Books. Not just because of the more positive feedback (which could make me biased) but too because of the location of the offices, set in a much more laid back environment without the hustle and bustle of inner city living. The offices were also much less intimidating without the miles of glass panes instead offering a more homely wooden environment making it seem more friendly and approachable.

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