Meet Carla Sy, New Zealand’s Young Designer of the Year


Auckland-based designer Carla Sy won the Publishers Association of New Zealand (PANZ) Young Designer of the Year Award in 2015. Carla will be in Sydney next week undertaking a professional development placement with Matt Stanton and the HarperCollins Australia design team. Ahead of her visit to Australia, Miriam Rosenbloom, ABDA’s vice president and one of the judges for the PANZ Book Design Awards 2015, contacted Carla to find out more about this talented designer.

How did you find your way into books design?
I still sometimes feel like I annoyed Random House enough to hire me with my many emails between 2009-2010 until they finally gave me a permanent full-time job as an in-house book designer.

How does working in New Zealand seem different from Australia?
That’s exactly what I hope to find out during my professional work placement at Harper Collins with Matt Stanton next week. But from my understanding, the existence of Art/Creative Directors in publishing houses in Australia seem to be a common thing. In New Zealand, however, there isn’t that structure in place which means the art direction is sometimes collaboratively driven between the commissioning editor, author, designer and photographer.


Do you think there are differences in their trends and styles of cover design?
Yes, absolutely. I think every country has their own unique design trends, and New Zealand and Australia are no exception. After reflecting on the covers that have appeared in the Australian and New Zealand book design awards, the Australian covers in my personal opinion feel more art driven in terms of final execution. Your covers have a strong illustrative style and with typography often conveying fluid motion and movement intertwining with other objects. In comparison, I think generally the New Zealand covers are more commercially driven, having a strong focus in heirarchy and static typography.

What artists and designers have influenced your work?
This varies depending on what genre I’m working on. I love the strong juxtaposition of light and dark in Edward Hopper’s realist paintings which influenced the cover illustration I did for Drowning City. I also admire the clean and spare aesthetic style of Guy Billout. I love botanical artwork, which influenced the design direction for The Naturalist. And most recently, I am interested in collage art and the process of creating an image from different fragments. I hope to use this technique in some upcoming book covers.

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Do you work straight on to the computer or do you like to sketch out ideas first?
I think it’s definitely important to sketch out ideas first when you can. Even if they’re just really rough doodles, it’s important to get it out on paper. I also like to look at other books and research different artworks, and find inspiration in things that interest me that could be useful in the design process. I think it’s really important to be influenced and inspired by lots of different things all at once otherwise you risk doing the same thing over and over again, especially when you are working on multiple books with varying genres.

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What designers working today do you admire?
I really admire Alan Deare’s work, his skillfulness in typography, masterful compositions and strong focus on heirachy. Evi O has such a wonderfully rich range in design style – I love her illustrated non-fiction books, and always evident in her design is her multi-skilled discipline in art, design and illustration. I am also such a huge fan of Allison Colpoys beautifully illustrated fiction covers. And Miriam Rosenbloom’s artful and Pantone rich cover series work.

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What are your favourite type of books to design?
Fiction book covers and their internal design spreads, it’s so lovely designing the whole package. And when I can get my hands on them, beautifully photographed Illustrated non-fiction books.

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You can read more about Carla Sy on the PANZ Book Design Awards website and follow Carla Sy on Instagram.



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