Friday, July 26, 2013

SCBWI Team Blog Exclusive: Interview with Art Director Laurent Linn

Oh, boy, few people are like Laurent Linn: consistently wonderful allll the time. He's a super nice guy with groovy shirts and talent up the yingyang—we are so lucky to have him in our children's book community. 
From the About Me page of Laurent's awesome website

Please enjoy this Art Director Interview in the style of past art director interviews, but now with more Muppets!

Jaime: HI LAURENT!!! I'm always interested to hear what catches an art director's eye in a bookstore—do you have any favorite covers (not from your publishing house) for 2013?

Laurent: That's so difficult because I like many covers for different reasons. I'd say, in general, a cover (we'll talk middle-grade and YA fiction here) needs to:
* appeal to a reader of a certain genre by suggesting a general mood representing that genre (like fantasy or sports or humor or zombies, etc.), BUT
* should not be derivative of other covers in that genre — it should stand out on it's own in both image and title treatment/font.
* I'm a bit bored of, well, images of bored models. If you're depicting a character(s) from the story within, there needs to be a spark of emotion and personality in the character(s). Story is all about emotion after all.

Jaime: That's all good to know! Here's a fun one: Kill, kiss or marry: Helvetica, Baskerville or Comic Sans?

Laurent: Well, Helvetica may be overused and almost invisible now since it's such a standard, but I think we're married to it for life. It can be just right for some things! Baskerville falls in there, too, but is worth perhaps a kiss once in a while. And, alas, Comic Sans . . . poor comic sans is but a haunting ghost now (and I'm not sad about that.) Overall, having standard faves (for body text, etc.) is essential, but there are SOOOO many wonderful fonts out there to choose from for title type and such, that I always explore hundreds (literally) when finding just the right one.

Jaime: I love that art directors are always committed to such great details. I would just print out text for a picture book on a label maker and call it good. Let's get down to the really important question: What does a Simon & Schusterer such as yourself snack on? Does Justin Chanda make you cotton candy every day from his portable candy floss machine?

Laurent: If only! All I'll say is there's a Magnolia Bakery dangerously across the street, with it's insanely made-on-premises cupcakes.
Photo of Justin Chanda after he's eaten a cupcake made of cotton candy

Jaime: Before I forget I have to ask if you've heard of a book called Creepy Carrots?

Laurent: Indeed I have, and the carrots are indeed creepy (and clever), and their tale should be shared with many-a-child.

Jaime: Thanks for that, Laurent. As Peter Brown's friend one is contractually obligated to mention Creepy Carrots at least once a week via social media. Luckily it's a great, Caldecott Honor-winning, totally recommendable book (out from Simon & Schuster BFYR!) or things could start getting awkward. It's not really Peter's fault, the Carrot Growers of America mafia is super vicious... Oh, no! I've said to much.
Peter Brown before winning the Caldecott Honor, but after finding a decapitated horseradish root in his bed.

Jaime: Forget everything you read in the above paragraph, Laurent. 

Laurent: Sure! 

Jaime: Laurent, are you willing to share some snapshots of your office? 

Laurent: Here are a few . . .On my door, I like to display and swap-out book covers I've recently designed:

Jaime: Ooh, I see some good covers up there!

Laurent: Characters abound:

Laurent: Hmm, what is that bear reading?

Jaime: That bear's a genius! What is your favorite Pantone color?

Laurent: Easy. 109 C solid, which is Big Bird's yellow. No happier Pantone I know of  :-)

Jaime: Aww, that reminds me of the Muppets! Is there any similarity between working with Muppets and working with children's book author and illustrators?

Laurent: I'd say you and Meryl Sheep from Sesame Street could be related . . .

Jaime: Is that baa-a-a-a-d? Meryl Sheep looks like she might be a bit of a dingleberry.

Laurent: ...

Jaime: ...

Laurent: ...

Jaime: Um, which Muppet temperaments most closely resemble Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser? 

Laurent: Not for physical resemblance but temperament, for Steve I'd say Scooter. Like Steve, Scooter is always even tempered, positive, smart, and holds things together in a calm way. And they're both enthusiastic about what they love. 

For Lin, the wonderful Rosita, from Sesame Street. Rosita and Lin are both free spirits with a great (and sometimes wicked) sense of humor, boundless passion for life and art, and always know how to make everything work out just right.

Jaime: That's lovely stuff. Thanks, Laurent, for being such a good sport and answering all these questions. Check out Laurent's website and he's on Twitter, too! @laurentlinn

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