Megan van Staden Feature

Previous Young Designer and 2013 Judge

Megan van Staden

23 July 2013

Megan van Staden was awarded the Awa Press Young Designer of the Year in 2012 for her sensitivity to subject matter and versatility. This year she was the convening judge for the award. We recently had a chat with her about design.

Megan Van Staden_BWWhose work is inspiring you at the moment?
Australian designer, Allison Colpoys — I love her hand-drawn, personal approach to book design, Alan Deare — typography genius, John Boyne —his illustrations and stories, Colin McCahon — his style and colour palette. I also recently visited Melbourne’s Federation Square and have been inspired by the Aboriginal art; dotted type is in my future.

Do you have any advice for other young designers out there?
Work hard, practise, be brave!


What do you enjoy most about being a book designer?
I enjoy the challenge of constructing a visual identity that’s original and creative, as well as the technical and organisational aspect. There is something relaxing and methodical about laying out a book.

If you could design a book/cover for any author, who would it be?
I’d like to design for Jostein Gaardner. I love the magic realist touch to his books, and I think I could bring a childlike innocence to the design.

Do you have a particular design process?
After briefing, I mull over the book for a few days. Depending on how inspired I’m feeling, the ideas flow, and I’ll start drawing and collecting visual references. If I’m struggling to come up with options, I will focus on research and visiting bookstores/our extensive warehouse. The next step is organising and narrowing down the ideas. I’ll do page plans and mood boards with the different elements I am planning to use for each concept. Once I translate this into InDesign, the designs are tweaked, as I print things out and adjust for the best visual outcome. Then it goes to the commisioning editor and author and continues to develop.

the-thrill-of-fallingWhat has been your favourite book design project so far?
As much as I love typography and grid structures, I find the most creatively satisfying books for me are the ones which I’ve had a ‘hand’ in. I loved drawing and designing for Felix and the Red Rats, Thrill of Falling and First Crossings.

In your opinion, what is the most awesome book cover ever designed?
There are too many beautiful covers, it would just be impossible to choose.
Stefan Sagmeister heavily influenced me when I was studying, and I always admired his interactive approach to design. Both The Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far and Made You Look are great covers, maybe not from a marketing perspective, but definitely from a designer’s.

What makes a book a stand out book for you?
Something that’s original with a bit of a personality, flawless typography and beautiful photography.

Which category in the PANZ Book Design Awards appeals to you personally and why?
I love the non-illustrated section. There seems to be a bit more creative freedom and emotion in the covers — lots of beautiful illustrations and type.

What are some of your favourite tracks you listen to while working?
I like to listen to a wide range of music depending on my mood. Some favourites include Alpine, Fernando Milagros, James Blake, Sigor Ros. I have a few guilty pleasures which I shall refrain from mentioning . . .

See Megan’s bio

See the 2013 winner of the PANZ Young Designer of the Year