On May 31st, She Designs Books held it’s third “She Gathers” event at Pondicheri in New York City. The initiative, founded by Anne Twomey and Nicole Caputo, celebrates the female designers working in the book industry and fosters a supportive and inspiring community. “She Gathers” began in March of this year, and since has been held monthly. In the summer, they plan to also host “She Lunches” to widen the audience to those who have difficulty making it in the evenings (for example mothers).
After, I followed up with some of the women in attendance to get their thoughts on the event.
Marina Drukman, Art Director of Melville House recalled “She Designs Books goes with one of my favorite posters I saw at the Women’s March, it said “Empowered women empower women.” There is a stigma that exists in society that women cannot be friends...that all they want is to beat each other to a job position, a man, a status, etc. Coming to these events reminds me how far from reality this is. We inspire each other, encourage each other, and admire each other’s work…It’s a reaffirming experience.”
The event did not only attract graphic designers already working in the field. Jenna Kass, whose background is in illustration, “loved the event.” She said, “I walked in fairly anxious…and wound up finding a warm and welcoming community. The women there were enthusiastic about my intentions to learn the craft and join their ranks, and offered me advice and encouragement freely…I left the event more inspired and determined than ever...”
Nancy Rouemy, Creative Director, Rouemy Design feels the new group “creates the space for a well of extreme talent, camaraderie, inspiration, networking, positivity, and laughter — both live and online.”
After discovering the group on Instagram, Art Director Beth Bugler was “immediately intrigued.” Bugler said, “She had me at She Designs Books and noted that “we are all so lucky to be in business producing tangible, delectable book covers that people want to pick up and share…”
Molly McIntyre, a Brooklyn based artist “found the event to be really encouraging and inspiring…It helped me feel like I am part of a group of peers, which can be hard when you work freelance…”
Some know the feeling of awkwardness and intimidation when you attend industry events. You hang out by the breadsticks and hope to see a familiar face and patiently wait for a Creative Director you know to go out of his or her way to introduce you to others. But in this warm environment, the enthusiasm was refreshing. The inaugural designer #bookswap helped as the books themselves initiated the dialogue. There was delight in seeing designers connect over their shared love for books and design. It was immediately evident this was an event with book cover and interiors designers because they hovered over the books on the long table—rubbing their fingers over the various tactile special effects.
Cara Llewellyn, a designer for children’s books said, “Thursday's bookswap was my first in-person She Designs Books event, and it was an absolute spine-tingling blast. Always so inspiring to ooh and ahh over spec'd out book samples…”
“…Introducing myself to someone whose work I admire is much less daunting when there's an understanding that that's the whole point of the event. Showing up and learning from each other can only make us better.” —Nicolette Seeback, Designer at Henry Holt and Company
“The book swap was a great conversation starter…There was a wide variety of genres and design styles in the books - just like the group of women who worked on them!” —Lauren Harms, Art Director at Little Brown and Company
For Kelly Gatesman, Designer at Flatiron Books, the act of trading books with other designers was a highlight and a great way to break the ice. Through the swap she got to meet Cara Brostrom, a freelance cookbook photographer that made it to the event from Boston. As a freelancer, Cara left the event “with inspiration and ideas for growing her own business and is now “following the work of many of the women” she met that evening. She hopes the future brings gatherings like this to other cities.
Ellen Duda, Senior Designer at IMPRINT, especially liked the concept of the book swap. “…I love getting new books, but also it was a great opportunity to meet the designers who made such beautiful packages. I always come away from these events feeling more connected and excited about what I do.”
It’s one thing to get compliments on your work on social media, hidden behind a screenname, but it is a completely different feeling to hear it in person and meet the designers behind the book covers, face to face. In this unique setting, I saw the pretensions drop and it felt like one big family. Age, hierarchy evaporated and we realize we have far more in common. Isn’t it much better to support & share with each other rather than compete?
Erin Fitzsimmons, Art Director at HarperCollins Children’s Books sums up the evening quite well, “…While publishing is a very small world, we tend to rotate in our usual circles (adult trade, children's trade, educational, etc.) and it can be difficult and daunting to try to connect beyond...I loved the book swap at this meet-up because it really drove home what a variety of work we produce, and how diverse our talents are. Plus, who doesn't love going home with a new book?!”
If you would like to learn more about She Designs Books, I recommend listening to their recent interview on the Spine podcast.
Karen Horton is currently the Art Director at Henry Holt and Company. Karen has previously worked at St. Martin’s Press, The Children’s Museum of Manhattan, Oxford University Press, Little, Brown and Company/Hachette, and Flatiron Books.