First time here? Watch this video! | The Jobs Board is up and running! | If you need a book interior laid out, visit | Visit our Blog for tips on self publishing

10 Questions for Steve Leard

Steve is a freelance designer and a podcast host

10 Questions for Steve Leard

Steve is a freelance designer and a podcast host

This is 10 Questions, an interview series between INABC and our talented friends from the Book Cover Designers’ Directory. Today I turn the table and interview fellow interviewer, Steve Leard. Steve is a graphic designer based in Plymouth, specializing in book covers, branding, typography, and illustration. In 2023 he launched the popular podcast, Cover Meeting. 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 that you wanted to become a book cover designer? 

Steve Leard: I wish I’d read more when I was younger, but when I was at university I suddenly got the bug and started to read as much as I could. As a teenager I was obsessed with album art, but as this new found joy of reading kicked in, my focus shifted towards book covers. My second job after university was for a small design agency who got to design book covers occasionally and it was one of the many reasons why I wanted to join that agency. I didn’t work on many, but that small introduction was enough to make a lasting impression and it got me wondering if I could transition away from branding and move into cover design. After a year out travelling I made the move to London and got lucky as I was in the right place at the right time to start at Bloomsbury covering someone’s maternity leave – I’m eternally grateful to David Mann for taking a punt on me!

3. Tell me about someone from your past who played a role in you becoming the designer you are today.

Steve Leard: One that always sticks in my mind is when we had a substitute art teacher at school – I must have been around 14. I remember him poetically describing to the class what it felt like for him when an idea strikes in his mind. It was the first time I’d heard anyone describe that feeling with such passion and it really resonated with me. I remember the rest of class literally laughing at the teacher and him being visibly upset by that. I’ve alway regretted not telling him at the time that I enjoyed his description. I’ve tried to track him down a few times without any joy – so thank you Mr. Murphy from my 14-year-old self. There’s no better feeling when you get that lightbulb moment in your mind and for me it’s the best aspect of the job – so to hear a teacher articulate that so well I believe was really crucial.

4. 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?

Steve Leard: From an early age I always had an odd fascination with politics and the soap opera of the Westminster bubble. In another life I’d love to have been a political journalist or a political strategist. It’s a murky world, but an exciting one I imagine.

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

Steve Leard: I only worked in-house for about two and a half years before going freelance as I prepared to leave London for Devon. I always wish I had longer in-house – there’s something special about being part of a bigger team. I also found it really inspiring to be surrounded by people who were so passionate about books and words. Being freelance can feel a bit isolating at times and you miss the chance to infect change within the publisher – whether it’s being part of the discussion in-house about how covers are chosen or how publishers think about their overall brand – that’s one aspect that I wish I could be involved with sometimes. 

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

Steve Leard: I love Adam Maida’s work. I believe he used to be the art director for The Atlantic, but now works independently. His style is so bold, raw and exciting – it feels like his work has a movement to it even though it’s static. I’m sure lots of people would be familiar with his work, but he’s definitely one to check out for those who haven’t. 

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

Steve Leard: I would like to design the cover for Nick Hornby’s Fever Pitch. It’s a book I loved as a teenager and as an Arsenal fan I’d love to do something really special and unique for a new edition if I was ever given the opportunity. 

8. What was one design challenge that seemed impossible at first? How did you overcome it, and what did you learn from the experience?

Steve Leard: I was given the brief for a book called Howdunit by Martin Edwards. The book features 90 well-known writers giving tips and advice on crime writing. The publisher wanted to feature all 90 names on the front cover as well as the usual title, subtitle and author. At first this just seemed like an impossible task to incorporate all of those names and at the same time to create a really special looking package. Sometimes though the design problem often presents the answer to the designer and I managed to weave all of the names together to form a fingerprint. Claire Ward played a crucial role by getting it approved in-house without compromising the design. It was a good lesson that I often revisit when being presented with a difficult design problem – to embrace the problem and use it to creatively to solve the challenge at hand, which goes against our initial instinct of only seeing the challenge and being blind to the possibility.  

9. 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?

Steve Leard: I don’t have an aesthetic style, certainly not a unique one – however I always try to always underpin any cover with one strong idea and then strip everything else back as much as I can so that the idea really comes to the fore. 

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? 

Steve Leard: Whenever I tell people it’s often a combination of surprise and bewilderment followed by being really interested and asking questions about how I do what I do.

It also reminds me how much people love books – it runs deep with people, so the conversation often leads on to finding out what types of books they like reading, so you automatically find a lot of clues about that person and what interests them.

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 illustration.
Template is not defined.
Template is not defined.
Template is not defined.
Template is not defined.
Template is not defined.
Template is not defined.
I Need a Book Cover Logo
Need a book interior?

Job Alerts

Sign up to get notifications about cover jobs posted on INABC.



Join our mailing list to receive a monthly summary highlighting recent cover uploads and blog posts.