Interview: Anna Green on Freelance Book Design, Working in the Garden, and Pastry Typography(!)

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Today's interview is a very exciting one, because it centres around a profession I've been interested in for years now: book design! I contacted Anna for an interview after seeing her fantastic cover for Madeline Thien's Do Not Say We Have Nothing (image later in post!), and she doesn't disappoint. We chatted about reading manuscripts in the garden, interesting journeys in typography, and how she became a freelance book designer. 

Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Anna! First of all, for any readers who don’t know your background, tell me a little bit about yourself. 

Anna Green:
Hi Megan, and thank you for having me! My name’s Anna Green and I’m a book designer. I worked in-house at Random House for 7 years before going freelance in 2011, and now work with publishers and self-published authors all over the world. I love reading and love design, so for me it’s the perfect job.

Magic & Musings:
If you could describe your design style in three words, what would they be?

Anna Green:
Clean, colourful, type-led.

Magic & Musings:
I think your simple style and use of typography is what really drew me to your book covers in the first place.
When did you first get into design? Did you study it formally or come across it as a hobby? If you did study it formally, would you say this was a good or bad experience regarding allowing your creativity to flourish?

Anna Green:
My parents were both teachers and had both studied graphics themselves, so I took the very traditional route of Art & Graphics GCSEs, then Art A-Level, then Foundation, then Graphic Arts at LJMU. All levels took very different approaches but I loved university – lots of self-initiated projects interspersed with a good grounding in real-world working processes. 

Magic & Musings:
On Magic & Musings I love talking about female-identifying and non-binary artists and their work. Which female artists, if any, would you say have been influences on your work? Do you have any favourites to look at when you need a spark of inspiration?

Anna Green:
Legendary book designers Irma Boom and Elaine Lustig-Cohen, but also a huge number of female contemporaries, colleagues, and friends all producing incredible work – I’m privileged to be working alongside them.

Magic & Musings:
Of all of your designs, which are you the happiest with and why?

Anna Green:
It’s normally the latest one to be honest! – I still feel like I’m always learning and improving even after a long time in the industry. 


Magic & Musings:
This is a question I like to ask purely because of the variety of answers I get! I’m really interested in how people work and get things done. Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done, like a milky cup of tea or a particular album of music you listen to? 

Anna Green:
I work from home and my office is up in the loft, which is great as I can shut myself away to concentrate… also, it keeps my ever-growing collection of books from taking over the house! But the absolute best thing is being able to sit in the garden and read a manuscript on a sunny day and let the ideas flow.

Magic & Musings:
What do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively?

Anna Green:
Go for a walk, or to an exhibition/bookshop/etc, anything to provide a bit of visual inspiration away from the computer. Or holidays are always good but they tend to require a bit more forward planning…!

Magic & Musings:
What are your favourite tools you use to create your designs? Are there any books on creativity and/or working for yourself you would recommend to others?

Anna Green:
I’m generally at the Mac but always love the more unusual ways of creating work – am sometimes to be found making type out of pastry or photographing it underwater, that kind of thing! 


Back when I first went freelance I bought Adrian Shaughnessy’s book How to be a Graphic Designer, Without Losing Your Soul, which had some great advice for starting up, also there’s lots of helpful business articles on places like Creative Bloq. And for a handy set of print production examples for freelancers I would heartily recommend printhandbook.com.

Magic & Musings:
Have you ever explored working in another medium?

Anna Green:
Mainly on my Foundation course, and I quickly realised that I’m much better suited to working in 2D…! One of the great things about this job, though, is being able to work with amazing artists from all sorts of different disciplines – illustrators, photographers, textile designers, model makers etc – and of course some amazing writers too.


Magic & Musings:
What would you say your relationship is like between your business and the internet/social media? Would you say this has helped you greatly in your success, or not?

Anna Green:
It’s fantastic for research and inspiration – Pinterest for one and there are loads of great book design blogs (casualoptimist.com and spinemagazine.co to name just a couple). The internet/email is just invaluable to my work; I don’t really remember a time without it now!

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Anna Green:
Save copies of all your work for posterity! You think you’ll never forget them but I don’t think I ever realised quite how many titles I would work on!

Magic & Musings:
Onto a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song? 

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson – a lovely light read (by the author of the Moomins, no less!) set on a tiny Finnish island in the summer. Not a film, but I recommend Halt & Catch Fire to everyone and there’s hopefully one more season to go! And the album I have on at the moment is Panorama by Møme.

Magic & Musings:
Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work? 

Anna Green:
Thanks so much for your interest in me and my work, it’s been a pleasure to chat to you! You can find my website at siulendesign.com and I’m also on Twitter and Pinterest.

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