Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Book's Cover: An Interview with Walker Senior Designer Nicole Gastonguay!

Cover Blitz Week continues!

I know I, for one, have always been very curious about the mysterious world of book publishing. How does a cover come together? Who picks the title font? Who decides what the words look like in the very beginning of a chapter?

When I got my first pass pages last month, it was the first time they actually looked like a book and not like a printout from Word. And that was owed almost entirely to Nicole Gastonguay, the senior designer at Walker who was responsible for all of the above as well as matching up illustrator Gerald Guerlais to my book's cover.

Here is some insight into her process from the talented (and funny) Nicole Gastonguay herself!

What's your background? How did you become a senior designer at Bloomsbury/Walker?
I went to Ringling College of Art and majored in illustration. Upon graduation, I moved to NYC with delusions of being an artist. After being a cashier/artist, among other things, I got my first “real” job at Walker in 2000. Now I’m a designer/artist which is much cooler sounding. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have my fine art shown in galleries around New York and Los Angeles.

When Nicole's not busy doing awesome design work for books, she's creating these awesome art pieces instead.

Tell us a little bit about your workflow. Do you read the books you're art directing? If so, what are you usually looking for?
I read as much as I can, but with the amount of books I do a year, there just isn’t time to read everything. I do my best to get the flavor of the writing style and then work very closely with the books’ editors and publishers to determine the best vision for the cover.

How did you find Gerald and what made you think he'd be a good match for The Mapmaker and the Ghost?
Gerald is represented by an agent who we work with often. He was the perfect fit because one of the main “characters” in the story is the woods itself, and we really like how Gerald treats his forest and background compositions. He’s also amazing at kids and expressions and this story is definitely overflowing with zany kids.

It it hard jumping around from designing for Picture Books vs. Middle Grade vs. YA?
I’m grateful that I get to work on so many different kinds of projects. It keeps me from getting bored or stale in my design.

What's your favorite part about your job?

And after that, I just love books. I always have. It’s very satisfying after putting so many hours into a project that you have an object that you can hold in your hand. Even better is when you see a kid on the subway reading one of them.

You can find Nicole and more of her fabulous work at her website, which you will be magically beamed to by clicking on the carton of shrimp lo mein found below.


  1. I love the Shrimp Lo Mein! So cute!

  2. Holy god, I want some lo mein now. At 8:30 AM. Wonderful interview - she seems like the perfect designer for Goldenrod!!

  3. I love reading about everything that goes into creating a cover, and more importantly, YOUR cover :-) Thanks so much for sharing all of this with us!