Celebrating 110 years of OUP in Australia

In 2018, Oxford University Press is celebrating 110 years in Australia. To give that some context, when the office was opened in 1908:

  • Women had just won the right to vote in Victoria
  • Canberra didn’t exist
  • The recorded Australian population was 4,232,278, around 20 million fewer people than today.

The Australian branch now employs over 100 staff and publishes a vast array of educational books and dictionaries. The original purpose of the office, however, was to make life easier for a travelling book salesman.

The salesman was E. R. Bartholomew (initials were very big in those days), who had been recruited into the book trade from the YMCA in 1890. E. R. worked for the publisher Hodder & Stoughton (now an imprint of Hachette), selling books throughout England, Wales and Ireland in a single ‘autumn journey’.

Hodder had their sights set on a more exotic market – Australia. This faraway land was usually avoided by English publishers, mainly because it took six weeks by ship to get there. Hodder decided to minimise this problem by sending their salesman to Australia for a six-month stint, every two years. They also partnered with another publisher to share the cost of the long sea voyage. The other publisher, of course, was Oxford University Press.

So that was that. Every two years E. R. Bartholomew would set out to Australia with his supply of Hodder and Oxford books. And at the start of each trip, his boss at Hodder would bid him farewell with the words, ‘Mind you get back in good time for the autumn journey.’ Bartholomew was almost constantly on the road like this for eighteen years, the final four working just for Oxford. By that time, business was going so well that OUP decided that he should make the trip to Australia every year. E. R., who must have been exhausted by now, drew the line at nearly the whole year away from home and family, and asked if he could move permanently to Australia. The new branch opened in Melbourne in 1908.

The location decided upon was an office in the Cathedral Buildings, next door to St Paul’s Cathedral on Flinders Street. This made sense, since OUP’s main business in 1908 was selling bibles. E. R. was joined in the office by his son, E. E., and they quickly became the best known representatives of British publishing in Australia. E. R.’s sales techniques were more formal than those of 2018: he always wore a top hat while selling his bibles, and insisted that he and his customer begin business by sharing a short prayer.

The only other employees were an office boy who unpacked the boxes of books, and E. R.’s sister, Elsie. OUP’s business manager Henry Frowde employed no women in England, and looked upon Elsie quite unkindly, referring to her as ‘our typewriter’.

By 1914, the Australian branch was publishing its own books. The first was probably the Australasian School Atlas, intended for schools in New South Wales. This was followed by works such as A Short History of Australia, the Oxford Book of Australian Verse and the succinctly titled Physiographic and Economic Geography of Australia. This last book was banned in Western Australia because the author mentioned for the first time in print that Australia was mainly desert (bad for immigration apparently). The branch also had the rights to sell the books of the Australian publisher Angus & Robertson, including the classics Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and The Man from Snowy River.

E. R. Bartholomew retired in 1922, and was succeeded as manager by E. E., who stayed on until 1949. Between father and son, they were in charge of OUP’s Australian operations for almost 60 years. They’d be happy to know that the Australian branch is still going strong in 2018 and still publishing school atlases.


Eyre, F. (1978). Oxford in Australia: 1890–1978. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2014). ‘Australian Historical Population Statistics, 2014’. Accessed from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3105.0.65.001

Behind the scenes in the creation of an eye-catching textbook


The design of Marketing: Theory, Evidence, Practice was a labour of love for the creative team behind the textbook.

Graphic designer Nina Heryanto conceived the striking illustrations on the book’s cover and its chapter opener spreads, which feature everyday consumer items, from toothpaste to chip packets.

In a testament to the quality of its design, Marketing: Theory, Evidence, Practice, written by marketing guru Professor Byron Sharp, is among the books to feature in the Australian Book Designers Association’s (ABDA) illustration showcase. The ABDA showcase series celebrates the best of Australian book design, with each focusing on a particular element, from illustration to photography.

Nina said the team at Oxford University Press had worked closely with the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, of which Dr Sharp is Director, to develop the textbook, ensuring its appearance reflected its high-quality, accessible and engaging text.

The designers started by developing a mood board to determine the look and feel of the book, then produced cover design concepts, from which a few were chosen for further developments and considerations by the rest of the team.

“A team of about six designers were involved in the project over two years, with some direction from the institute. We created a logo, which we used in illustrations of everyday products.

“The clean design of the logo set the tone for the rest of the book,” she said.

“It also reflects the emphasis on fast-moving consumer goods – everyday purchases and items that are familiar and accessible.”

The generous use of original illustrations, both on the cover of the book and on the chapter pages throughout, offered a rare opportunity for Nina and the design team.

“It was intense, but fun, and it’s quite rare to have the chance to create so many illustrations because it is so time-consuming. Illustrations really suited the subject, given that marketing is a creative industry.”


Nina also took into consideration the audience for the textbook, which was aimed at first year university students.

“We wanted it to look sophisticated and accessible, but not childish or too upmarket.”

Nina has worked for Oxford University Press for the past four years, working at Pearson education after completing a graphic design degree.

She said that she continued to get a buzz out of holding the finished product in her hands.

“This book was a labour of love, not just for me but for everyone involved. It really was a team effort, from the publishers to the production controller.”

Marketing: Theory, Evidence, Practice by Byron Sharp


Designing the cover of the Australian National Dictionary second edition

As publication of the Australian National Dictionary second edition approaches, we thought we’d share the story behind the cover. We spoke to designer Sue Dani about her experience creating the covers for the dictionary.

9780195550269What was the brief you were given?
The brief was very open, but key areas of consideration were that it had to reflect the Oxford look and feel, it had to be authoritative, striking, and functional as a reference title.

How did you come up with the concept for this cover?
The content of the dictionary was key as it is a window into our nation’s heritage, history and culture and I felt strongly that this aspect needed to be communicated in the concepts. In light of this, my explorations and experiments featured the use of beautiful works of some of our First Fleet artists, stunning Australian landscape photography and contemporary Australian textile artwork.

This reference title also had the potential to bridge the gap between library purchases and appeal to the collector or gift-giver. It needed to work on multiple levels if we were to gain a wider audience. To achieve this, I needed to consider how all the elements would work in unison to create something tactile and beautiful that people felt the compulsion to pick up, interact with and possess, but, at the same time, fulfilled the need to be practical, spine-out in a library environment. Examples of concepts are shown below:

Typographic concept Textiles design concept2 Mix Aust landscape concept









(Please click to enlarge)

What made you choose the photograph on the cover?
Both these images resonated with me – the classic image of the waratah and the majestic king parrot. The rich colour palettes complemented the Oxford navy livery and helped to unify the two volumes.

What is your favourite thing about the cover?
The king parrot image – there is something about the striking quality of the composition that appeals to me. I began with this image and searched for a partner to complement it.

What did you enjoy most about working on this cover?
Discovering and exploring the archives of beautiful Australian First Fleet imagery (the behind-the-scenes process of working through hundreds of images to find those that worked together to unify a two-volume product and case).

What was the most challenging aspect?
Working with the different types of cloth and quarter binding styles to find a combination that fit within our concept, budget and timeframes but also created the right visual message.

What is something about the design of this book we might not know?
The first edition was published in 1988 – the second edition has been 28 years in the making!

A - L AND2e cover spread

Please note: Pink has been used to indicate to the printer where the cover will be embossed. The grey font indicates where the cover will have silver foil. Please refer to the 3D image above for the final cover.

M - Z AND2e cover spread

Please note: Pink has been used to indicate to the printer where the cover will be embossed. The grey font indicates where the cover will have silver foil. Please refer to the 3D image above for the final cover.

Total Food 2: The story behind the cover

9780195594553Total Food 2, published in January 2015, was nominated for Best Designed Educational Primary/Secondary Book at the 63rd Australian Book Design Awards, and we are proud to announce the book won its category.

Cover Designer Kim Ferguson
Internal Designers Kim Ferguson, Aisling Gallagher & Sue Dani

Now Kim Ferguson, the cover designer, talks us through the cover Total Food 2:

  1. What was the brief you were given?
    The brief for Total Food covers was to be ‘fun, personable, friendly, playful, positive and inviting’. The publisher wanted to really tap into the similar ethic that Jamie Oliver has – making learning about good food, growing, cooking and eating an enjoyable and easy part of a children lifestyle.Kim 3
  1. How did you come up with the concept for this cover?
    The idea of using youthful hands holding raw food developed through the process of image research. The simple presentation of food being held by a teenager seemed a really subtle but strong way to show the process of eating food – from the starting point of picking fresh food.
  1. What made you choose the photograph on the cover?
    After extensive searching the final image for the cover was chosen for it’s striking colour and fresh lighting. It struck me as being modern, youthful and showing the rich deliciousness of raw, fresh food!
  1. What is your favourite thing about the cover?
    My favourite thing about the cover is the contrast of the vibrant colours – looks so yum (and any chance to slip some pink on a cover is a win!)
  1. What did you enjoy most about working on this cover?
    Finding so many great images that I wanted to use!

    Kim 1
  1. What was the most challenging aspect?
    The most challenging aspect of the cover designs was to find a shared vision for the imagery and to not eat too much after looking at food images all day!
    Kim 2
  1. What is something about this cover we might not know?
    That the original image showed the girl wearing some lovely gold bracelets that I Photoshopped out to allow the text to be more legible!

Congratulations to the Total Food 2 design team.

Consumer Behaviour in Action: The story behind the cover


Consumer Behaviour in Action, published in January 2015, was nominated for Best Designed Educational Tertiary Book at the 63rd Australian Book Design Awards, and we are proud to announce the book won its category.

Now Regine Abos, the designer, talks us through the cover and internal design process of Consumer Behaviour in Action:

  1. What was the brief you were given?
    The brief was to come up with a slick, polished design that would appeal to second and third year business/marketing students.
  2. How did you come up with the concept for this cover?
    LinginternalI always try to focus my designs on things or concepts that I’m actually interested in so that I enjoy the work and produce better results. So for this book, I put forward a few different concepts but really pushed for the one that featured one of my favourite things: shoes! And what better way to encapsulate consumer behaviour than a woman’s love for shoes? Luckily the publishers and the marketing team agreed. I then added tags and receipts throughout the book to further reinforce the theme of consumption.
  3. What made you choose the photograph on the cover?
    This particular photo encompassed both the social aspect (photographing her shoes then sharing photos via social media) and the psychological aspect (the wants versus the needs) of the topic. The retro colour scheme is also very “now” and therefore appealing to students.
  4. What is your favourite thing about the cover?
    The way the receipt interacts with the photograph in the background; it gives it a business-like yet friendly feel.
  5. What did you enjoy most about working on this cover?
    Looking through photographs of shoes!!
  6. What was the most challenging aspect?
    One of the authors initially had reservations about the cultural aspect of showing feet and shoes. Feet in Asian and Middle Eastern countries have quite a negative connotations: they’re often regarded as filthy as its where negative energy leaves the body and it’s a sign of disrespect if you enter someone’s home with your shoes on. The author’s suggestion was to use mobile phones instead, but since technology changes so quickly, the consensus in the end was to go with the shoes. Whew!
  7. What is something about the design of this book we might not know?
    The running heads were meant to have little Converse sneakers on them but as a compromise with the author mentioned above, these were removed.

Congratulations on designing a beautiful book Regine!

Oxford wins at the 2015 Australian Book Design Awards

The 63rd Australian Book Design Awards were held in Sydney on Friday 22nd May. Three Oxford titles were nominated across two categories:

Primary We are proud to announce that Oxford won both categories with Total Food 2 and Consumer Behaviour in Action. Details of Oxford’s winning and shortlisted titles in each category can be found below:

9780195525601Best Designed Educational Tertiary Book Sponsored by Australian Academic Design Libraries
Winner: Consumer Behaviour in Action
Designer Regine Abos


9780195594553Best Designed Educational Primary / Secondary Book Sponsored by Australian Academic Design Libraries
Winner: Total Food 2
Cover Designer Kim Ferguson
Internal Designers Kim Ferguson, Aisling Gallagher & Sue Dani



Shortlisted: Who Eats Who?
Cover Designer Regine Abos
Internal Designers Regine Abos & Fiona Lee

We’d like to congratulate our design team, a lot of skill and hard work goes into the design of our books and we’re proud the ABDA recognise the excellent work of Regine, Kim and their team.

The story behind the cover: Furphies and Whizz-bangs

One hundred years on, the slang of soldiers of the First World War continues to fascinate. In Furphies and Whizz-bangs: Anzac Slang from the Great War Dr Amanda Laugesen draws on primary source material taken from soldiers’ letters, diaries and trench publications, along with contemporary newspapers and books, to bring the language of the Australian soldier to life.

As the Anzac Day centenary approaches, we thought we’d share the story behind the photograph and letters of Furphies and Whizz-bangs. We spoke to designer Kim Ferguson about her experience creating the book’s cover:

  1. What was the brief you were given?
    The brief was for the cover to standout amongst all the other books being published for the centenary of World War One and have a trade feel. It needed to appeal not just people to interested in war, but also the general public, so an appealing, attractive design was needed.
  1. How did you come up with the concept for this cover?
    Usually during the briefing, an idea for a cover direction usually starts to form and after doing lots of research (on war, trade and just general book design) I put together three mood boards (see my mood board presentation below) that showed what I had in mind. Basically three different design themes; Historic writing and storytelling; hand drawn notes done in the field and bold graphic images combined with modern type;

ANZAC mood board 1

ANZAC mood board 2

ANZAC mood board 3

Source: Mood boards from Kim Ferguson Design

  1. What made you choose the photograph on the cover?
    I found the cover image on the Australian War Memorial website after spending hours getting lost in the many amazing historical photos. The cover image stood out as it seemed to give the right feelings about the laconic digger, the sense of mateship and the right war atmosphere that reflected the books contents.
  1. What is your favourite thing about the cover?
    I think my favourite aspect of the cover is the way the soft blue background contrasts so beautifully with the old, faded letters and the lovely textural handwriting.
  1. What did you enjoy most about working on this cover?
    I loved delving into the language the diggers used and reading some of the amazing letters they wrote back to their friends and family at home.
  1. What was the most challenging aspect?
    The most challenging aspect was to design the cover so it had a historical feel but also looked contemporary!
  1. What is something about this cover we might not know?
    That the handwritten letters underneath the photos are actual letters written by diggers from the front lines. And that on the reverse of the actual hard-copy of the photo there is a lovely handwritten letter by Pte Oliver Arnold Harris (the brother of the man on the left of the photo).

You can view the photo used on the cover of Furphies and Whizz-bangs (and read the message written on the back) in the Australian War Memorial collection. The portrait depicts Private Edgar Henry Harris of the 33rd Battalion and two unnamed men of the 33rd and 36th Battalions.

The letters featured on the cover were written by Sergeant Wilbert Berg of the 18th Infantry Battalion and can also be read on the Australian War Memorial website. Spanning 1915-18, this correspondence tells of Berg’s departure on the HMAT Ceramic, training in Egypt and experience landing at Anzac Cove, Gallipoli.

9780195597356Furphies and Whizz-bangs: Anzac Slang from the Great War

Using design to engage readers of different ages

Book design is more than just putting text and image together on a page. Many people don’t realise it, but HOW text and images are put together are just as important as the content of the text and image by itself. A reader engages with content that is presented through a combination of fonts, colour palettes, visual balance and spatial balance. When designed with careful consideration these elements facilitate ease in reading and generate the desired emotional response. If not, the content becomes dry and tedious to its audience.

A designer therefore has to think about how each spread works as a whole — are all the elements (photographs, illustrations, text, page numbers), visually balanced? Are the colours appropriate for the content? Are the font sizes and text layout appropriate for the age group the book is aimed at?

OUPANZ designers follow a set of design ‘rules’ and approaches when designing for a specific audience to ensure that they achieve an engaging design that accurately conveys the information in a reading level appropriate context. The following examples, taken from Oxford books, are all literacy texts which helps to demonstrate how one topic is conveyed differently to engage readers of different ages.

Designing for primary education students

Oxford Literacy - page sample

Designing for Primary school students – spread from Who Eats Who, Oxford Literacy Independent

  1. The overall design is visually rich to encourage learning. Specially commissioned illustrations are often in full colour and take up most of space on the spreads. Coloured photographs may also be used in conjunction with illustrations.
  2. The images tell the story as much as the words so have to be not just engaging but relevant. Word count is set according to the level of the reader.
  3. Images appear close to the text it refers to as early readers often need visual context cues if they are learning a new word.
  4. Fonts contain “infant characters”. This makes words more legible and readable.

 Designing for secondary education students


Designing for Year 10 VCE students – spread from Oxford Year 10 English

  1. The overall design is still visually rich but images are more conceptual and less literal. In the example above, a full-colour collage of type and photographs have been used to convey a literary feel.
  2. In terms of typography, the font choices for the headings are playful but highly legible at the same time. Font sizes vary according to the hierarchy of information — more important pieces of information are set in larger text.
  3. Some pieces of text are also set in different colours to call more attention to them.
  4. Colours are well-considered, not only to engage the reader but to aid navigation — chapter 1 is predominantly set in purple with other chapters set in different, but similar, cool hues (blues, greens, etc.). Definition boxes are set in orange throughout the book to complement the cool palette and to make the information contained in the definition boxes stand out.

 Designing for higher education students

HIgher ed_sample_call-outs

Designing for first year university students studying primary teaching – spread from Literacy, 5th edition

  1. The design has minimal embellishments and a restricted colour palette to accommodate the large amounts of text. The orange scribbles/doodles reflect elements from the front cover.
  2. The text is set in three colours — orange, blue and black — to be visually engaging and act as a ‘key’ to the differing hierarchy of information.
  3. Fonts with softer corners and strokes are used to reference the elements of literacy — reading, writing, speaking.
  4. Wide margins are used throughout the text to give the reader’s eyes enough rest between pages and to balance out the dense text.

As you can see, there is a lot to think about when creating book designs!

Is there a book that has engaged you through its design elements? We would love to hear about it.

 Regine Abos works as a Senior Concept Designer at Oxford University Press Australia and New Zealand.

Using infographics in the classroom

Ever wondered if book designers have a favourite colour they like to use? Or a particular font or style of typography? So did Regine, one of our Senior Concept Designers! So she analysed the covers of every textbook that Oxford published across its four divisions in 2013 (204 altogether) and constructed an infographic to show her findings. When completed it was printed out and displayed in our office for everyone to see.  Regine’s project on cover analysis was helpful because it provided data on book design that was easy for everyone to understand; it also generated a lot of discussion about design approaches and trends among non-designers too.


© 2013 Oxford covers infographic: Colour and Style Trends


Infographics are a great way to communicate a large amount of data in an interesting and visually engaging way, which makes them ideal for use in the classroom.

There are many infographics available for use by teachers, but how to know whether an infographic is suitable for a class lesson? To be useful, infographics need to:

  • have a verifiable source, be a reliable source of data, not distort the data for visual purposes
  • provide context but not be the whole solution; the infographic needs to allow the students to draw their own conclusions
  • be visually engaging and well-executed.

Not sure where to start looking for suitable infographics? Sometimes its as simple as using a phrase in a search engine such as ‘digital classroom infographic’ (select the ‘Images’ option in your search engine for optimum results). Pinterest is another great source; teachers are using many social media channels to share ideas for resources, including infographics, and Pinterest is a particular favourite. Publishers are increasingly using infographics in their textbooks and sometimes supply these digitally too, so you can display on your whiteboard/projection screen for use in class discussion.

Have you used infographics in the classroom? Where did you find them? How did you use them? Share your ideas here, replying to this post.

Interview with: Ana Cosma, winner of the 2014 ABDA Best Tertiary Education Designed Book Award

Ana Cosma, designer, OUP ANZAna recently won the ABDA Best Tertiary Education Designed Book Award with her design for Oxford’s Second Opinion, fifth edition so we thought we would ask her to tell us about how she developed this winning design and what her inspirations were.


About Ana
Ana Cosma is a freelance graphic designer with a love for book design and incredibly hot cups of earl grey tea. A strong design foundation in advertising and branding enables her to communicate design ideas from a unique perspective. She draws inspiration from her costal surroundings, and when not designing, is chasing after her cheeky little boy.

Germov, OUPANZ, second opinion1. What was the brief for this design?
The brief emphasized the importance of conveying ‘the social’, that is, the social determinants and factors that impact our health for example images of social interaction, social contexts, urban environments, etc. The book comprises three key parts: social production, social construction and social organization of health, and the cover had to capture this breadth. It was also requested that the cover should not focus on one single area or topic of the book.

2. Where did you go for inspiration? Do you use a mood board to capture your ideas?
Before starting a cover design, I always like to see what other books are on the market that cover the same or similar subject matter. Once I’ve checked out the competition and know what imagery and concepts have already been used, I can start to get a better picture of the concepts I’d like to explore. In the initial design stage I create a mood board to help me visualize my ideas. The mood board is then presented to the in-house publishing team and together we decide what ideas are worth developing. Once clear areas for exploration have been defined and agreed on, the fun begins, and I start designing the cover artwork. My favourite sites for design inspiration are typograhicposters.compinterest.com and thebookdesignblog.com.

3. What is your process when developing a whole book design e.g. a cover and the text? Do you develop the cover design first and then the text design? Or do you work on them concurrently?
In the majority of cases the cover design is briefed well before the text design. I prefer this process, as once the cover is finalized, the text design just flows on with the same theme and tone. This in turn results in a cohesive design, where the two elements support each other to communicate the publisher’s intended message. The cover was briefed months before the text design, this was great, because we had ample time to finalize the cover, before the text design process started.

4. How many designs did you originally put forward to the publisher?
The cover designs went through three rounds of concepts, and it was the last, lucky thirteenth, cover that was approved. I was asked recently if it was worth going through so many covers variations, and looking back, I can say that each round of covers helped me and the publishing team better understand what direction the cover should take.

5. Did the design that was selected by the publisher go through many versions?
Once the cover concept was selected and the final artwork was created, the cover only went through minor changes after that point.

6. What was the reason the publisher decided on this particular design?
The cover design that was chosen in essence captures the books three main themes: social production; construction; and organization of health. It is always a challenge to design a cover that is made up of different elements, but the central image of the man’s profile, brings all of these themes together and creates an intriguing focal point.

7. How long was the design process from briefing to sign off of the cover and text design?
From the original cover brief to sending in the last round of the text design files in-house the process, from my end, took approximately five months.

8. What did you feel when you were told you had won the award?
To be honest, I was really excited to make the awards shortlist. Seeing my name listed alongside Sue Dani and Regine Abos, both of whom are such fantastic designers, was an honour in itself. Winning the award and being acknowledged by my peers is a wonderful encouragement to keep challenging myself as a designer.

To find out more about ABDA and the other 2014 winners, as well as the shortlisted titles, click here.