Adventures in Book Design

By Lorien Lawrence

Today I’m welcoming Jade Rector to the Spooky Middle Grade blog! Jade is an illustrator and book designer-extraordinaire who JUST SO HAPPENED to design my upcoming Fright Watch book: The Collectors.

Ever wonder what it takes to make a book cover sparkle from the shelves? Let’s get into it!

Jade Rector

LORIEN:  Hi Jade! Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. I can’t wait to learn more about the artistic side of publishing. Speaking of, would you mind introducing yourself? Can you also give a little background about your job? What does a typical day at Abrams look like?

JADE:  Of course – Hi, Lorien! Thanks so much for reaching out, this is such a blast. My name is Jade Rector – I’m a queer illustrator living in Chicago, Illinois. I’m currently a Junior Designer over at Abrams Kids. I started as a Design Assistant in 2019, and I’ve loved every second! I work in a variety of our imprints and on many different book formats, but I have a particular fondness for picture books and middle grade, especially when it’s funny or scary. A typical day at Abrams for me involves a lot of meetings, emails, communication with my team – and, of course, a ton of design!

LORIEN: Wow, it sounds like your day job involves more teamwork than I realized! Speaking of teamwork, how do you and your team come up with concepts and ideas? I mean, when it comes to fonts, colors, word placement, symbols – ohmygosh! There are so many options! How on earth do you choose?

JADE: Oh, what a great question. My favorite thing about publishing is the intrinsic collaboration, it’s such a team sport. The initial choices are always tough, absolutely, but it’s very fun to jump into a new project and try new designs! Everything starts with our close collaboration with the editorial team, as they let us into the world of the books we’re working on (Emily Daluga and I have had the most fun chatting about the cover of THE COLLECTORS!!!). After designers ascertain the mood, work with illustrators, and puzzle together the content, many folks in the publishing group have a chance to take a peek and voice their thoughts. Every department has important opinions and it’s an ongoing conversation – ultimately, we are all doing our best to make sure each book succeeds as best it can, which is really great.

LORIEN: Do you have a favorite type of cover? A style that makes you stop in a bookstore and ogle?

JADE: Ooooh, absolutely! When I’m shopping for myself and I’m in the picture book section, I always float towards styles like that of Jon Klassen, Christian Robinson, Julie Morstad, Carson Ellis….I am a big fan of soft, multimedia collage. As for novels, I’ll pick up any horror and humor with illustrative covers, especially if it’s decked out in neon inks or gold foil. Fun effects and great illustration are the way to my heart!

LORIEN: OK, this is why get along: you had me at NEON and FOIL. 😉

Let’s chat about inspiration. I’m probably at least a decade older than you, but when I was a kid, video rental stores were a thing. One of the reasons I got into horror was because I used to walk up and down the aisles looking at all the rad covers. Is there a cover of a book (or movie) that you saw as a kid that made a lasting impression?

JADE: HAH, we’ve intersected there! I miss video rental stores every day. I’m from a small town outside of Chicago, and some of our local spots lasted well into the mid-2010’s. Streaming is convenient, but I miss wandering the aisles, too. (As a side note, this is such a fun question – I’ve been googling movie covers for an hour!)

The cover of THE RING still haunts me in the best way, and I love the cover of MEMENTO. INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE was totally foundational, too…Hilariously, the most lasting impression was probably the entire CHILD’S PLAY series, albeit negative. I hate that puppet!!!

LORIEN: I’m with you: I HATE ALL PUPPETS! Not just Chucky – any kind of puppet. OK, now I’m thinking about puppets, so maybe we should change the subject!

It needs to be stated on record that you’re an amazing artist in your own right (and EVERYONE reading this post should check out Jade’s website and follow her on Instagram @jadearector PRONTO!) How would you describe your artistic style?

JADE: Oh, thank you so much for the kind words!! I would describe my work as bright, friendly, goofy… and occasionally a little bloody. I love drawing cute and fashionable kids with their pets, but I also end up drawing many, many vampires. Humor is one of my goals with the majority of my illustration, particularly when it’s narrative, so I think that’s a leading factor as well.

LORIEN: LOVE that you draw vampires! There can never be enough vampires, as far as I’m concerned.

Have you ever thought about making your own graphic novel?

JADE: Eep, yes! I would love to create a graphic novel about queer ghosts/vampires/aliens/etc, etc, etc eventually. It is a lot of work, but I hope that it’s eventually in the cards. Back in 2018 I put together a short comic titled GOTH RULES (again – very silly), and the amount of work even in that was unbelievable…but ugh, so fun, and so worth it to have that graphic flexibility with the narrative!

Lorien: I can’t imagine how much work goes into all that! But I love your style – I’d be so up for a Jade Rector graphic novel down the line!

I’m sure having a job in publishing takes up a lot of your creative energy (in a good way!) How did you get into publishing?

JADE: I got my BFA in Illustration (with a minor in education) at Columbia College Chicago. I’d originally intended to go into animation, but in my junior year I took a course called Culture in Young Children’s Literature with Katie Paciga, and it totally changed my path. I applied for internships at a variety of publishers and ended up interning with Candlewick Press – such a game changer! Before the end of my senior year I applied to more publishers, including Abrams – my professor Elio had worked with Abrams before and got in touch with his editor….and here we are! I started as a Design Assistant right after graduation. I am so grateful for the support of my school and community, and so thrilled to be in publishing now. Making books is truly the dream!

LORIEN: Are there any trends in book design that you’re loving right now? And are there any that you are ready to say goodbye to?

JADE: Oh, my heart…I love the bold neons, crazy shapes, and doodle explosions that are so in right now. I am VERY excited to say goodbye to extreme minimalism – I love a great pop of color and fun!

LORIEN: I’m totally with you on saying goodbye to minimalist covers. Bring on the color!!

OK, ready for the spooky-themed rapid round? Favorite Halloween candy?

JADE: Kitkats, black licorice, and root beer barrels!

LORIEN: Favorite monster?

JADE: Vampires – all of them – are my ride-or-die!

LORIEN: Favorite scary movie?

JADE: THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT is my absolute favorite!

LORIEN: And finally: Do you believe in ghosts???

JADE: What a great question. I’d say 50/50 – I want to believe!!!!

LORIEN: Wow, Jade, this was a blast. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me!

JADE: Lorien, thank YOU! I had so much fun going through these questions – it was my pleasure!

Follow Jade on Instagram at @jadearector and visit her website: http://www.jaderector.com

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