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.

Spotlight On: Senior Concept Designer, Sue Dani

We’re very proud of our books here at Oxford Australia, and we’re even more proud of the hard work that goes into creating the perfect textbook or digital product. There are a lot of different people involved in getting a book from conception to consumer; today in Spotlight On we introduce you to Sue Dani, a Senior Concept Designer in our Creative Services division.

Name: Sue Dani
Title: Senior Concept Designer*
When did you start at Oxford: mid-2007
Sum up your job in 3 words: conceptual aesthetic problem-solving

What are your day-to-day tasks?
My day-to-day tasks range from creating cover and text designs to meeting briefs (essentially problem-solving – which includes researching subjects, trends, internet, artists, image libraries, visiting galleries and book shops, reading blogs, books, magazines zines etc) through to critiquing and giving/receiving constructive feedback on freelancer and colleagues’ as well as my own designs; working on design layouts (including taking in text corrections and amending/creating technical and other artwork);  liaising with production, permissions, publishers, editors and freelancers and collaborating/brainstorming with, and supporting my colleagues!

What product or project are you most proud of working on?
Working on the Big Ideas Series with the creative Malaysia OUP design team 18 months ago in Kuala Lumpur was a real standout, and I’m very proud to have had the opportunity to work with them to craft their concept designs.  It was challenging to work in a different environment – not only differing systems and processes but also from a cultural perspective. I learnt a great deal during my time there, made many new friends and found it a very rewarding experience.

What is your favourite thing about working in publishing?
My favourite thing about working in publishing is that I feel I am making a difference to children’s lives by making learning interesting and easier – maybe by making maths that little more engaging or making a product easier to navigate, I’m encouraging one child to feel less intimidated and more confident than I did when I was in school!

What advice would you give to someone interested in a role like yours?
A large proportion of my role revolves around conceptual problem-solving.  It’s important to have a strong aesthetic but, it’s just as important, if not more so, to have solid problem-solving skills. In this role you need to be able to work through a problem to present relevant alternatives and it is critical to have a large pool of knowledge, experiences etc. to draw upon for your ideas. My advice to someone interested in this type of role would be to learn as much as they can about everything. From current affairs to connecting and learning from others within/outside your industry – don’t be a static learner but, keep exploring and don’t be afraid to take a risk!

What are you reading right now?
I’m a science fiction tragic – Excession, Ian M. Banks!

*Since completing this post, Sue has become the Design Manager of the Creative Services division.

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.