One of our annual highlights is the anthology cover design project we run with the Illustration degree course at the University of the West of England in Bristol. The final year students on the course submit designs from which we select the cover.
The brilliant design for this year’s anthology was created by recent graduate, Roisin Oakley. We took the opportunity to ask Roisin a few questions about the design and her work.
Congratulations on such an eye-catching design. What did you think when you found out your submission had been chosen for this year’s BSSP cover?
Thank you! I was quite surprised honestly, I had sort of forgotten about the competition amidst the craziness of lockdown, finishing my degree and getting ready to move. But I was really chuffed when I found out, its always nice to hear positive feedback about your work.
The brief for the cover project is very broad and you don’t get to see the contents of the book. How did you approach creating your design?
It was definitely a challenge trying to strike the balance between keeping the imagery general enough that it could work with whatever stories were chosen for the anthology and making sure it wasn’t so general or unassuming that it wouldn’t stand out at all. My aim was to focus on using shape and silhouettes to suggest the presence of different characters and narratives without being too specific or making one element be too overbearing. I quite like that the way I’ve layered lots of different elements means that you don’t see some of the details straight away and have to search through the imagery to pick out different shapes.
You worked on the cover design and finished your degree during lockdown. Do you think the uncertain situation affected the work you produced?
Yes and no. I found that during the first few weeks of lockdown I wasn’t able to make much artwork at all, it just didn’t seem like a priority to me at that point. Once the dust had settled a bit, however, this book cover project was actually one of the first things I started working on again, I found it really helpful to have a set brief with a clear deadline to inject a bit of structure back into my days.
Overall, though, I don’t feel my work itself was too affected by the situation, I definitely felt the loss of certain resources such as studio space and print facilities but I felt lucky that the way I work and the materials I use are pretty easily transferable to any small desk space so I was very grateful for that. I know a lot of people who work on a large scale, for example, had to drastically change the type of work they were making.
What makes a great book cover?
Well on a very practical level it has to clearly convey all the basic information a book cover needs to convey; the title, author etc. But I think what makes a really great book cover is one that uses visual design to communicate important themes within the book in a way that engages a potential reader. If you can combine typography and imagery in a clever way so that each is adding a new bit of information about the book, then I think you’re on the right track.
There’s a designer called Chip Kidd who has done some pretty clever book cover designs and he has a couple of lectures online where he discusses the ways that typography and imagery can be used to create an extra layer of meaning within visual design – definitely worth a watch if you are interested in the subject.
Which artists and illustrators have had the biggest influence on you?
I feel like I am constantly being influenced and inspired by all the amazing artists I follow online so I would have a hard time pinpointing any that have had a significant influence on the way I work. That being said, here are a few people whose work I have been really enjoying recently:
Carson Ellis: Folk art/nature inspired, she’s recently been doing some very nice blue layered watercolours that I really like.
Mogu Takahashi: They have a very immediate, fun, childlike way of working, lots of messy paint and cut and paste – something I’m feeling very drawn to at the moment.
Mike Wilcox: Art deco inspired illustration, gorgeous colours.
Owen Davey: Strong geometric graphic designs, he has done some really beautiful encyclopaedia style animal books.
Find more of Roisin’s work on Instagram: @roisin_oakley
Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Volume 13 will be published by Tangent Books on October 10th