Link to website: Aurora Parlagreco
Preliminary Questions via Google Doc
Why did you decide to study design? (Feel free to write as much as you like throughout. More text will give the students more to work with.)
During my senior year of high school, I was struggling to decide whether I wanted to pursue an English or an Art degree when my guidance counselor suggested what seemed at the time like a magical combination of all of the things I loved- Design. Design offered me the opportunity to combine my love of both words and images, and I was sold.
What year did you graduate from CMU?
What were a few of your most memorable moments at CMU (courses, people, etc.) and why?
I still remember Mark Mentzer saying, on the first day of studio freshman year, that we would never see the world the same way again. It turned out to be true! Human Experience and Design- This freshman year class with Brett Yasko opened my eyes to the influence, possibility, and range that design has. Typography I/Dan Boyarski- Every class with Dan taught me so much, but I still remember entering the studio for the first time sophomore year, surrounded by letterforms, and feeling at home. St. Gallen- I studied abroad in St. Gallen, Switzerland in the fall of junior year and learned so much. I became a better designer but also a more conscious and independent person. I traveled to 8 countries, made new friends, and explored areas of design I never had before. Booth- I was a Booth Chair for Tri Delta my senior year and it was one of the most difficult and rewarding things I’ve ever done!
What have you done professionally from the time you left CMU until now? (Please include a general timeline.)
I began working as a Design Assistant at HarperCollins Publishers in the Children’s Books devision about a week after graduation, in June 2013. In October 2014 I became a Designer, and in October 2017 I was promoted to Senior Designer.
Who/What has inspired/impacted you/your work throughout your career and in what way?
Dan Boyarski helped me to gain the skill set and confidence I needed to pursue print design. A Series of Unfortunate Events were some of the first books that made me think about book design and how special details can enhance the reading experience. Some of my favorite designers are Jim Tierney, Helen Crawford-White, Allison Colpoys, Paula Scher, Tibor Kalman, Charles and Ray Eames
What do you enjoy most and least about the work that you do and why?
The best part about designing book covers is that I am always working on something new. I love reading different stories and getting to work with a range of artists. It is also so rewarding to see books I’ve worked on out in the world, especially when the covers and the stories are meaningful to readers. The most challenging part of the process is working within a large organization and getting approval from a variety of departments. We work with sales, marketing, authors, editors, and booksellers to land on a cover we think will best represent the story and also work in the current marketplace.
What are your design aspirations for the future? What do you hope to do in the coming years?
I would like to continue working in publishing, eventually becoming an art director in the coming years. I hope to work on books that I care about and that reflect diverse views of the world.
What piques your curiosity relative to design?
Typography, book design, illustration, photography
What do you wish you knew and/or had done when you were a student in the School of Design?
I wish that I had taken a step back sometimes to look at the big picture. It’s easy to get stressed out by grades and all nighters but the most important thing is to come away with a portfolio of work that has challenged you and that you’re proud of.
What advice would you give a student pursuing a career in design?
Just keep practicing and making, because even when you aren’t happy with the final result, you’ve gotten something out of the process. It’s also so helpful to talk to other designers, share ideas, and look at each other’s work. Finally, read books, visit exhibits, etc. to experience different areas of design and continually gather inspiration.
What do you see as potentially exciting opportunities for designers in the next several years?
As technology continues to change and progress, I think designers will have the opportunity to shape how new capabilities are used and experienced.
What do you see as important roles/responsibilities for designers to take in the coming years?
In the current political climate, I think it is increasingly important for designers to get involved with organizations and causes they are passionate about, and to do work that reflects their values and challenges people’s views. We have a responsibility to portray information accurately, clearly, and effectively.
What is your favorite typeface and why?
Mrs Eaves because it is quirky but still classic, and has a lot of character.
What is your favorite color and why?
What is your favorite design book and why?
Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design- I like how it makes the design process accessible for those with a range of design experience. It’s also interesting for me to read a book on design created for children (by a book designer!) since it relates to the work I do every day.
Do you have any fun facts about yourself and/or design that you’d like to share with the students? If so, please jot them down.
Though a lot of the work I do is done on the computer, my favorite way to create is by hand- I love hand lettering, film photography, letterpress, and silkscreen.
Are there resources that the students can utilize to learn more about you and your work? If so, please list them (websites, books, etc.).
Portfolio: https://www.auroraparlagreco.com/ Interview with Spine Magazine about my process working on Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy: http://spinemagazine.co/articles/aurora-parlagreco Interview with EpicReads about my process working on Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake: http://www.epicreads.com/blog/three-dark-crowns-cover-design/
May one of the students contact you once or twice in early 2018 if they have a few additional question? If so, how would you prefer that they reach you? Please include your contact information.
Of course! Feel free to email me at email@example.com
First Post-It go: We all added our alumni’s answers to our big post it wall that we started and tried to organize them in some related manner. It was much less so about organization and more so about just getting as much information as we could onto the post-its and fitting them onto the wall in some space that we thought it “worked”.
02/13/18 — In Class Work + Post-Its
Our main activities today were to investigate our person further and trying to understand our alumni better. The first thing I did was do a google search of her. The two articles that came up were ones that Aurora had linked already in her response sheet. Others included:
In addition, in class we tried to put post-its into even more context using the ideas of LATCH. Amber and I were partners and we organized favorite project from work, work style, and negative/positive experiences.
One the ways we separated work style was from “logical to emotional”. We thought this was a cool way of looking at how people talked about their work style and way of thinking. We talked about the logic based with actual things like “how” and “why” and the more emotional based things like doing things that make you FEEL good opposed to just figuring things out.
Juliana and I also worked on another category: Valuable CMU Experience. Our main separation categories included fun/extracurricular, work, academic class or academic related. We decided these categories were the best way to kind of see how people associated their experience at CMU. I thought it was interesting that some people talk about the pure academic or design related things while other people talked about “fun” things that they did on the side. It makes me think about how I will reflect and remember different parts of my CMU experience. I think as design students we definitely get more choices when it comes to most valuable CMU experience because we’re doing work that we LOVE and also getting to use CMU’s resources/fun aspects.
02/18/18 — Getting in Touch
I definitely am pretty impressed by Aurora’s work. I think her “place” in design is really interesting and definitely something I admire quite a bit. I often find myself in-between a lot of mixtures of design and something else, so it is cool to see someone who was also in similar shoes during their time here at CMU and now is excelling in “real life” combining both of their interests.
I felt like I had a good grasp of Aurora just from her interviews and the way she answered the preliminary questions, but I wanted to get a better idea of her in terms of actual work. I think this seemed to be a lacking in my narrative and so I used this opportunity to really get to know her in terms of her work a little better. She seems definitely approachable and a lot more casual in comparison to how I would probably interact with some of the other alumni.
In addition, I always think it’s interesting how designers see their own style. It’s one of those things that kind of catch you off guard and really cause you to reflect on your work as a whole. It is also just fun to see if the way they describe themselves comes across to me (a “new” viewer). I also knew I wanted to focus a bit more on her work related stuff. This was just kind of a personal preference because I know that if I’m reading something about alumni/people in my shoes, I definitely want to know how the HECK they have used their school experiences into real life.
02/19/18 — Unpacking Visuals
When you first get to Aurora’s website, everything is laid out pretty simply in a three column structure and definitely visual heavy. A lot of the colors are very bold and unafraid to make a statement. There is a lot of variation, primarily based on the genre and probably target audience age group, but I think that all of them still remain sort of playful/eye-catching in a way.
Aurora mentioned in her initial response that she was really into hand lettering. I think it’s really cool that she has a separate section on her website dedicated to that. Hand-lettering definitely adds a completely different vibe and I think representa good dichotomy between Aurora’s professional style and her more fun and whimsical side.
(take pictures of sketchbook)
adding in stuff here!!! TBA
***** Update (04/02): she changed her logo recently!!!!!
(kinda funny that this looks like this now because I saw it after I finished the hand lettering of my spread and kinda fits the vibe that I was going for as well. I felt like she would be the type of person that have a capital a as a lowercase a but just bigger. Looks cute, I like this one more! :-)
02/20/18 — Timelines
After looking through Aurora’s actual work, I wanted to look around on the internet to see things that reminded me of her or had a vibe that I thought connected well with hers. In addition, I looked over at some of the work that she named as her favorite/inspiring designers. It was actually AMAZING to see the work of some of these book designers. I have never really known these people by name but wow their work blew me out of the water. I am definitely going to take some time after this project is over to look over all the work of people that these alumni named as their favorite or inspirational designers.
Looking through the inspiration, it seems that Aurora is into this simple bold colors look and have some sort of hand-drawn or whimsical and attention grabbing factor. I want to hopefully incorporate that kinda of feelings into my piece. I want to include some humor and just like youthfulness into it as well (which I think a lot of the pieces by her favorite designers have).
I mentioned this today during the class discussion, but I am finiding it hard to see how this timeline will be helpful or super relevant. It felt more like one of those things that I just had to because it was part of the “process” but doesn’t really feel like it’s adding anything for me. Hopefully that changes somewhere down the road, but as of now, it doesn’t seem very helpful in guiding me towards getting started. I felt boxed in having to “plan” everything onto the timeline before and definitely made the whole thing feel much more rigid.
02/21/18 — Content Writing
In terms of the content, I wanted to pay homage to the fact that she works in the children’s department. In hopes to do that, I wanted to write the whole narrative in a story-book or fairytale fashion. The vibe that I was going for in terms of the entire zine was my take on a modern fairytale, something that felt journal-y or scrapbook-y, playful/not very serious and captured the hand-drawn quality that felt close to me as well as Aurora’s aesthetic.
Things to Watch for:
- length of piece
- keeping the tone consistent
- not spending all the time “setting the scene” and not actually add enough for the things that do matter — her work, her personality, her opinions, etc.
I wanted to pick quotes that felt like they could stand on their own and were relatable. I’m hoping that I don’t need to use the questions in the spread so that way it seems just like inspiring things she’s said/give us insight to her.
02/22/18 — Spread Exercise + Type
Zoe and I worked together on looking at spreads using the Lynch characteristics. This includes: nodes, districts, landmarks, paths, and edges. It was helpful because we were doing this exercise on previous year’s students. It was helpful to see how they took the high word count and used the Lynch characteristics to make it work. Decoding it with a partner was also helpful because when we got stuck we would check in with each other and come to points that we agreed one.
Exploring Type: I definitely wanted to use Mrs. Eaves since it is her favorite typeface and doesn’t feel too ridiculous to be used in this context. One of the big things for me was trying to figure out what parts I wanted to actually use the typeface and what parts I wanted to be hand-drawn. The body text needed to be using the actual typeface and I was thinking that the subtitles/captions. I thought it would be quirky to do the q/a in a hand-written medium, but as of now the script doesn’t look too horrible?
02/27/18 — Woohoo! Aurora’s Reply
^^ She is super nice and I cannot wait for her to get this spread when I am done. Hoping I do her justice!
02/27/18 — #GridTalk
Today we talked about grids and it was really good to hear some formal information about what people consider to be the base of graphic design. It was also good to hear information like what size text should be and kind of little known rules throughout graphic design.
I think I am leaning towards something modular or columnar. Modular seems to be the most straight forward in my head because it sets out a bunch of different parts that can fit text, images, etc.
I do design for the Cut Magazine as well as we use a modular grid and work very heavily with the baseline, but it was a general template that was made by some seniors in design so it was nice to be able to see the relationships much more clearly and understand the underlying structure on my own better.
02/29/18 and 03/01/18 — Layout ideas & Text
To be honest, I had some trouble thinking about how I wanted to layout my spreads. I guess I haven’t really worked with this much text/the need to have to do three pages that relate to each other. I think one of the biggest problems that I’m probably going to run into is trying to make everything look continuous and figuring out how to word all that text in a way that doesn’t look like the most boring thing on the planet.
We also talked about kerning and tracking today. These will definitely become really important because when people read things, they don’t even know what exactly is wrong, but something just FEELS wrong. I definitely don’t want that to be the feeling that a reader gets when they’re looking at my spreads, especially when there is so much type involved. White space will also be important for sure. I think once I plot all my finished text into a doc and try to move things around, it will be better.
03/04/18 — Content Revisions
The first thing I needed to do was to look over my content and make any needed revisions. After reading Maddy and William’s comments, it’s reassuring to know that they think I’m going in a good direction, but also gave me certain areas that they specifically though I could expand on.
The peer crit was a really great idea because our target audience is each other so it was good to know what people wanted to know more of and maybe what they wanted to know less of.
After getting Aurora’s email reply, there are definitely some things I could add and I want to talk about her favorite projects. However, I am already a bit over the word limit so I need to find out if I could go beyond the word limit or if I need to trim down the earlier “story-setting” in order to talk about Aurora’s current state as a designer. Her answers were really great and really helpful in terms of the content that I wanted to add to my narrative. It definitely gave me more insight on how she precieved herself and how her work represents her situation/values.
03/05/18 — Content Placement
To better understand the amount of content I had, I have just pasted it into an InDesign file and aligned to the baseline grid. I just wanted a first glimpse of all the text in the most rudimentary placement it could be in. I mainly wanted to see how long everything was and just how much actual text there was. This is prior to me adding any of the new content. I am feeling kinda nervous because this is already missing like 2 chunks of paragraphs and feels like quite a lot already. It seems like it’s going to be a difficult task trying to make appropriate breathing room!
03/07/18 — Peer Crit & Draft & Stacie Crit
One of the issues I was running into was lacking images. Aurora’s website/interviews and what not didn’t really provide a lot of imagery and I was basically working only with her book covers and a selection of her hand-lettering work. When I voiced this concern during the group discussion, some good points were brought up about using type as image (which i seemingly always forget for some reason) and also using actual photos of CMU to my advantage. I thought that was a cool idea and thought it’d be cool to take photos of things she mentioned during her time at CMU and doodle on top of it. I definitely will have to find some way to keep it interesting and entertaining despite not having too much imagery. One of the harder parts will also be how to incorporate that hand-drawn doodle style to things that involve her ACTUAL work.
I’ve been very very very busy with other classes and haven’t really gotten time to do a lot of the illustrations (which is the basis of my stuff so I REALLY REALLY need to get on that). I just threw together some stuff, but am very much unsatisfied with it. I really need to lock down a chunk of time and work on this fully not just dabble in it.
Group Crit: We did group crits as well today and I was in a group with Jacob and Juliana. It was quite helpful hearing what we had to say to each other because a lot of comments made on their spreads felt like they could be applied when I remake my spreads. They gave me some helpful advice just about the quotes feeling off because the italics didn’t seem very fitting and the later two spreads feeling a lot more modern than the first spread. The second spread was both of their favorites within the three.
Stacie’s Crit: I actually felt kind of weird turning this into Stacie because I didn’t want her thinking that I was HORRIBLE. Her comments mainly focused on the fact that I was lacking a structure/grid and had problems with all my column widths/consistency. This feedback will be useful for when I start on the ~actual~ spreads.
03/19/18 — Work Sessions
During break I had a lot more time to think about exactly what I want to do with my spreads and gave me some time to revise my content again. My first step was that I needed to add more details about Aurora’s work and her favorite projects to my narrative like Maddy and Will had suggested. I added the following two paragraphs based on our email exchange:
Both CMU and HarperCollins helped Aurora grow as a designer. CMU helped Aurora gain a great work ethic that is beneficial in her work today. When working with so many departments and constantly hearing feedback, Aurora has found that CMU helped prepare her to work quickly through iterations and have a fighting spirit that doesn’t give up when the process gets a little hard. Aurora has always been observant, detail-oriented and sensitive to experiences. For her, working through all the moving parts of the book covers felt like a huge puzzle in the sense that she’s always making sure things line up and still works within all constraints. In that vain, she loves using small details to make the overall package and experience for the reader to feel more special. For example, in Three Dark Crowns she found three symbols to represent each of the three sisters in the story, which appear at the beginning of each chapter to give you an idea of whose point of view you’ll be reading. Little things allow Aurora to build an entire experience for all readers.
In addition, the transition to a job after her college experience called for a change in style. Aurora often found herself drawn to black and white images with minimal or a pop of color as well as a sophisticated or literary style. However, as she began to get more immersed in her work at HarperCollins, she was pushed outside of her comfort zone. The fact that she worked on projects with a range of tones allowed her to expand on the aesthetic she is naturally drawn to and pushed her to explore more with colors and styles. Although her style is clean, minimal, typographic and hand-drawn, Aurora began to realize that her work has become more whimsical, lighthearted and fun than it used to be. Despite being pushed out of her comfort zone, her favorite projects became Dumplin’, Ramona Blue, York and Sawkill Girls because of their ability to capture both her personal style — a simple, clean look and strong imagery, as well as the book’s voice. Aurora has managed to put a bit of her own magic in everything she touches!
03/20/18 — Important things & Major Feedback
I wanted some more high-res photos/some more things to work with that related to CMU and Aurora. So, I sent an email to Aurora inquiring some more things. She kindly sent me some photos and answered my questions. This was really the time that I started to do my main illustrations.
The first step was to make a grid. I went with 6 rows, 5 columns, 0p10 gutters. This was an early screenshot, but eventually I had to add in my 1 inch margins (those proved to be a lot wider than I thought it was going to be).
We also got some class feedback. These were just things that were most prominent/things that happened to show up within a lot of our work. This was actually really helpful. It kinda served as a MASSIVE checklist of things we needed to be aware of and raised things like rags and so forth.
The spread that I originally handed in, I was very very very very unsatisfied with. I did not like it one bit so I really need to restart and get it to something that I at least can stand behind. My very top priority is to do the illustrations and sketch out an actual layout because if I don’t, I will be really overwhelmed trying to just “figure” it out on InDesign.
03/23/18 to 03/24/18 — REDO Layout & Stacie’s Feedback & Notes
We had another one of those group crits today. I was no where to be ready to even show anything related to the new layout. I was just starting out on some of my illustrations so when Stacie and I talked, we agreed that I would send her something Saturday morning. I listened to the feedback that she was giving to others. That was helpful just to see what was working and what wasn’t working.
Here are just some of the illustrations:
Creating New Spreads: I went through a bunch of different looks, mainly for the second and third page but here’s just a look into the ones that didn’t make the cut!!!!
Final Draft sent to Stacie:
The main gist of the crit was that the column widths shouldn’t change and should remain consistent throughout all the spreads so that it reads as one piece. I also needed to add captions to my images
Web Wireframe by Hand:
03/27/18 — Soft Deadline Crit
Today we broke off into groups of three, each group focused on different components and we tried to give feedback. Helen, Allissa and I worked together to answer the question, “How well are spreads composed using type and images, creating theme and variation throughout the piece?”
The specifics were what people had said in regards to me. I was hoping that I wouldn’t need to up the size of questions in the q/a because I wanted the focus to be on the answer. The cover was also apparently hard to read her name. The group also made a comment about the inconsistency in the q/a in terms of the uppercase and lowercase. To be completely honest the cover was just kind of a last minute thing because it was getting late, but looking at it the next morning, I actually liked it quite a bit.
I use this same pattern as the header of webpage:
This was the final draft that I showed in class. I played a bit with the transparency in the last spread and just added captions and what not to the images that I included.
I am still lacking a final page relationship chart. I am thinking of doing something a bit more obscure just because I think a lot of people are doing location based, timelines, and who knows who. My first thought was the Dan Boyarski “fan club” (anyone that named him as a big influence).
There are still some unfinished components about my web piece in the XD prototype, but this is essentially the order. I am unsure about the color change and whatever, but I think I will need to see how the coding of HTML goes!
04/01/18 — Stacie’s Crits & Final Tweaks:
Things I need to do/tweak:
- Citations, make sure everything is cited correctly
- Increase the size of the questions
- Switch the layout of the third page
- Create the relationship chart
Relationship Chart: Dan Boyarski Fan Club
Web: HTML is very hard and I am very frustrated and may need to make tweaks just because of time and my actual abilities, which SUCKS