Holly Ovenden



Designer, publication and graphics. Just a few words that are music to our ears at Soapbox Press. We’d like you to meet Holly, but instead of our introduction let’s pass it across to the lady herself…

Hello! Lovely to chat to you guys at Soapbox Press. I’m Holly and I graduated last year from Shillington College and I am currently working as a junior book cover designer at Bloomsbury publishing. I love pen and ink illustrations, hand-drawn type, cats and burritos.


We’re also big fans of cats and burritos. Lovely to meet you! Talk us through your time studying at Shillington, did the three months go above and beyond your expectations of college of were there any surprises?

I had an anything-but-ordinary route into the design world (as do most people from Shillington College!). I actually started my working life, after graduating in 2010 with a science degree, in healthcare! I worked for 4 years in the medical field before realising that life was too short to have a job you don’t love and that my calling in life was to be a graphic designer.

I had always been ‘creative’ but with no design qualification, experience or portfolio there was no hope in me getting a creative job. I came across Shillington College, which advertised a ‘fast-track’, very intense 3 month design course. After going along to an open day, I was completely sold. The students I spoke to had great jobs and the quality of work in the portfolios was amazing.

I started in April 2014, and quite frankly was the best decision of my life! I had never opened any of the adobe suite before, and by the end I had a jam-packed portfolio full of work that I was genuinely proud of.



How did you come about working in Bloomsbury publishing and having your portfolio of work shown to the team for you to start your role there?

One of my first interviews after finishing at Shillington was with Bloomsbury, I saw the job ‘junior book cover designer’ and thought *dream job*. I applied and was contacted saying we would like you to come along to an interview – here’s a brief we would like you to complete and present!

The brief was to redesign one of their recent women’s fiction novels: The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (who wrote Eat, Pray, Love). No pressure…

I went all out and did 4 different designs of the cover including a photographic, illustrated and paper cut version, and put them all together into a presentation. I think my boss was impressed with the amount of time and effort I put into designing these covers and I somehow got the job!


Do you often have time to read for pleasure, or do you find yourself reading the publications you’re designing for work?

I love getting my teeth into a good book! I commute from Kent to London which gives me a chance to ‘engage brain’, wake up and read! Most of the time I do not get a chance to read the whole book before starting the design process. The briefs we are given are very detailed and pick out the most useful snippets of info that give you a visual reference to work with.

We generally design 5-8 completely different concepts for each book, and then the book editors and marketing guys choose the design they see working in the genre and in bookshops. Its basically a series of hurdles before the completed design hits the shops, and its very rewarding going into a Waterstones and seeing your design up on the shelf!


If you were to sum up your book design in three words, what would they be?

Eclectic, intricate, puzzling,


Working in London can be a little like marmite. Tell us, for you, what the main pro and con is for being a book designer in the city…

 Firstly, I love marmite…and London is a fabulous city to work in as a designer. There is so much going on in the way of exhibitions, galleries, fantastic restaurants and exciting events. Bloomsbury offices are situated in beautiful Georgian townhouses on a private square; our studio is in the attic room on the top floor- it’s an inspiring setting to work in. I am really lucky that I live in Kent and have a quick commute into London; it means I am able to switch off from the buzz, which can ware you out!

Lagoon in foyles


Aside from designing and illustrating, what else leads your fancies and pulls into the inspiration for what you do?

Well … many things! Fashion, packaging, branding, illustrations, fine art… I have a pin board next to my desk with wallpaper samples, torn up magazines, colour palettes, pictures of cats – you name it!


Make sure you keep an eye out for Holly’s designs on our shelves as well as checking out her website and connection through twitter. We love these designs and very much look forward to seeing what’s next to come…


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