Allison Colpoys on the Publishing Industry, Typography and the Shift from Animation to Illustration


She previously worked as a senior designer at Penguin Books Australia, and now works internally at Scribe Publications in Melbourne, and independents across The Jacky Winter group.

Allison’s first illustrated book, The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade, recently received two Australian Book Design Awards and an Australian Book Industry Award and was shortlisted for the CBCA Crichton Award for Best New Talent. She is also currently working on a new line of stationery.

We asked Allison about her experience working for leading international brands such as Simon and Schuster and Penguin Australia, as well as her tips for succeeding in the publishing industry…

First of all, tell us a bit about yourself

I grew up in upper Australia and now live and work in Melbourne. I studied Multimedia Design (I believe that degree is now extinct) at Monash University, but didn’t stay in the industry very long after I graduated. Previously, I was a senior designer at Penguin Books Australia, and now work internally at Scribe Publications. I am represented by The Jacky Winter Group for freelance illustration and am a co-owner of a small stationery business, The society of memories.

How did you get started? What was your first foray into the industry?

I think getting lucky as a book designer at Simon and Schuster in London, when I had an animation background (and terrible table wait), was my first foray. I only stayed there for eight months until my visa ran out, but I’m pretty sure that short experience played a role in my subsequent recruitment by Deb Brash, the Artistic Director of Penguin Books Australia, which was the start of an incredible journey. to learn and to be supervised.

Who or what inspires you?

So many people and things inspire me. My friends, family and colleagues inspire me on a daily basis. I’m really drawn to all kinds of typography – for example, I like a handwritten “for sale” sign. I also like the patterns and especially the patterns in nature. And in terms of design and illustration, I think I’m particularly drawn to the 1950s aesthetic.

What has been your favorite project to date and why?

I’m working on my first picture book The Underwater Fancy-dress Parade with my amazing friend and author, Davina Bell. Being able to illustrate underwater creatures and landscapes while creating a meaningful book for kids on managing shyness and anxiety was a dream come true.

What do you like about books?

Mainly that they are full of stories and information, but of course I also love them for how they look and how they feel. And I love how the books wear down over time after multiple readings and the feeling of nostalgia that comes with it.

What is your favorite font?

Tricky question, I constantly fall in love with fonts, and guess I like different fonts for different tasks, but if I was stuck on a desert island with a bunch of books and had to choose a font that they were all in compounds, it would be Garamond. “

How is the creative scene in Melbourne?

There are so many small businesses and individuals doing their own work in Melbourne, and often times they will be pollinating and creating hybrid ideas, events and products. It’s also not uncommon for the creatives here to work on several different platforms, which is inspiring and liberating – there are a lot of designers who are also illustrators, for example.

You are launching a new line of stationery, what made you want to get into this industry in particular?

Kasia Gadecki (my wonderful friend and business partner) is probably who and what inspired me to get into this industry with her. In 2005, we got the idea to design our own stationery together, after realizing that the time we spent wrapping ourselves around wrapping gifts for friends and making cards was unnatural and we could possibly being putting this odd set of skills / obsession to use more productively.

You previously worked at Penguin Books Australia and now work at Scribe Publications. Is there any advice you’ve been given in your career that you would like to pass on to a budding creative?

A lot of people have passed on great pearls of wisdom to me and still happily do so because even though I’ve been doing book covers for a while now, I still feel like I’m constantly trying to figure out how to do my job better. !

“I think a great gem that I have received is, when you receive feedback on your work in a business context, don’t be put off by the specific comments, which you may not agree with, but think about what the comments trying to convey really are in terms of changing the mood or tone, and how you might achieve that. “

What is the biggest challenge you have encountered in your career and how did you overcome it?

For me that was the challenge of creating The Souvenir Society with Kasia – the enormous task of starting a business from scratch, finding the right printers, getting the right samples, starting the website and THEN doing it. do creative things. And also more recently to try my hand at illustrating children’s books.

The main difficulty with both things (other than questioning my illustrator / designer skills 47 times a day), has probably been the weather. Which is incredibly boring to say, but unfortunately it is the truth. I quit my full-time job to make room for these aspects of my life, and I have become much more aware of the freelance jobs I take in order to make room for these creative endeavors. As a creative person, keeping your time is one of the most difficult but important parts of life.

Have you ever struggled to find work? And if so, how did you make sure you got busier?

I really struggled to find work when I graduated from college and moved abroad. It took me months to land my first media design job. Between hospitality shifts I did illustrations for friends (mostly in the form of covers for mixed CDs that I had made), I created an online folio that I continuously updated and contacted magazines and small publications for small editorial illustration jobs to try and build my folio.

When you are given a book cover to design, what is your process?

I usually start by reading the brief, but if there isn’t one, I’ll have a conversation with the publisher and / or publisher who is working on the book to see if they have a particular vision in mind. , then I start to read the manuscript. As I read the manuscript I will be writing or sketching out ideas in my notebook and I find this helps a lot with the end result. Reconnecting with the editor / editor and my art director, Miriam Rosenbloom, during the process is also essential.

What does your work organization look like?

It is quite small. Just a desk in my living room with a computer, a graphics tablet, a big bottle of ink, and a bunch of paintbrushes.

How would you describe your style of illustration?

This is a difficult question, because I may be a little too close to know how to describe it. My friend Cameron who worked with me at Penguin used to say that my style was very ‘analog’, which is hilarious and probably true. I really like to do a lot by hand. Maybe also loose, scribble and pattern?

What are the best things about your job?

People and writing. The edition is full of intelligent, thoughtful, imaginative and supportive people, and I always feel lucky to be surrounded by this inspiring network.

And I admire people who can write so much. Not only for their talent, but also for their dedication to a project that can sometimes last for years. It is such a privilege to create the package to represent the end product of a writer’s time, love and passion.

And finally, what are three tips you would give to someone hoping to become a designer or illustrator?

I’m not very good at advice because I feel like every designer and illustrator has their own approach to things. But the things I tell myself that I would have liked to listen to more are: take more time to be among the things that inspire you. Take more time to draw for fun. Be grateful for all the great people and the positive turn of events that have brought you to where you are right now.

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