2014 Snapshot Archive: Amanda Rainey

First published at Tansy Rayner Roberts’ blog.

Amanda Rainey is a graphic designer from Perth who designs books for Twelfth Planet Press and FableCroft. When she’s not designing books she is either: working on a PhD looking at election campaigns, working as a freelance graphic designer for clients who have slightly more money than Australian small presses, or – most likely – talking nonsense on Twitter.

1. You designed the striking cover for Kaleidoscope, the brand new YA anthology about diverse characters that will shortly be released by Twelfth Planet Press after a crowdfunding campaign last year – what was your brief for the project, and how did you get to the final design?

Kaleidoscope was such an exciting/terrifying brief! It’s such an exciting book, and important too – a lot of people were (literally) invested in it so I really wanted to get it right. The brief was that they wanted something that would fit a truly diverse book, both in the sense of the characters, but also the themes and styles of each of the stories. So, quite a bit of (terrible) freedom…

It needed to appeal to YA readers, and stand out on a bookshelf next to other anthologies, so there’s always that question of how similar and how different you should be from all the other books!

The first thing I did was rule out using faces or people. It was kind of a gut instinct, but using faces just creates so many problems when you’re making a book about diverse characters. There’s a danger that you just end up treating faces as “paint chips”, which would have absolutely not been giving proper respect to the book’s purpose.

Finally I just channelled my 16 year old self, and tried to make something she would like. I started playing with the idea of “sugar and spice”, and how just in that concept, which seems to imply that all girls are the same, when really – spices! – there’s so much variety there, right in the phrase.

I messed with the colours to give it more of an alien feel in keeping with the SF/Fantasy themes. Plus, hello, it’s Twelfth Planet Press. It always had to be pink! Then I just spent 1298 hours aimlessly changing the proportions and the patterns until I was happy/the print deadline arrived.

2. Which have been your favourite covers to work on for TPP and Fablecroft, and why do they have a special place in your heart?

I guess that depends on how you define favourite (don’t make me choose!!)

For me, the best thing about cover design is the process of thinking through the problem and solving it in a way that’s interesting and fun, so my favourite covers are those when the author and the publisher get involved in a discussion. One of the more recent covers I loved working on was with Kirstyn McDermott on Caution: Contains Small Parts. I also had a great time working on the Cafe La Femme series – they’re by Livia Day, I’m not sure if you’ve heard of her!? The best thing about small press is that you can collaborate directly, without all the middle men getting in the way.

3. What books/covers are you working on right now, and what do you have coming up?

Was it Alisa or Tehani who made you ask this? Hint taken ladies, I’m working as fast as I can! 😉

The next of the Twelve Planets is coming up, this one by Angela Slatter and Lisa L Hannett. The Twelve Planets have been so much fun, trying to work within the restrictions of coming up with a set of books that are all distinctive yet still obviously part of a set. I’m so sad that the series is nearly complete, they are such a great project.

I’m also working on Fablecroft’s Insert Title Here, which is fun for the exact opposite reason. There’s no particular genre or theme, at all. Such freedom (wow)

4. What Australian works (including art/design) have you loved recently?

Does Twitter count? I follow a huge number of excellent Australian writers and artists on Twitter. Most of my reading these days is non-fiction and PhD related.

I just read Drowned Vanilla which is in layout now, and it is excellent (I am 100% Team Stewart)! I’m hearing really good things about Ben Peek’s new novel, which I’m looking forward to as well.

5. The publishing world has changed a lot in recent years, and continues to shift rapidly under our feet – how does this affect you as a designer? What changes do you think the community will be facing five years in the future?

As far as book design goes, there’s a lot more freedom to try new things, because you aren’t necessarily limited by what the major publishers’ marketing departments want. But at the same time, it can be challenging to create designs that work at thumbnail size online, as well as looking great when you hold the book in your hands.

In my other life as a PhD student I’m looking at the digital age and how it’s changing political communication, but those changes apply much more broadly. A lot of the restrictions on creating things are gone – publishing is more affordable, restrictions like word count are less rigid, and there are heaps more ways to promote and distribute your products. It’s also easier than ever for artists, writers, even game developers to collaborate – for example Stirfire Studios who are working with SF artists and authors to create new games with beautiful art and great storylines. So I’m excited to see all the mashups and experimentation that will continue to happen.

But at the same time I think we’re realising that maybe we actually like gatekeepers, such as publishers and booksellers. and sometimes we want to pay a bit more to keep those gatekeepers in business. It’s great to discover a new writer through social media, but that can never replace a real life, non-robot bookseller, who knows what you’ll love because they have the time and resources to do some of that research for you.



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