Creating Design Magic
by Tatyana Sinioukov
Perhaps what makes University of California Press so successful is, in part, that its design team consists of people like Nola Burger, who enjoy the daily challenge of making their books stand out
At UC Press, five in-house designers choose their projects and leave the manufacturing responsibilities to production coordinators. "We'll look over a list of books that are being launched, and then the designers will meet," explains Nola Burger, an award-winning designer who has been creating book covers, jackets and interiors for eight years; has taught at the California College of Arts and Crafts in San Francisco; and has judged the Bookbuilders West book shows. "We figure out who wants what," Burger elaborates. "Sometimes it's a subject of particular interest to a designer, other times it's the text and art that pose an appealing design challenge. Production staff go through a similar selection process; it's satisfying to have a say in one's projects."
Burger most enjoys working on complex projects. "Having chosen my titles, I've invested in them from the start," she reveals. "I am thinking about the reader, wanting to make a book that the reader is going to enjoy."
Burger designs about 50 books per year; less than half are considered complex. "When I get a complex book, I am working as a team with editors and production and the author. In the course of designing the book I'll have input on everything from image use to editorial aspects. It's a true collaboration."
According to Burger, for about 35 to 40 percent of the simpler books, such as midlist and monographs, standard design templates are used. For larger markets and more distinctive subjects, she creates original designs.
As a university press, Burger notes, UC Press often works with small budgets, and print runs are typically low (2,000 to 3,000 for midlist). Ten years ago, many titles were guaranteed steady library sales, Burger recalls, but, "as library funds dried up a bit," UC Press has expanded its market to include more general-interest titles. Burger's mission is to create an identity for each book so that it will reach as wide an audience as possible.