Q & A with Jess Gommers


To launch a new series of Q&As with Australian Book Designers Association members, we thought we’d start things off in a slightly contrarian way: by interviewing our one international member, New Zealand freelance designer Jess Gommers

Jess was senior designer at the National Gallery of Victoria from 2008 to 2011. Now based in Auckland, she has worked for range of clients including Penguin Books NZ, Auckland Art Gallery and Auckland Museum

Did you mean to end up as a book designer? What was your trajectory?
Originally I wanted to be an artist but after completing a Bachelor of Visual Communication I found my first full time design job within a small team at an art gallery. Designing for large scale international exhibitions and a healthy publishing agenda I started to develop a portfolio of exhibition identity, exhibition design, marketing collateral, exhibition catalogues and artists monographs. I continue to freelance and have self-published, worked within large design teams and collaborated directly with artists, curators and editors.

Does art – gallery, museum art – inspire you? Or film, TV etc? If so, what do you like?
I find inspiration in the music, food and nature of my everyday life. Also, if attending an exhibition, watching a film or live performance, reading or noticing the fine detail of an artwork, print or book production (or simply just following a TV series) I might stumble across something. I enjoy happenstance and tend to bank inspiration away – it’s not often I’ll act on something immediately.


What do you listen to when you work?
I always have music playing and I listen to a huge variety of music spanning classical, hip-hop, reggae or rock. I also listen to tedtalks, podcasts and current affairs on National Radio.

What question do you least enjoy from people when they discover you design books?
“Book design? I wouldn’t think there’s much to do – isn’t it just a book?”

What is your favourite tool on the computer? (Not just a program but within a program or OS)
There are a handful of keyboard shortcuts which I use constantly – it’s like knowing a magic trick or another language. Occasionally if I’ve had a holiday or if I am away from the computer for a while I’ll forget one or two but its always a rush when I rediscover the tricks.

Best or favourite situation for getting creative.
Music playing, coffee hot, in good company or in a quiet space.

Which creative person/identity/professional would you most want to impress?
John Maeda or Irma Boom. I was very impressed by both of these designers early on – I would love to be able to generate design the way they do – their thinking has always stuck with me.