ABDA Blog

Q & A with Luke Harris

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We’re delighted to bring you our first member Q&A of 2017. Luke Harris has been a graphic designer for over 20 years and is currently the director of WorkingType studio. He’s also a self proclaimed bibliophile, wannabe author and artist.

Did you mean to end up as a book designer? What was your trajectory?

I was fascinated by design during high school, though I was probably mixing it up with illustration. I did my work experience with a design firm, but sweeping the darkroom and counting boxes of film wasn’t an ideal introduction. After completing an Arts degree at Monash Uni (Politics and History) I worked for the Student Association, organising and promoting short courses for students. Laying out the courses program each semester rekindled my interest in graphic design, and introduced me to the early design software. I knew I didn’t want to work for anyone else, so began gradually to build up my own design business. That was a long, difficult and rewarding road. Over time, book design came to dominate the mix of work I was doing. Clients have tended to be small press and academic publishers, individual authors, government and a smattering of the larger publishers.

Does art — gallery, museum art — inspire you? Or film, tv etc? If so, what do you like?

Art is always an inspiration, and the latest from the interface between science and nature. I paint and draw in my spare time. Pure self-expression is less stressful (for me at least) than producing something for a client. I often wish I could design the same way I paint. The more distraction with art, the better. The less distraction with design, the better.

What do you listen to when you work?

Birds in the trees (I work in Eltham), occasionally audiobooks, Radiolab or 99% invisible, Wilco, Mojave 3, Cowboy Junkies.

What question do you least enjoy from people when they discover you design books?

‘Are they still publishing print books?’

What is your favourite tool on the computer? (Not just a program but within a program or OS)

The glyph panel in InDesign. As a type nerd, I love trying out alternate characters, admiring ligatures and just scrolling in search of interesting decorative elements.

Best or favourite situation for getting creative.

Post very strong coffee, focus on a single job, ignoring emails.

Which creative person/identity/professional would you most want to impress?

Erik Spiekermann. I love his focus on communication and readability, lack of pretension and sheer productivity. And his typefaces rock.

Which book would you like to design the cover for?

A series of science fiction classics – I grew up on Heinlein, Asimov, Niven, Clarke, Simak, Shaw, LeGuin and so on – working on a project with roots in the golden age of pulp would be very rewarding.

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Who is one of your favourite book designers and why?

As the father of two young daughters, my favourite designers are currently in the realm of children’s books: Jon Klassen, Christoph Niemann, anything produced by Wide Eye Press. Luke Pearson. Nobrow Press. Beautiful, bold, exciting design, on heavy, sumptuous stock. What’s not to love?

Your favourite place (store, library, blog etc) to look at books?

Eltham bookstore is a bit of a hidden gem, quiet and cave-like as good bookstores should be. Online, I enjoy thisiscolossal.com, Open Culture, Arts and Letters Daily  and I Love Typography.

 

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