Young Designer of the Year finalist for the PANZ Book Design Awards Carla Sy talks about how she got her start in book design, her style and dream project.
Can you describe your design style in three words?
Elegant, geometric, contemporary.
First paid commission as a book designer?
It must have been Wanaka, by Michal McKay, photographed by Kieran Scott. It was a very exciting first book to be involved in. It was a challenging process and I loved every bit of it; I'm very proud of it. It's such a treat for a designer to get to work with such beautiful words and photographs. It's also the best feeling to finally see the advance copies arrive from the printer.
What book inspires you with its design?
I find inspiration in all of the books I see, quite impossible to have just one. I think all of books have a bit of something to teach me if I look at them hard enough.
How much freedom do you usually have with a brief?
Quite a bit to start with, especially during the sample stages, which is probably my favourite part. But it all sort of gets refined as the project progresses.
Do you get to read the books before you start designing?
I wish there was all of the time in the world to read all of the books I design, but unfortunately not always. It's especially helpful though when working on the fiction novels, because knowing the story from the inside really allows you to effectively communicate it visually.
Do you specialise in book design? How did you start?
I would say yes. I've always been very passionate about typography and packaging and was quite determined earlier on to try and get my foot into the book design industry. I kept a very close eye on Random House after graduating, cheekily checking in every few months to let them know that I was available for work and that if they were ever looking for a new in-house designer, that I would be that person. I am so truly fortunate for this job, and to still be here.
Are you involved with every design decision?
Yes for typography, but paper stock etc, is a little tricky. We can offer suggestions, but each book is budgeted very carefully so it's hard knowing what we're able to use. The commissioning editor will usually let us know what kind of paper stock the budget allows for, and I guess what will suit the design too, and we just go from there.
I would love to design an art/architecture book. My style has always been a bit inspired by geometry and symmetry and I think there's a lot of opportunity in books like those to really experiment and challenge that aspect of my style. I've helped work on a lot of architecture books here at Random House but it would be a dream definitely to have the opportunity to work on my own one day.
Visit the PANZ Book Design Awards website for more information, including the full shortlist.