My Year That Was

I don’t think I’ve ever written something to sum up a year in my life before, and I feel like I kind of abandoned this blog a few months back. But now that it’s officially 2012, maybe I’ll start out by doing something new, and reviving something old, even though my eyes are the only ones that will most likely witness these events. Whatever, I like to write.

2011 was a pretty eventful year for me. The biggest thing that happened–which is also one of the main reasons I often didn’t have the time or energy to write on this blog–is that I started a new job. In August I took a full-time position designing books at St. Martin’s Press. I’m working exclusively on interiors, but I feel those are the unsung heroes of book design elements. Everyone notices a cover, but unless there’s something really catchy inside, most of that work goes unnoticed. Which is a shame, because there’s some really good, fun stuff going on in there sometimes.

The books I design are of a wide variety. They’re everything from saucy mass-market romance books, to the autobiography of Barack Obama’s half-sister, to (my favorite) trade fiction titles from Picador. I love all the different subjects; It helps me push myself to be versatile as a designer. And after working exclusively from home for nearly five years, it’s pretty nice to get out of the house and be around the living again, especially when it all takes place in the historic Flatiron Building. The commute though? Eh, I could do without that. But the health insurance alone would be worth it.

Last year my freelance business picked up a bit as well. I got a lot of work through small presses that I hadn’t worked with before, which is great. I love working with new clients and new projects. Most of the jobs I got were books, but also a lot of web work for some reason. I guess that’s more in demand than book design. But hey, I’ll take what I can get. If I can keep Steven Seighman Design moving forward in 2012 and keep building a bigger client base, I’ll be very happy.

I also took a lot of photos last year and started an Instagram account (my username is stevenseighman–follow me!) to share them through. That’s been a lot of fun and I’ve seen many, many great photographs from other people as well. This year I hope to have a better cameraphone to do all my shooting with, because mine is an iPhone 3G, and it’s just not cutting it anymore. Fingers crossed to more freelance work!

One of the things I talk about on this blog quite a bit is films. I even had a running total for everything I watched in 2011. That died off when I started the new full-time job, but up to that point I had amassed a pretty great collection of movies that I’d watched. And it did keep going after I stopped cataloging them, I just didn’t have the time to maintain the list anymore. I’m beginning again for 2012 though, and while the list might not be as long this year, it’s still going to be awesome. So far, only one movie: The Future. But that’s a great way to start off the year. I’m hoping for quality over quantity this time around.

Also in 2011 I celebrated my one-year anniversary as a vegan. This is something that I am very, very excited about, as you might know if you’ve read past entries in this blog. It’s a lifestyle that I am incredibly proud of, and hope to celebrate many, many more anniversaries of as the years go on.

There were some great highlights for Monkeybicycle last year, too. Aside from putting out one really terrific print issue (what should’ve been the second is coming out this month), we held what was probably one of my favorite readings that we’ve ever done over the nine years that the journal has been in existence. The Night of 20 Women, happened in NYC in July and featured some really amazing readers–all women–including Dawn Raffel, Deb Olin Unferth, and Shelley Jackson, just to name a few. I think it was one of our most attended events ever. I hope 2012 brings even more great things like that for Monkeybicycle. It’s our ten-year anniversary, so we need to make it BIG.

An only slightly less self-indulgent thing that happened last year, too, is that my girlfriend, Laura Carney, left her job in the trenches at OK! Magazine for the greener pastures of Hearst Tower and Good Housekeeping magazine. This made her very happy and, in turn, also made me very happy.

So there you go. My 2011. I’m guessing no one even made it to this page. But if they did, they surely didn’t make it to the end of this post, which is fine. In 2012 I pledge to write more interesting things that concern only me. Maybe then I’ll have more readers.

Happy 2012 everyone.

Killed Covers

Every book designer has an idea that didn’t make the cut, no matter how great it was. I know I do. There are a lot of people who need to sign off on them: publishers, authors, marketing departments, agents, to name a few. This means there are a lot of great book covers sitting around on computers and in designers’ offices that will never see the light of day. Or, they wouldn’t have until the New York Times got a hold of them.

Killed Covers is a show of exactly what the name says: book covers that got axed. Some of the biggest names in book design have works involved in the project, including Chip Kidd, John Gall, Jon Gray, Barbara DeWilde, and tons of others. It gives you a pretty cool idea about how covers develop from one concept to the final product when you look at some of the covers to books you know, but might not recognize. Check them out here.

A Serious Interview with Coralie Bickford-Smith

There is a very fantastic blog about book design and many other fun and interesting things called Greater Than or Equal To, and today they feature and equally fun and interesting interview with book designer extraordinaire, Coralie Bickford-Smith, whose work will make you wish you were a better designer. There are two great videos to check out, so please go do it and get inspired.

My Favorite Things

I love book design, and I love movies. Now, these beautiful new covers from Megan Wilson and Evan Gaffney marry the two things perfectly. Vintage is releasing new editions of James M. Cain’s books-turned-films in the upcoming months and the jackets look like they belong more on the Movie Title Stills Collection website than the Book Cover Archive.

Brilliant books (OK, I’ve only read one, but I have seen all the films), brilliant design. Great work all around.

(Found on John Gall’s blog)


It’s always exciting when I wrap up another issue of Monkeybicycle. For eight years I’ve been editing and designing these books and I’ve been able to work with an extraordinary amount of talented and inspiring writers. This week marks the finalization of our eighth issue and I believe it’s our best one yet. Over the last year or two I’ve managed to amass a small staff of impressive and generous people who are the real reason this little endeavor keeps going. Laura Carney, Shya Scanlon, Jacob Smith, Jessa Marsh, J.A. Tyler, and Heather Palmer have all worked very hard to make Monkeybicycle what it is today and I’m incredibly appreciative. We’re putting out our eighth print issue right now, the website is being updated two–sometimes four–times per week, and we run a quarterly reading series called The Monkeybicycle Lightning Round in NYC. I think the journal really has the momentum it needs to keep getting better and better.

Monkeybicycle is really the reason I got into designing books. Starting with issue three, I’ve done all the cover design and layout and it was incredibly fun right from the start. After doing that first issue, I decided I wanted to do it professionally, so I enrolled in school and learned how to properly design a book (and a bunch of other stuff). It’s pretty cool to look back on how all of these things in my life evolved, and how it all started on a whim in an incredibly dark room in a downtown Seattle office. That was eight years ago, and Monkeybicycle still continues to inspire and challenge me in the best possible ways.

What I love about designing Monkeybicycle books and materials is that I’m my own art director. The content of these books is often so eclectic that just about anything goes with the covers and it seems to fit. I like to use abstract shapes and images to represent the stories, poems, and essays in these books, but for issue eight the image I came across of eight planes seemed incredibly appropriate. My initial idea for a long time was some sort of octopus reference, but the image I ended up with jumped out at me and I ran with it. And now, even before any content is selected, I’m getting very excited about designing issue nine. Hopefully that one will look as sharp as its content will surely read.

If you’d like to order a copy of Monkeybicycle8 (if you do it by March 15 you’ll also get a free back issue), you can do so here. And if you’re around NYC on March 16, please join us at our next Lightning Round event at The Cake Shop (152 Ludlow) at 7pm.

Save 50/50

Apparently the AIGA has decided to discontinue their 50 Books/50 Covers competition after a measly nine decades. Is this a sign of the digital times? Perhaps. But it doesn’t have to be. Sign this petition and help convince them to keep this competition going for another year so I can submit my work.

UPDATE: It worked! Welcome back 50/50.