Q & A with Andy Warren

Andy Warren 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 Andy and his work.

How did you end up in book design? Was it an early ambition?

I ended up in book design late in 2014. It had been about a year since I graduated from Communication Design at RMIT, in that time I was floating, working in retail and could feel myself getting a bit stuck. I had worked on a publication project for Hardie Grant at RMIT – I really enjoyed the brief, so I got in touch with Hardie Grant and scored an internship in the marketing department. I slowly took on more book design work under the mentorship of a wonderful manager and eventually took on a full time position as a designer, working on covers first and then entire books.

The idea of being a book designer felt so unattainable growing up. (It still does, I pinch myself at least three times a week). There’s a magic in books that I can’t put into words.  

Which was the first book cover you designed?

The first book cover that I designed was the 2016—2017 edition of the Champagne Guide by Tyson Stelzer. My inspiration for the final cover was a Burnham Brothers skyscraper in Chicago called the Carbide and Carbon building. I had done an exchange semester in Chicago and this particular building stood out in my memory for its distinctive bottle green façade with gold highlights.

What project has been your favourite so far?

I have loved working on all the projects that I have contributed to so far… Annie’s Farmhouse Kitchen by Annie Smithers was a wonderful project that I designed and typeset. I was able to work closely with the team in house at Hardie Grant and also with Robin Cowcher, who illustrated the whole book. It was a challenging book to produce but I couldn’t be happier with the final outcome and the team I worked with. More recently I designed The Desserts of New York by Yasmin Newman, this book married travel with sweets (two of my favourite things) and was a pleasure to design.

Which specific designs have inspired or influenced you?

Lately, I’ve been drawn to the latest Phaidon offerings, particularly the food titles (Raw by Solla Eiriksdottir, Octaphilosophy by André Chiang and Lotta Jörgensen). Their (seemingly) effortless designs are sophisticated and showcase their content spectacularly. Locally, I adore Allison Colpoys’ recent work on Acquacotta by Emiko Davies, Vaughan Mossop’s work on Smith & Daughters and Hetty Mckinnon’s Neighbourhood by Daniel New.

Beyond book design, where do you find inspiration?

A lot of my designs nod back to places I have travelled. I tend to go photo-mad when adventuring. I like to document colours, patterns, buildings and landscapes that I see along the way. I have a stack of memory cards that I look through every couple of months to refresh and remember what is going on in the world outside of my bubble. I find this helps to diversify my work and pushes me to design from a fresh point of view.


What are the challenges facing a young designer today? What advice do you have for those still studying?

It is challenging finding your feet (and employment) after studies. The competition becomes very real once the graduation gown comes off. I think the best thing to do would be to put yourself out there and seize any opportunity that comes your way. Don’t be disheartened by rejection, ask for feedback and work on your shortcomings. I think a university course or diploma should be thought of as an introduction as you will continue to learn as you progress.

Do you think book design will change much over the next 10-20-30 years? Will you still be designing books?

I think book design will mostly stay the same; though I’m sure we’ll see some new type and cover trends as they oscillate. There’s something very comforting in reading from a book, escaping the digital world for a while. Though I am interested to see whether some digital design elements will make their way into print (and vice-versa) in the near future.

I’ve found that working on books has exposed me to new ideas and insights into other people’s bubbles, it’s a humbling experience and I’ve learnt a lot about the world. I would love to continue designing books for the foreseeable future, I still have a lot to learn and more magic to make.


Last week we heard from the other designer shortlisted for this year’s Young Designer of the Year Award, Ella Egidy.