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What is it like to be a designer in Educational Publishing?

We pride ourselves on being a well-skilled, experienced, friendly and approachable design studio, but maybe there's things you don't know about us. We thought it would be fun to interview ourselves as a little 'get to know the team' type exercise. Bizarrely we answered the questions separately but some of answers are scarily similar!

​Rebecca Alner

​Sam Pitcher

Who are you and how long have you been a designer?

R: Owner and Creative Director - I set up Wild Apple Design 20 years ago next year, but before that I worked in house at Oxford University Press and straight out of art college I worked in magazines, so overall I have about 30 years experience.

S: Designer and Project manager - I have been working for Wild Apple as both a freelancer and a full time member of the studio team for 10+ years and counting.

What’s the best part of your job?

R: Producing great designs for educational schemes, that will help people learn and develop - using design to make the information more accessible.

S: Knowing that projects I work on will be used to educate and inspire the next generation.

If you could change ONE thing in industry what would that be?

R: A better understanding from non-designers of how important design is to the final product - it shouldn’t be seen as a “pretty” addition, as a great design can elevate any product.

S: More support for home-grown designers and freelancers. It’s all too easy to choose a supplier based on cost, rather than the experience and services they offer

Have there been any notable changes within the industry in the last 5 years?

R: A definite move to a one stop shop for the whole scheme of work, including editorial, digital & print design - with artwork and photo research in one package.

S: A shift to digital product. As a studio we have definitely been involved, a lot more, in designing content for digitalisation, be that online resources or FOC material.

Favourite keyboard shortcut?

R: Apple Z - essential ;-)

S: Apple Z - so useful

If you could have a custom keyboard button made, what would it be?

R: I would love a 'Make Book Button' but then we wouldn’t have a job, I think I would like a “cup of tea and a biscuit” button.

S: ‘Make Book’ button

Most frustrating markup on a set of proofs?

R: When the comment is 'this looks odd' but doesn’t then say why it looks odd, so you are left guessing on the best way to change it.

S: To an already tight page layout 'can you add this new exercise here please’

Do you think there is still room for books in 2023 and beyond?

R: Yes, I believe at the moment the best scheme of work is a blended one, meaning that all students are included as every one learns differently and to have printed material alongside digital product means all are catered for. Experience with my own teenagers is that one prefers to have everything online, however the other does better having things written down on paper.

S: Most definitely, for me there’s nothing better than handling and learning from a book. From a design studio’s point of view, certainly with the foreign markets we work in, books are here to stay, for the time being anyway. Digitalisation in publishing will continue to advance and may become the dominant resource, yet I feel there will always be a place for printed material.

Do you have any advice for people looking to start a career as a designer in educational publishing?

R: Learn about business, as well as design, show you can work as part of a team, do your research and learn to take criticism. Gain as much experience you can before you decide on a certain path.

S: Gain as much experience in the industry, early in your career, as you can - from smaller bespoke publishers to large presses. Such experience, even if you wish to pursue a career as a freelancer, will hold you in great stead, in terms of learning industry standards, expectations and processes.

How do you feel the relationship between publisher and freelancers could be improved?

R: We have great relationships with all the publishers we work with, and are always having conversations on how we can improve - sometimes there needs to be a great understanding of all skills and insights that a freelancer can bring to the project, its not just as an extra pair of hands! From a freelancer side please make sure you aren’t too sensitive, most decisions are just business. The more communication there is, in my experience, the better the project turns out.

S: I would like to see a crossover of understanding, and transparency, between freelancers and publishers. Such relationships can feel somewhat segmented at times, yet with a deeper understanding of roles, costs and expectations, I feel supplier/publisher relationships would be all the better for it.

We hope you enjoyed our little 'questions and answers' and maybe learnt a bit more about our team. If you would like a chat about the full package we offer, chat about design or industry trends, please do not hesitate to click on our Contact page to start a conversation.

Also, if you like this insight, we also deliver a quarterly newsletter where we include design tips, project work and musings. You'll find the subscribe button at the bottom of the page.


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