When I was getting ready to launch INABC, this beautiful thing happened that I hadn’t anticipated: the site gave me a reason to connect with designers beyond simply “hearting” their work on Instagram. As a solo freelancer, these new personal connections have been an absolute delight.
I first heard from Dominique Jones hours after launching this site. We’d never met or worked together, but I follow her on Instagram and I knew she was responsible for Black Girl, Call Home, so of course, I was a big fan of her work. On the day I launched, she wrote me a very kind note about INABC and I told her that I would love to someday write a post about the impressive group she had created, Blk + Brwn Book Designers. And so here we are.
Since its launch in 2020, the BBBD site has received a lot of press (links are listed at the bottom of this page). I tried to ask Dominique questions that she hadn’t already been asked in other interviews.
After she sent me back her answers, we had a phone date. That’s when we found out that we’d just missed each other at Penguin Randomhouse: she started working there about 6 months after I had left. We also learned that, although years apart, we both got our foot-in-the-publishing-door through the Penguin summer internship. We also talked about what it’s like to run our websites. I had no idea how badly I needed to chat with a fellow site owner about SEO, traffic, site promotion, and HTML logistics–all things that are brand new to me! I could’ve chatted with Dominique for hours.
I’m thrilled to announce that, as of today, a button linking to BBBD will now sit on the Designers page of INABC. Anyone who stumbles onto this website will be introduced to the BBBD directory and exposed to more great book talent.
I can’t wait to see what becomes of BBBD. It’s such a great idea and is so well executed. Thank you, Dominique, for generously giving me your time and for allowing me to connect to your site. If I still lived in Brooklyn, I’d track you down for another coffee date…this time, IRL!
You founded BBBD in July 2020, when the country was in the midst of that tumultuous summer. Was creating this group something you had always dreamed of building or did the idea form during our country’s racial reckoning?
It actually isn’t related to the historical events that took place in 2020.
This idea sparked from a conversation with a coworker back in 2018/2019 when I joined the team. My curiosity arose because I started to wonder why it’s so hard to find other Black and Brown designers who worked on book covers. After that initial conversation, the thought never left my mind and became something I thought about every day. When 2020 happened, I built the courage to figure out how can I change this thought into something real, something that I needed.
Did your vision for BBBD evolve over time?
It has evolved from an idea, to a social media account, to a website and to a *fingers crossed* soon-to-be 501c3 non-profit community where we will continue to outreach, build and connect book designers across the publishing industry with resources, events, and programs.
Explain why you chose to turn the group into a 501(c)(3) non-profit.
To me, this is more than just a community, it’s a place I wish I’d had when I was starting out. Turning this community into a non-profit is essential. There is so much more to do than having surface-level conversations about issues that need to be resolved within this industry and I believe BBBD will aim to do just that and more; just wait and see.
What are some future BBBD events that we can look forward to?
Definitely more in-person/virtual events and panels, collaborations with publishers, schools/universities, and so much more that I can’t share just yet. Stay connected with us via email and Instagram for more details.
You graduated from Mercy College in 2018 without a specific aspiration to become a book cover designer. What changed and what would you consider to be your “big break” into the publishing world?
In 2018, I was so focused on my thesis and had already tried a bunch of design internships that I knew weren’t for me, I just wanted to take a break and enjoy the summer before job hunting. Of course, ‘the man upstairs’ had other plans and came along with the opportunity that changed my life.
I think my “big-break” in the industry happened with the cover for Black Girl, Call Home, which I share a bit of the experience on my Instagram. It was truly a full circle moment in addition to the first day I started as an intern. Those moments are what remind me that I am meant to be here for a reason and I have a mission.
There’s an AIGA survey that found that only 3% of graphic designers with jobs in publishing identify as Black or African American – a tiny fraction. What is one way that we can see a greater representation of designers of color working throughout publishing?
To see any change means taking risks. Give everyone a chance to have a seat at the table; trust, and have faith.
Speaking anecdotally, it feels like there has been a major rise in the publishing of race-related books and memoirs by black authors in recent years. If it is important to a black author that their cover be designed by a person of color, do you think publishers should allow the author to dictate the race of their cover artist or designer?
The cover design is an important part of what sells the book so it’s understandable if another designer is needed because of their skills but it’s also important for all stories to have the correct perspective and visual interpretation especially if it’s regarding ethnicity and culture. Maybe consider some sort of collaboration or even give that designer a chance to design a few comps or try out a style that might do great for the cover.
I think publishers and editors should always make that known upfront because it allows those who are willing to take on those projects to do so. From my experience, I don’t always want to work on a heavy story regarding trauma or racial issues, sometimes I want a YA, romcom, wild/fun literary fiction or a cookbook. There are designers who feel called to do those projects and/or want to and that’s great but don’t just make that assumption or only offer a project opportunity if it’s always going to be about the same thing every time.
As a black designer, what are the pros and cons of being tasked with defining the visual look of this decade’s black literary voices?
Of course, it’s great to be able to work on ANY story but when you see yourself constantly getting freelance projects based on your race, historical events, and Black trauma, it continues to be part of the problem that you only see me as an asset because of my race and not for my work.
I love that you ask each of the book designers on your blog how they overcome creative blocks, since this is something that happens to every single creative person I know. So, I want to ask you the same thing: What do you do if you’re working on a project and you just hit a creative wall?
Haha, great comeback! Honestly, I eat a lot of ice cream, take naps, look up inspiration from all over, and I reread the story as if I need to. If I still feel stuck, I ask for guidance from my Art Director and coworkers by showing my ideas and I plan out how to execute them because sometimes you just need another set of eyes to point out what you might’ve missed (Easier said than done)
Here are more press links about Dominique and her site, Blk + Brwn Book Designers:
- Easing the Path for Black Book Designers, via Publisher’s Weekly
- Tiny Reparations, via Spine Mag
- Dominique on the Masterminds podcast
- Designers’ Roundtable from the Book Industry’s Guild of New York
- Virtuous Convention
- An interview via The Avocado Diaries
- Staff Picks with Penguin Random House
- Podcast Episode from Domestika Curious Minds
- Essence magazine shows off new Terry McMillian covers