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10 Questions for Kate Sinclair

Kate is a book designer at PRH Canada

10 Questions for Kate Sinclair

Kate is a book designer at PRH Canada

This is 10 Questions, an interview series between INABC and our talented friends from the Book Cover Designers’ Directory. Today, meet Canadian designer Kate Sinclair! If, like many of us, you gushed over the 2023 tear-stained cover for The Adult, then you already know and love Kate’s work. You can visit her portfolio site here, and be sure to visit her Instagram to see her lovely illustration work.

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

1. Where do you work? 

Kate Sinclair: I split my time between the Penguin Random House Canada office and my kitchen table (below). Can you see my cat?

2. Will you buy a book that you’re dying to read even if you don’t fancy the cover? 

Kate Sinclair: Yes. I recently bought a copy of a book that went viral because people disliked the cover so much.

That said, if I already own a book and a publisher re-jackets it in a fashionable way, I will buy another copy of that book. I have multiple copies of Mrs Dalloway for this reason. 

3. If you couldn’t design book covers for a living (or hold any job in the creative field), what’s another career that you think you would’ve excelled in or have wanted to try?

Kate Sinclair: There’s a part in Sheila Heti’s Pure Colour where the character works in a lamp store.

I would like to do that.

4. Which celebrity memoir are you dying to work on? 

Kate Sinclair: Martha Stewart’s. I think of her as one of the great performance artists of our time. She made her career as an ideal American homemaker, but under the surface, I feel like there’s a deep core of rage. She sleeps only four hours a night. She owns several peacocks. I’ve seen her lose her temper while cutting an apple. I would love to get to the bottom of that.

5. Spread good design. Who is one (non-book-cover) graphic designer or artist that we should check out?

Kate Sinclair: Anna Haifisch. Her book The Artist always makes me feel less alone.   

© Anna Haifisch
© Anna Haifisch

6. What’s one creative skill you wish you had time to pursue so that you could incorporate it into future designs? 

Kate Sinclair: I admire people like Ben Denzer who do editorial illustration, photography, screen printing, papercraft, and cut & paste. His studio is amazing and so much of the work seems to be done manually. It’s very cool and analog. I’m jealous.

7. Name one author you would love to design for before you retire. 

Kate Sinclair: I think every designer dreams of repackaging the backlist of an author they love. There are some great examples of this—Peter Mendelsund’s Kafka covers, Vintage UK’s Italo Calvino repackages, and Suzanne Dean’s Murakami designs.

I like the idea of doing something like that for a Canadian author like Alice Munro.

8. What is one book cover from your archive that you feel is especially great, but never received much press? We’ve all got one or two of those in the archive! Tell me why you love this overlooked child. 

Kate Sinclair: I was always proud of my cover for All We Want by Michael Harris. I got lucky and found this illustration of a chimpanzee using a vending machine in the rainforest. It’s an incredibly specific image and it works so well with the theme of the book (“life after capitalism”). This was one of the first non-fiction covers I did and it’s still the one I like best.

9. About how many times have you written “a novel” on a piece of paper and then scanned it?

Kate Sinclair: It’s insane. If I ever write a book I’m calling it “A Novel” and the cover will just be a million scans. 

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? 

Kate Sinclair: I try to cultivate mystery at parties, so there’s often some confusion about who I am and what I do.

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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