BookMachine Unplugged: Talking Design

Last night BookMachine hosted the third in the Unplugged series; Talking Design, at The Driver in Kings Cross. The host Sophie O’Rourke, Director at eMC Design, started by sharing her passion for trends in design, stating we should pay more attention to them - as publishing is a reactive industry, visual trends often come from outside of publishing, many from the technology around us – with social media now being part of our consumerism, you cannot escape sponsored content!

Sophie then passed on to Chris Evans, Creative Director at Sherry Design. He focused on flat design – us non-designers may ask what that is – Chris described it as a reaction to how websites used to be 10 years ago; very flash based, content heavy, slow loading and hard to adapt onto devices. The first versions of flat design were grid based, flat block colours using icons. As it was so different, it became a trend, but after a couple of years it was criticised for being boring and hard to navigate, so it was then updated again with animations, moving images, and gradients which was a lot more effective and what we still use today.

There are positives and negatives to this, the positives including the simplicity to engage people quickly, the grids allowing for adapting, a strong visual aesthetic and the integration of elements; type, colour and graphic devices allowing for beautifully created design. However the negatives, or perhaps the challenges, include the boundaries of the medium, as it can be difficult to go from digital to print for example, getting the creativity in a minimal bit of space, keeping it engaging for the target audience and ensuring the design stands out from the rest.

Sophie then spoke about the power of Instagram – you may wonder what the relevance is to publishing; quite simply it is becoming a shopping market; Instagram are developing tools to be able to add product information and buying links, which Publishers need to get on board with to sell their books. The stats speak for themselves; 29% of people have purchased something from a blog/vlog – so the market is there to tap into. The most influential of ‘influencers’ can be paid thousands per post on their Instagram, which will then generate countless sales. The same of course goes for celebrities. Sophie also mentioned some interesting ways to develop the Instagram feed, for example using borders, having a picture split into a puzzle theme or having all the posts the same style and format. All of these have the same goal, to achieve the visually striking effect, setting apart one profile from the rest.

Lastly we heard from Karen Haller, Applied Colour Psychology Practitioner, Consultant and Teacher. Karen states that before colour does anything, it draws an emotional connection from us, either for personal, cultural or psychological associational reasons. This then has an influence on purchasing decisions; up to 85% of decisions are made on colour alone, but we are only aware of 20% of these. It is also important to ensure the colour gives the same message as the words, as if they are not in alignment, it will put off the reader. An interesting question for Karen was where you stand if you are colour blind – as 1 in 20 men are. Having very contrasting colours can help with this, but then that needs to be balanced with what is aesthetically pleasing and consistent for the brand.

To finish up, our Senior Consultant Helen Harradine asked the panel what advice they would give for designers starting out in their career. Sophie said she employs a lot of graduate designers, and she would say that when you are still building your portfolio, ensure it is as well presented as it can be, try be clear about what your involvement was in any university projects, and what your personal brand is. Chris said to target companies you are inspired by, doing work that you love and think of creative ways to get that foot in the door – think of something different to another PDF landing on their desk, and consider what freelance work you can be doing to build your profile. Karen left us with the inspiring message to keep on learning, as college and university is the beginning. Stay hungry and stay curious!