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Meet the ABDA Emerging Designers of the Year: George Saad

In the lead-up to the 2021 Australian Book Designers Association (ABDA) Awards, Books+Publishing spoke to the two shortlisted nominees for Emerging Designer of the Year. In this first instalment we talk to Sydney-based freelance designer George Saad.

How did you get into book design and where have you worked?

I started working at HarperCollins in 2018 as a humble marketing designer but then wormed my way into some book briefs in my second year there. My first cover was by accident. I had designed a reading copy that the team seemed to like, which ended up being the final cover. I never really considered book design as a career for me, it always seemed so unobtainable and cloaked in prestige and mystique. I’m an avid reader, an enthusiast of paper and all things print, so was thrilled to have the opportunity. Before HarperCollins I was in a letterpress studio and a marketing agency, so it was my first publishing gig. I now freelance full time for a few different publishers and am always open to working with new people (always be networking!).

Which of your book covers are you most proud of and why?

Anytime I get to design loud and with loads of colours, I get very excited. Rick Morton’s My Year of Living Vulnerably (Fourth Estate) was such a treat to read, so I loved working on that cover. It also combines my two favourite print finishes of all time … fluoro and holographic. I think because it’s so bright it’s hard to walk (or scroll) past without noticing it.

What’s your favourite book cover from the past few years? Why do you think this cover works so well?

Convenience Store Woman (Sayaka Murata, Granta) designed by Luke Bird comes to mind. So simple, so bright (love the pink and yellow contrast) with a sense of humour. I love when an idea is so simple and clear but fully executed.

Which book design elements do you think are currently being overused? And what would you like to see more of?

I think it’s getting trickier and trickier to design floral covers. I don’t think it’s totally overused but it is a well-worn space that is hard to keep doing while keeping original. I would love to see more of a focus on print finishes. I’m definitely biased coming from a print background but would love to see more beautifully printed and packaged collectible books.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned on the job?

The book designer guru that is Darren Holt taught the Harper studio how to deep etch hair in Photoshop and that changed my life! Definitely the most practical thing I have ever learnt.

How has the pandemic changed the way you work?

Well, truthfully the pandemic completely changed my trajectory. My contract unfortunately ended during the early Covid days, so I needed to look for new work. I started taking on some freelance clients and it kind of hasn’t stopped since then. I didn’t think working for myself would be possible or sustainable but I love it! I can work on my own hours and at any location, so it keeps every week different and interesting.

Where would you like to be in five (or 10, or 20) years’ time? And what do you hope the industry will look like then?

I want to continue to do new work that is challenging and outside my wheelhouse. I want to experience a breadth of work and get the opportunity to continually design something different. I’m interested to see how books continue to evolve and how we might be able to integrate ebooks, audio books and print books into new reading experiences.

The 69th ABDA Awards will be broadcast online via live stream on Thursday, 24 June 2021.


Category: Features