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10 Questions for Alban Fischer

Freelance Book Designer, Founding Editor of Trnsfr Books, and Author of the poetry collection “Fake Moon”

10 Questions for Alban Fischer

Freelance Book Designer, Founding Editor of Trnsfr Books, and Author of the poetry collection “Fake Moon”

This is 10 Questions, an interview series where we get designers from the directory to open up. Today, meet Alban Fischer. He’s been designing covers and interiors full-time since 2009. He lives in Michigan and is the founding editor of Trnsfr Books and author of the poetry collection Fake Moon. You can visit his portfolio site here.

1. Visually take us through your professional journey. Create a diagram that summarizes your career to date.

2. When did you realize you wanted to become a book cover designer? Did you stumble into this career or did you intentionally pursue it?

Alban Fischer: Birth. I then pursued this dark art with an uncompromising fearsome single-mindedness. I siphoned the wisdom of my masters, then slew them pitilessly. As one does.

3. If you HAD to devote one day per week to a side hustle or creative pursuit, describe how you would spend that day.

Alban Fischer: I’d bake cakes. People would come to me and say, “Ya bake cakes? How much?” I’d give them the spiel—cost, flavors, time, ask their preferences, etc.—and they’d say “That much? For a cake? A day? But you’re not doing anything right now”—you know, that sort of thing—and then they’d come back the next day and be like, “Oooohhh, but I needed it to be gluten-free….” and I’d smile brightly and say, “No problem!” and hop back to my little kitchen because baking is my passion. Can you imagine?

4. How do you use Instagram?

Alban Fischer: I like to use Instagram to alert capitalists to my likes, preferences, and faintest impulses. In practice, this usually means scrolling through lots of meticulously manicured ladies’ hands jiggling various objects at me. Occasionally I find the jiggled object doesn’t align with my tastes, and I feel annoyed. But knowing that I have the freedom to affect this in the most minimal way possible simply by haplessly sifting through IG’s vertiginously nested settings menu and selecting an inscrutably named control feature brings me great solace. Or sometimes I’ll post book covers.

5. Tell me about an embarrassing moment at work or a big mistake you made. We’ve all been there.

Alban Fischer: Ok, so don’t laugh, but this one time I chose to do a job for someone who understood neither basic labor boundaries and expectations nor fundamental human courtesy nor the bare rudiments of transactional reciprocity that publishing depends on. I mean total faceplant, right? Boy, did I feel like a doofus. Luckily it was just that one episode!

6. If you’re a freelancer, what’s something you miss about being in-house?  

Alban Fischer: I’m a freelancer. Relegated with the others to a disused plot of land between two freeways and a wrecking yard, forgotten. Suits in tatters, we scavenge endlessly in the dirt for any scrap of work. Even the barest wisp of a brief sends us into paroxysms of competitive inspiration. Nights, we regale one another with memories of our in-house days: the plush offices, the obscene salaries, marketing departments cowing obsequiously to our every conceit… Ah, but it is here we live now.

7. Do you use any tools besides the usual Adobe products? What are they!

Alban Fischer: Here are a few essentials that have always worked for me: 

  • Caffeine (gallons)
  • Cute PEZ dispenser loaded with ibuprofen
  • Chants of “stay awake stay awake stay awake”
  • Repeated slaps to own face
  • Chants of “you got this you got this you got this”
  • Chants of “stupid! stupid! stupid!”
  • Industrial drum of replacement commandz, and delete keys
  • Weary therapist on speed dial

8. Some of us don’t think we have a certain design style. Some of us think we do. If you think you have a style, how would you describe yours? 

Alban Fischer: If you look closely, you’ll notice that I always have text on my covers. It’s a bit of a risk repeating myself in this way, but no one’s called me on it yet! Clients usually come to me saying, “Alban, we like this whole text thing. How about putting some stuff in front of the type? Or plopping some funky type on the cover so readers know it’s genre-bending but not too bendy? (And be sure to make the type BIG. We find that if readers can’t make out the title and blurbs from the bookstore parking lot, they lose interest fast.)” Also, my covers are always rectangular. To this humble designer’s eye, the rectangle is the supreme shape. 

9. What is one book cover from your archive that you feel is especially great, but never received much press or notoriety for some reason. We’ve all got one or two of those in our archive!

Alban Fischer: This gem:

I mean.

10. The INABC Exit Question. You’re at a party and you just told a stranger that you’re a book cover designer. What’s the most common response you get from people when they hear this? 

Alban Fischer: Everything stops. Actual record scratch. All heads swivel in my direction. Dead silence. Wide eyes. Then explosive braying laughter. Spit takes. People falling out of chairs. Always the one guest doubled over, steadying themselves against a table, gasping “I can’t” repeatedly. An old classmate who isn’t even there (??) texting “literally cackling rn 🤣.” Then of course there’s always the one person wailing riotously, clutching at their chest, falling to the floor, another guest appearing with a defibrillator somehow (??), reviving the first who then immediately resumes hysterical laughter. That sort of thing.

For more Q&As from our pool of talented designers, explore the 10 Questions series page.
Special thanks to Amanda Hudson for creating the series’ blog post cover design.
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