Q & A with Ella Egidy
Ella Egidy is one of two designers shortlisted in the Young Designer of the Year category for the Australian Book Design Awards 2017. Before the winner is announced on Friday 26 May at Giant Dwarf in Sydney, we wanted to get to know more about Ella and her work.
How did you end up in book design? Was it an early ambition?
I moved to London in my early twenties and studied typography with letterpress typographer Kelvyn Smith. He taught me about typography, the art of the book and the history of the craft. Something special happens when you slow down and move away from the computer. Physically setting type character by character, making the forme, and running the presses to ultimately construct the page gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of the form.
Which was the first book cover you designed?
Breathing Room. It was for an exhibition catalogue curated by Jamie Tsai at MOP gallery in Sydney. It featured a beautiful illustration by Sydney based illustrator Steph Tsai.
What project has been your favourite so far?
Definitely CSL. I love digging through archives and this book was an absolute dream to work on—CSL have a solid 100 year history and a full time archivist who was endlessly helpful. They allowed me a lot of creative freedom to curate their visual narrative. The content is extremely interesting, varied and visually arresting. CSL is a global biotherapeutics company that develops and delivers biotherapies that save lives. They produce a large variety of biotherapies from influenza vaccinations to plasma and have been key to the preservation of public health in Australia. Documenting their centenary was a privilege.
Which specific designs have inspired or influenced you?
One place I like to look for inspiration is in the past. Way, way back, to 16th century Venice. The Aldine (Aldus Manutius) house styles are a beautiful place to start—the State library of NSW has a copy of Hypnerotomachia Poliphili on display, well worth a visit for a nose-against-the-glass-case experience. I’m also quite fond of William Morris and the work of the Kelmscott Press, The Story of the Glittering Plain is beautiful—there’s one at the British Library. It’s important to recognise the design and production feats that were achieved prior to the twentieth century, and then to enjoy the Bauhaus breaking it all apart. For that I spend quite a bit of time on Monoskop—they have many digitised publications available. Also, the university of Iowa have digitised their Dada publications collection which is available to view online at the International Dada archive.
Beyond book design, where do you find inspiration?
The nature of typography is architectural and drawing inspiration from architecture feels like a very natural thing. There is a particular rhythm and pace that crosses over from one discipline to the other and I find that endlessly fascinating.
What are the challenges facing a young designer today? What advice do you have for those still studying?
I think it’s important to acknowledge the power of good design and always consider ethics as a vital part of every brief. Contextualising your practice within typographic history will give you the (sometimes) necessary parameters to work within.
Do you think book design will change much over the next 10-20-30 years? Will you still be designing books?
The more it changes, the more it stays the same.
I hope so!
Next week we’ll be hearing from the other designer shortlisted for this year’s Young Designer of the Year Award, Andy Warren.