Design Desk: Designer Spotlight #2

For those of you who missed the first post in this series, as the Design Studio Coordinator here at Chronicle Books, I thought it would be interesting to give you the inside scoop on some of our talented designers. This week I am excited to introduce our Food & Drink Publishing Design Director Vanessa Dina. You might recognize Vanessa from her previous contributions to the Chronicle Blog, which gave us a sneak peek at her dreamy sabbatical adventures. Read on to learn more about Vanessa’s life here in SF and her passion for food and design.


What is your role at Chronicle and how long have you worked here?
Design Director. I manage a handful of talented designers and specialize in the Food & Drink Publishing Group. I’ve been here 12 years and I’m never bored.

Where did you grow up?
In a rest home. It’s complicated.

How did you end up at Chronicle Books? 
I was working at a small design studio and we were designing a few books for Chronicle on a freelance basis. Sara Schneider (currently our Executive Director of Publishing Design, but a Design Director at the time) was interviewing for a Senior Designer position and asked if I’d like to apply. One thing led to another and I was hired 3 weeks later!

Who or what inspires or influences you?
I hate this question. It’s so broad. How about what inspired me this week? The flowers on my desk, the walk from my house to BART…there’s always something interesting on the streets, like this wall on Valencia street (pictured below), a bowl of cherries, and the perfectly cooked hamburger I made this week got me excited.


Favorite website, book or magazine for design inspiration?
I don’t really look to those things for design inspiration. Smart, beautiful design in general inspires me, but usually I look to the content to inspire/inform each project I work on.

Favorite movie (or book or t.v. show)?
I never get sick of The Godfather. The director of photography is genius; an amazing visual storyteller!

Current Favorite Movie:
Enough Said. It came out last year but I keep seeing reruns on HBO. The writing is so perfect.

Current Favorite Book:
Not sure it’s my favorite yet, I’ve only just started, but Sous Chef by Michael Gibney. I’ll let you know…

Current Favorite TV Show:
Stephen Colbert. Hands down.

What’s currently on your bookshelf?
Too many Chronicle cookbooks, My Berlin Kitchen, anything ever written by David Sedaris, and lots of dust.

Favorite Chronicle memory?
After 12 years I have so many. One highlight was writing and designing my own cookbook, The Meat Club Cookbook.meatclub_cookbook

What do you do outside of work?
The majority of what I do revolves around food, friends, and family. Cooking is like therapy for me so I do it almost every night. I love gathering with friends and family. I have a cookbook club, a card club, and a meat club. I’m an old lady ready for my Florida time share.


How do you use your vacation time?
Traveling to places around the globe to stuff my face. Next stop: Cyprus! Look out for a blog post in the months to come.

Where is your favorite SF spot (could be a restaurant, store, park, etc.)?
There’s a little bridge on top of Dolores Park that goes to Church street–something special about that spot. And the view from the corner always makes me happy.

What’s one lesson you’ve learned as a design professional?
There are a few:
1.   Stick to your gut. Your first instinct is usually the best one.
2.  Work hard and be nice to people. I know it’s everywhere but it’s a simple truth more people should really consider.
3.  Don’t sweat the small stuff. Designers tend to be hypercritical (especially of themselves).

What are 2 of your favorite projects, that you’ve worked on, coming out in Fall 2014? 
One is a new format for the Food and Drink Group called Food Gazing Notecards. I was fortunate enough to work with Emily Proud, a fantastic local artist.


Second is The Bread Exchange by Malin Elmlid.


Do you have a favorite Chronicle book/format designed by someone else? 
Hard to pick one favorite. So much of what comes out of this place is inspiring.

Any work-related pet peeves?
Arrogance and self-importance. I’ll leave it at that.

Favorite indulgence?
Good wine, a great steak, potato chips, and massages…lots of massages!

Stayed tuned for more interviews with our design team in the upcoming months!

Meghan Nowell
Design Studio Coordinator

Meghan Nowell

As Design Studio Manager, Meghan has fun bossing around designers on the weekdays and avoiding them on the weekend. She also enjoys wine, pretending to be artsy, and eating/making delicious food!
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