Informational Interview with Nick Lee

Nick and I met over Skype Tuesday afternoon. Thankfully we had no connection issues and everything went wonderfully smooth. I connected with Nick after interviewing Gordon last month. They went to the same college and have stayed connected ever since. When I asked if Gordon knew anyone from the publishing side of design I could talk to he mentioned Nick.

Once again, here comes the summation of my interview. Enjoy!

[paraphrasing now]

How long have you been a designer?

About 8 years. I interned at International Bible Society (now Biblica) and upon graduation my internship turned into a job. I worked there for about 5 and a half years before moving back to Minnesota. After a year, when I couldn’t get a job here, I returned to Colorado Springs and got a job at David C. Cook. I’ve worked at Cook for 2 years now.

David C Cook logo

What kind of work do you do at Cook?

There are two in-house designers at Cook (designers who are employed by the company instead of them hiring outside design help). We work on both the backlist and frontlist books. Backlist books are already published books that need to be mantained. We make sure they’re up to date, occasionally redesign their covers, and tweak their spines if the printer changes. Frontlist books are incoming books that are in the process of being published. For these books I make the covers and templates (pick out typefaces and design the general layout) for the typesetters to use.

What does your average day look like?

It’s hard to say. Publishing companies, specifically Cook, have three spans during the course of a year; spring span, summer span and fall span. Each span begins with initial cover designs and template making and the end is marked by cover finalization and the release of our catalog. By the end of this week we’ll be finishing the fall span so I’m busy updating our backlist and checking on the frontlist to make sure they’re both ready to go.

I’ll admit, I spend a lot of time on the internet. I look for inspiration and keep tabs on the current culture. This is so when I’m asked to make a cover that relates to say, teen-aged guys, I’ve got a good idea of what will be interesting to them.

Working in-house at a publisher is different than LARSEN where Gordon works. He has to keep careful track of his billable hours where as I’ve got more flexibility.

Do you do any freelance work in your spare time?

I don’t. Which is, actually, a rarity. If I have time to do something artistic I’d prefer to do something for my own enjoyment than just to make some extra money.

What do you do in that spare time?

I really enjoy painting. I also have a camera and do a bit of photography. Writing too, occasionally.

I figure you’re not a part of hiring on designers, but do you have any idea what publishers are looking for in graduates?

Well… you’re right I’m not. If I were part of hiring, something that would stand out to me is details. No detail is too small. Be as extensive in your designs as you can. Also, in the realm of publishing, typography is key. Not too many students have a good grasp on typography, but if you can show that you know type I think you’d stand out. Additionally, because of where publishing is headed, if you know anything about ebook publishing that’ll help you.

What are somethings I should work on while I’m still in school?

Speed. Speed is more important than you think. Even just knowing the keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop. Make sure you’re always learning, even after you graduate. Design everyday. Hone your skills. Also, learn how to create ebooks. Know how to turn InDesign files into Epub files and then into Kindle files. Learn XML and CSS. Valuable skills in the publishing world. Develop a good work ethic and create a personal brand.

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In the end, Nick and I talked for about half an hour. I learned quite a few things about the publishing industry that I hadn’t known before.

~ by R.S.Sharkey on February 14, 2013.

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