Course: BA (Hons) Visual Communcation (now Communication Design and Strategy)
Arabella shared her experience with us at AUB, from switching courses to entering design competitions, which led to a career as a Junior Designer at Penguin Random House Children.
Throughout school, I excelled in art but I was unsure of what I wanted to do as a career. Growing up, my dad was a creative director for an advertising agency. At the weekends my brother and I used to visit him on film shoots and watch as he recorded adverts or drew storyboards. Living in a creative environment and getting the encouragement from my family and peers is probably what drove me to the career I have today.
When I selected my A-Levels I chose to study Fine Art, Graphics and English. As the year progressed, I discovered my love for graphic design and knew it was the subject I wanted to study at University. When searching for the right university, I looked through prospectuses and attended UCAS fairs – that was where I found AUB.
I attended an open day and was overwhelmed by the range of facilities on offer at AUB, from screen printing to book binding and even laser cutting. The surrounding area was just as exciting, with the halls of residence in the town centre and close to the beach. I started at AUB studying Graphic Design, but I missed being able to illustrate and design for a purpose, which is why I swapped to BA (Hons) Visual Communication.
What I loved about Visual Communication was how broad the course was – you could really do and make anything. It allowed me to experiment with all areas of design and explore my skills, but the most vital thing I learned is how important it is to develop your work – taking ideas and different processes to experiment, which is key to the way I work today.
Throughout my time at AUB I was never sure what kind of design career I wanted to enter. I’d dabbled in lots of different disciplines, from animation and packaging to entering competitions and working as a team, but it was during my final year that I really found something I loved.
Sally Hope was my course leader throughout my third year and she always inspired us to achieve our best. She encouraged us to enter as many competitions as we could, as it was from this that I found my niche. I entered the Penguin Student Design Competition, which involved designing a book cover for To Kill a Mockingbird. I’d always loved reading, so creating a design that conveyed a narrative was one of my favourite projects – I enjoyed the experience so much I decided to redesign a book for my Final Major Project.
Now, working as a Junior Designer at Penguin Random House Children’s, I get to design a variety of books for all ages. One of my favourite projects to date is a cover I designed for The Between by David Hofmeyr. It’s a science fiction novel aimed at young adults, and I had so much fun creating it’s cover and chapter headers. I was really pleased with how it turned out – vibrant and striking, yet still reflective of the atmosphere of the novel.
Many of my book covers have a prominent typographic feel. I love getting to choose and create my own fonts, but I also hand-letter a lot of the covers. Designing covers that use fonts to convey the narrative or creating bold lettering that is striking on the shelves is key to the design. Throughout my time at AUB we learned about the importance of type – the font you choose and the hierarchy in which you use it is integral. I really valued all the workshops we had from font designers, as well as the feedback we received from tutors regarding our designs. I had never really thought too much about my font choices prior to my university degree. Complimenting your fonts and learning how type can create branding was something I learned throughout my time on BA (Hons) Visual Communications and is at the forefront of my work.
I’m currently working on a new book series about a young detective and her dog, and it’s the most wonderful story. I’ve been lucky enough to design the book covers and all the interiors for the fully illustrated book, so I’m having the best time collaborating with the illustrator and editor in what I hope will be a really adorable book for young kids.
As a designer, you’re always unconsciously absorbing the designs around you, whether they’re in the form of a font on a tube poster or a print on a teacup. Working at Penguin, I am inspired every day not only by my colleagues but by illustrations and design trends. I try to keep up to date with new books on the market and what people are reading so that my work stays current.
I am grateful for my time at AUB. The wonderful teaching staff have shaped the designer I am now. I would advise all students interested in a career in design to just be yourself and find something you enjoy!