Behind the “Seens” with Book Designer George Stevens of G Sharp Design
Even though George started with his design passion way back in high school and carried him through college, his journey to become a book designer was anything but straightforward. Being part of a publishing start-up out of college George got immediate exposure to client facing work. Nearly 12 years later he had grown into the “Creative Director” position with a staff larger than the entire company when he had started.
He started out on his own as a designer for branding, logos, posters and of course books. But his passion and attraction for book design led him to focus solely on becoming a book design shop, working primarily with self-publishing clients.
George specifically does not call himself “creative director” now because he wanted to be back in the trenches, more involved creatively and less focused on the admin that had become too much a part of his job at the publishing company. He also has more nuggets of wisdom for designers who want to launch their own companies.
How is book design different from general design?
What defines non-fiction book design is a balance of subjective and objective.
Book design is not simply a cover or the pretty part of their book process. It is complex and holistic if done right. There are many pieces, steps and decisions to be made for the design of a book.
The decision to hire a good book designer goes well beyond looking at a portfolio.
A good book designer knows the practical application of how to do book design – and how to manage the book creation project. They become a project manager who understands how to work with their client and get the best book published.
What do authors need to know before working on their book design? Or here’s how George works:
It’s helpful to have a thorough and robust process for creating the book design.
It starts with an intake process of gathering information and goals for the book, and to learn about the author’s brand and audience.
Ideally, the author, the designer and the market really LOVE the resulting project.
(And most clients “don’t want their book to look self-published”)
Then there are a few general concepts for review with the client. It’s an iterative process to get everything to the goals.
“Design is a process not a product.”
Book design “ is more than just a cover.”
What makes good book design is thinking about the book as a work of art beyond the cover – think layout, font, image presentation. Reflecting on the balance between subjective and objective, it has to be interesting and compelling – but it also has to work for UX – for the customer / reader experience.
Also, don’t forget that there are big design differences between a printed book and an e-book. It’s a whole new layer of book design that requires thought, consideration and design.
What makes great good book design?
Book design is a speciality – and it is a process. It’s not a quick transaction.
You need to expect to be involved in it. Being hands-on (in the right way) is key to successful book design. It’s a mindful collaboration.
Great book design should be enduring. It’s going to look good for years.
Non-fiction books are often a marketing asset that is part of your portfolio. They need to speak to the quality and caliber of who you are. Your book is a sum of who you are and what your expertise is – so it should reflect that.
When so much goes into a manuscript, you should consider putting in the extra effort into the design.
Remember that the cover is the doorway for people to enter into your book. Good formatting and design within your books will be the hallways that readers will travel. Good design is creating a great experience for the reader.
Ideally, you should start working on your book design or with a book designer as early in the process as you can, but it is unique to each author and what his/ her book needs. As a baseline, however, when your title is defined is a great place to start!
How to connect with George on how to make self-publishing look better!
Interested in exploring where you are in your writer or author journey? Let’s chat! If you want to learn more about how to be seen, be found, be heard, please connect with me on the socials or let’s set up a call to chat.