Designing Kids' Books
with Michelle Rochford

Michelle Rochford, Senior Fiction Designer at Hachette Children's Group in London, UK,  speaks to us about Designing Kids' Books.

Michelle lives in London with her husband and their cat. She has worked in children's publishing for over twenty years.

Designing Kids' Books:       What do you love most about your job?

I love reading, drawing, learning new things and generally doing anything creative. So a combination of all of these things is why I love my job.

Designing Kids' Books:      What is a typical day like for you in the office?

Designing Kids' Books - Hachette UK

I usually have a big long list of to-do’s to prioritise like any job. Each day I’ll be doing several things.

A large chunk of time each week is taken up doing research and coming up with concepts for new covers, or working up these ideas into finished covers. 

I might looking for an illustrator, or writing a detailed brief for an illustrator we’ve commissioned. Or I might be browsing through photo-libraries for the right image/s. Or, I might be choosing fonts for the inside of a book, and adding artwork into chapter-heads. 

My husband thinks I just sit at my desk drawing with my tongue out, if only!

Designing Kids' Books:      Do you have a specific process you follow when designing a book cover or is each one different?

Mostly I start by reading the book. I like to get a feel for the way it’s written. I think this is really important, but it’s not totally necessary as we do get detailed briefs from the Editor.

Next I do lots of research, into the content of the story, the target audience, general trends.

After that, I collect everything together and hope it sparks some ideas.

Designing Kids' Books: Where do you get your inspiration and ideas from?

So many places. This week I was inspired by the fantastic opening credits from the box set The Terror I might see a piece of packaging that gives me an idea. Or I might be browsing online or on Pinterest to get some inspiration.

Designing Kids' Books: Can you tell us about challenges you face as a designer and how you overcome them?

I think the biggest challenge is to get everyone on-board and happy with the book design. Lots of different departments in-house as well as the author. 

I think we can overcome this by working together, by listening and taking on-board everyone’s feedback, including the negative.

Designing Kids' Books - Hachette UK Rooftop GardenRooftop Garden at Hachette

Designing Kids' Books: Do you ever run out of ideas?

No. Maybe because I’m lucky enough to work on such a broad range of subjects and genres. If I worked in more of a niche area I think I might, but saying that, trends & fashions change all the time so I think there will always be new ideas and things around to inspire me.

Designing Kids' Books: What’s your favourite cover you’ve worked on?

My favourite at the moment is Run, Riot by Nikesh Shukla.

Designing Kids' Books: Is there a book cover you didn’t design but wish you had?

So many! The Sun is also a Star is stunning, I remember making string art as a child. Why didn’t I think of this?!

Designing Kids' Books: What book would you love to design a cover for if you had the chance?

I’d love to work on a group of Penguin or Puffin Classics. So many beautiful covers.

Designing Kids' Books: What is the proudest moment of your career so far?

Patrice Lawrence’s Orangeboy, won the YA Book Prize last year, amongst other much deserved awards & shortlists. I’m proud to have been involved in a tiny part of such an amazing book.

Designing Kids' Books: How did you get into book designing?

One of my first jobs after University was working in an animation company, King Rollo Films, who animate children’s book characters. I worked as a renderer, inbetweener and background artist on Maisy Mouse & Spot the Dog, and authors such as Roald Dahl. I think this really helped me get my first job in publishing, which was a maternity cover designer at Puffin Children’s Books.

Designing Kids' Books: If you weren't designing kids' books, what would you be doing?

I love sewing, especially hand sewing and twiddly details. So probably a costume designer, sewing elaborate outfits for period dramas.

Thanks so much to Michelle for talking with us. You can find out more about Hachette Childrens Books here

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