Q & A with Gayna Murphy

Gayna Murphy portrait

Gayna Murphy is a versatile and award-winning designer who has worked across many areas of publishing including magazines, large format illustrated books, cookbooks, literary fiction and children’s books. She is currently senior designer at Bauer Media Books.

Did you mean to end up as a book designer? What was your trajectory?
I started out designing and art directing magazines after I finished studying graphic design for three years. I went straight to ACP and worked on a great fashion and food magazines series. From there I worked for ELLE Australia where I styled the interior and food pages, then onto work at at Conde Nast Australia, working across Vogue Entertaining, Vogue Living and Vogue Australia. After that I did a stint designing annual reports and corporate design. I was introduced to the then Publishing Director at Random House, Jane Palfreyman who started giving me freelance work. I loved it so much that I decided to continue and make book design my focus. I have worked for many amazing publishers, editors, authors and creatives over the years. It has been a very fulfilling and rewarding experience.


Does art — gallery, museum art — inspire you? Or film, tv etc? If so, what do you like?
I love going to see art exhibitions and events. I also love film. I don’t really watch TV that much, unless there is something special on. I tend to watch Youtube or listen to podcasts.

What do you listen to when you work?
I generally work silently, with the hustle of everyone around me. We often stop to discuss what we are working on. If I do listen to anything it would be podcasts, some of my favourites include Resourceful DesignerThe Reflex Blue ShowDesign StoryTed talks and Design Matters. Some episodes I’ve enjoyed recently include Debbie Millman talking to Irma Bloom, Elizabeth Gilbert on your elusive creative genius and Rachel Richards discussing how fashion inspires design.

What question do you least enjoy from people when they discover you design books?
I am very happy to discuss the many joys and virtues of book design. People are mostly fascinated about it and keen to hear what we do.


What is your favourite tool on the computer? (Not just a program but within a program or OS)
Here are a few things I like to use:
1. 1Password – For anyone that has trouble remembering passwords. This little tool is a great thing to use. 1Password can be synced to your computer and phone so you won’t ever forget your passwords again.
2. Things – Things is a great little tool to use for saving lists. I love lists. You can link it to your phone. It helps with organising everyday tasks.
3. Google Drive – Google Drive is a great tool for storing files and sharing information. You can assign access rights to folders and documents to different people, which makes collaborating with people much easier. I still use Dropbox and Hightail as well. But slowly getting used to using Google Drive more.

Best or favourite situation for getting creative.
A quiet mind, well relaxed is mostly the best. I really like those very early hours of the morning when everything is very still and silent. I also think a great design brief or outline meeting to discuss what project you are going to be designing is important to get a good understanding of what the project is about – that’s when the ideas start to percolate.

Which creative person/identity/professional would you most want to impress?
Well right now it’s people that I work with at Bauer. They are such an inspiring team coming up with new book ideas and food combinations for cookbooks, health and illustrated books. I have a keen desire for health and wellness books, so it’s great that we are producing more and more of these. I’d love to be able to design some more fiction books again, and love designing picture books as well. My five years spent at Walker Books was lots of fun!


Which book would you like to design the cover for?
That’s a hard one. As long as I can keep designing I am happy to work with anyone that wants to work with me!

Who is one of your favourite book designers and why?
Oh I have so many it’s hard to say just one! I love Louise Filli’s design and philosophy. I also adore the work of Paula Scher. One of the early books I loved which was gifted to me in my twenties (one of my favourite books I own) was Pre-Pop Warhol by Yolanda Cuomo, I loved her use of interesting packaging and finishes. Some other favourites are Fabien Baron, for his art direction of Harpers Bazaar in the nineties, David Pearson, Saul Bass, Alexy Brodovich and Irma Boom for their love of typography, using imagery in interesting ways, and great use of colour.

There’s a great video of Yolanda Cuomo by the New Yorker called Let’s Make a Book of This.

Yolanda Cuomo doco still

Your favourite place (store, library, blog etc) to look at books?
I like to visit Kinokunya and Dymocks in the city and I love seeing what’s available on Instagram and Facebook. Also watching live broadcasts and talks by my favourite authors, brands, creators and artists.