Allison Colpoys

From unknown artist to successful book cover designer, Allison dishes on her journey


Of all the things your talent could have clung to, why book design and typography?

I’m not exactly sure when or why my fascination with typography started. Probably in grade three when I went through that phase most kids do of trying out different sick ways to write your name. For as long as I’ve been doing design and illustration, I’ve always wanted to do work for either writing or music. I have absolutely no talent in either field, but I’m in awe of people who do and I don’t know where we’d be without good music and literature in our lives.

You landed a lucky break when the UK’s Simon & Schuster hired you as a cover designer. How did you get your foot in the door?

I think I’m still wondering that myself! I didn’t have much print work to show, but I had a bit of personal illustration work (although when I reflect on the illustration work that was in my folio at the time, it makes me want to die a little, but it’s all part of the journey!). Even though a lot of my commercial design work was digital/animation based, I don’t think it really matters what medium is used to execute your work – you can tell whether something is a successful design or not, regardless.

Now you work with Penguin Books Australia, how did it feel to align with such a well-known and loved publisher?

I was so thrilled and completely terrified at the same time. It took about a year for me to calm down and stop thinking ‘they’re going to realise I’m not what they hoped [for] and boot me out!’ But seriously, it was such an amazing opportunity and one I’m eternally grateful for.

Fave project to date?

Whatever I’ve just finished working on is often my favourite. Currently that’s a children’s picture book I worked on with my talented author friend, Davina Bell. I’d never illustrated a whole picture book before and had always wanted to. I loved the process and the challenge.

How do you approach a design brief? And do you read books before you design them?

Often book designers are provided briefs as well as manuscripts – for me I really feel like I need to read both. As I read the book I’ll write down or sketch out ideas in my notebook and I find this helps the process a great deal. And then I’ll start working on rough concepts to present to the publisher based on my notes and their brief. I’m a pretty slow reader, so admittedly I’m often only half way through the manuscript when I have to get started on concepts.

Book designers are often unsung heroes. Do you mind achieving quietly?

Of all the lights in the world, limelight would have to be my least favourite! I much prefer to work quietly and I think it’s the way it should be. Especially when it comes to designing for books – it should be all about the author and their work. The cover is just the packaging for an author’s time, love and passion.


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