Design Desk

From the Design Desk: Greetings from Fellow Island

As we prepare for our departure from Chronicle Books, we thought we’d put together some final thoughts about our 6-month stint in this wonderful bayside paradise. Looking back, we are thankful to have had each other and the rest of the team to help us navigate the transition into this fast-paced world of bookmaking. Right off the bat, we were entrusted with real projects (no, we weren’t just hired to keep the coffee brewing—although we did do a fair amount of that as well) and were actually surprised by how quickly we began to feel like part of the Chronicle family. Sitting just feet from each other on our own little island gave us the opportunity to give feedback, ask questions, share ideas and snacks, and watch as each others’ projects progressed toward completion. When we weren’t at our desks, we were exploring new ideas with Creative Director Michael Carabetta, on outings with our department, or partaking in one of the 9,284 (*est. figure) 4th floor parties. With this happy balance between work and socializing, we became a team unto ourselves that branched out among the many other teams of designers, editors, marketers, and productioneers. Reflecting on how incredibly quickly these six months have flown by, we wanted to take a moment to share a few things that we appreciated most about each of our fellowships.

Lauren Smith, Children’s Design Fellow

Research: What could be better than having a job where research includes reading beautiful children’s books, playing games, and watching “kid” movies?

Surprises: There have been several fun surprises while working at Chronicle. One of the best was getting the chance to meet the famous Boo! I was lucky enough to work with him and his best friend Buddy on several photo shoots for an upcoming project. Not many jobs include hanging out with adorable pooches at the beach.

Range: The fellowship has given me the opportunity to work on an assortment of formats including packaging, games, and books. One of my favorite projects during the fellowship was a fast and furious one. I was assigned to create the packaging for an Ivy & Bean box set to be sold exclusively through Amazon. Since the deadline was so quick, it was my first Chronicle project to be produced. It’s always a bit magical when you see your design in its final 3D form.

Ivy & Bean box set, front

Ivy & Bean box set, side and back

Hillary Caudle, Publication Design Fellow

Exploration: Doodling is encouraged, and sometimes it even finds its way into a project! When starting any new design, I tend to sketch things out before ever touching the computer. The designers here have allowed and even encouraged this “behavior” and I am actually lucky enough to have been able to incorporate this hand-drawn aesthetic into a few final products.

Learning from others: As designers, it’s easy to get stuck in our own little world, complaining about how everyone else “just doesn’t get” how good/conceptual/design-y our work is. Being at Chronicle, we have learned how to work in cross-sectional teams of marketers, editors, and production managers—each talented in their own field, and all with differing opinions to bring to the table—to ensure that the product we’re making is the best that it can be in all aspects, not just self-indulgent artsy-fartsy pretty stuff (although we are lucky enough to make some of that, too).

Development: Chronicle is able to recognize when an old favorite has become outdated and is not afraid to invest in the redesign (and somehow trust the newbie fellow to do it!). I have been lucky enough to be challenged with the redesign of The Wine Tasting Party Kit, updating it from an older cocktail party vibe to a more modern party kit that will hold its own on the entertainment-seeking shelves of Barnes & Noble to the wine-obsessed tasting rooms of Napa. It is a complex problem and still in progress, but I’ve included a few images of the process below:

Original Wine Tasting Party Kit, circa 2005

A few explorations for the box top design

A few explorations for the “Tasting Notes” notepad

Alex Styc, Publication Design Fellow

Show and Tell: The Publishing and Children’s Design fellows participate in the design department’s weekly critique sessions called Show and Tell. This is time set aside for the designers to get together and present their projects to their peers for feedback, or to share resources and inspiration or a finished project. I looked forward to it each week as an opportunity to hear the way each designer thought and talked about their work and others’ while getting the chance to exercise my ability to do so myself.

Art Books Through Fart Books: Designing at Chronicle means being able to wear many (designer) hats. And as a fellow, getting assignments from designers in every publishing group means working, in one way or another, on the whole gamut of Chronicle products. I’d find myself helping with a book about zombies one day, designing icons and packaging for a beer tasting kit the next, laying out calendars and journals, working on covers for cookbooks and photography books, sequencing art—you name it, I probably got to do it. I was met with entirely different subject matter and fun, new challenges every few days.

Advocacy: At the start of my fellowship I was clued into the fact that I could help tailor the experience I wanted to gain here by writing a list of what I was most interested in trying or working on. Around that same time I had already started on some quick-moving projects; I never quite got around to ruminating and writing that list. As the weeks went on it became obvious that my mentor and the other designers were picking up on my strengths or interests without me having to spell it out. I found myself getting to work on projects I seemed especially interested in, giving art direction to an illustrator, getting to go on a photo shoot, and more. The Chronicle designers and the rest of the staff we’ve worked with here have been real advocates for our success and personal growth as designers on a project level and on a much broader scale.

Cover development for the reprint of Madeleine Vionnet

Theresa Decker, Marketing Fellow

Variety: As the Marcom fellow I got a little taste of it all. Since our department is in charge of designing material to market the books, I worked on projects for many of our key titles. From recipe cards and posters to landing pages and even cute little button sets. Getting a chance to produce projects for so many different titles allowed me to never be bored, and to gain a ton of inspiration from the already beautifully designed books I was creating collateral for.

Camaraderie: The Marcom group is made up of only 5 people including the current fellow. We work closely with the marketing managers on all of our projects but design-wise, it’s just us! In a group this small, it’s easy to form a special bond. One in which we always help each other out of a jam, through a tough design challenge, or celebrate a victory together.

Collaboration: As a designer, some of my favorite projects are a product of collaboration. There’s something very special about working together toward an end result. A perfect example of this is the Chronicle Books Holiday card, a project that the Marcom department is in charge of every year. This year we chose to do a video rather than a traditional print version. The process started several months ago with brainstorming and sketching. Later we moved on to final storyboards and eventually started shooting a couple times a week. Spending some time away from our desks gave us a chance to really get our creative juices flowing, and the end result is something we are all super proud of! Check it out below.

Many thanks to all the patient and talented people who have helped us learn the ropes and grow as designers here at Chronicle. Also, thanks to all the people who buy the books that allow us all to have such wonderful jobs. Signing off,

The Summer-Fall 2011 Fellows (Lauren, Hillary, Alex and Theresa)

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