Tim Burton and Dariusz Wolski. Woody Allen and Carlo di Palma. James Cameron and Russell Carpenter. Francis Ford Coppola and Gordon Willis. Claude Chabrol and Jean Rabier. The best pictorial biographies, like the best films, are made through great director/designer collaborations. My designer Deb Frano and I would like to share some experiences with you after creating The Real Alice In Wonderland book.
The Author must play the role of Director. You have the vision. The Designer must play the role of the Cinematographer. She will execute your vision. Make sure your designer is experienced with all the current design software, including Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Dreamweaver, Adobe Fireworks, Adobe Flash, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, MacFreelance, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word, Microsoft PowerPoint, QuarkXPress,Quicken and Stuffit. Phew!
You will need to source visual materials for your book before the design process can begin. There are a number of online visual sources where authors and designers can find and purchase graphics. I Stock is one of the biggest, but also try Gettyone, BigStock, Dreamstime.com, and Illustration Works. The Real Alice In Wonderland had a large visual component. It involved collecting artwork and photographs from museums, libraries, and private collectors all over the world. This was no easy task (it took years). Permissions to use these materials would have been impossible to get without the help and support of my business and legal partner, my husband Harry Rubin.
I asked Deb if she would be willing to answer a few questions about the creative process:
1. How did you get involved with design?
I’ve always been creative, and I have loved to draw and paint as far back as I can remember. I double majored in college – fine art and graphic design. I wanted something art-related that I could make a living at, and still satisfy my need to be creative. Actually, designers are very much like fine artists in their own right. The difference is that designers create their art with a computer instead of a paintbrush or pencil. I find that my fine art background sometimes influences my design work. A good design should evoke an emotion and communicate a message or feeling, much like a painting or a sculpture.
2. Are there certain types of projects you find the most attractive?
I really enjoyed working on The Real Alice In Wonderland. It was challenging. It pushed me to raise the level of my creativity and the flow of my ideas. Getting inside the author’s head and trying to graphically interpret her vision was challenging. Although she knew what she wanted the end result to be, she was ready and willing to take risks to create something that was really cutting edge. We shared ideas – some ideas panned out and some did not. You have to “wrestle” an idea out – discarding what doesn’t fit and refining what does, until the design communicates what the author is looking for. Sometimes a design seems great until you hit upon something better. For example, well into the design of the book we realized we had raised the bar on our artistic translation. It meant going back and reworking some of the spreads to reinforce the visual thread that tied everything together. It was worth it. I would love to do more projects like this in the future.
3. How do you see your role as a book designer changing as the industry moves more towards digital media?
My field has changed enormously in the past ten years, and the next ten will bring even more changes. With The Real Alice In Wonderland, I was constantly aware that many of the designs for print would ultimately get translated into digital media for the promotion and marketing of the book. However, even when books with a significant visual component move into the world of digital transmission, there will still be things that only print media can do. Texture, quality and design of a paper book all affect the way art communicates. Think about it this way. Will a digital image ever replace an actual painting? I don’t think so.
Thank you Deb. Last and not least, it really helps to find a designer you are comfortable and compatible with, and especially someone you enjoy spending a lot of time with. Deb Frano and I have a similar work ethic. We don’t give up until we get what we want. We respect each others talents. We feed off each others ideas. We like working together. Some other places where you can check out designers and their work are Illustration Mundo, Etsy, SBWI, Society of Illustrators, Illustration Friday, and Theispot. To contact Deborah Frano directly, please go to firstname.lastname@example.org.