The Design Challenge
It’s tough for new authors. Whilst the promotion of their books is partially handled by the publisher, the promotion of the author is the responsibility of the author – conceptually, practically and financially.
Beyond this, the challenge for Clare (and Jin & Co.) was to come up with a distinctive & enduring brand identity which captured the essence of who she was as both a writer and a person ~ one which could remain constant (and relevant) even as her career evolved over time.
With 3,750kms between us in Melbourne and Clare in Darwin, there was also a ‘Tyranny of Distance’ to overcome ~ requiring everyone to communicate closely and clearly throughout all stages of the site’s development.
The Fact Finding
Our process of open and honest discussion with Clare revealed all kinds of important insights into her life, personal passions and professional direction.
Born and raised in Sydney, Clare had then lived in Bathurst, on a small Spanish island called La Gomera and also in Arnhem Land.
She’d written for many successful Australian television dramas, including All Saints, Home & Away, Headland, Winners & Losers and Wonderland ~ and wrote her first novel, Nona & Me, whilst living in the remote Aboriginal community of Yirrkala in the Northern Territory.
This sowed the first seed in our mind that the visual identity of the site should reflect a sense of travel, adventure and landscape imagery.
CA: “My passion is writing books which have a strong narrative and an interesting cultural context…through which you learn about politics/history/culture but don’t realise you’re learning because you’re so absorbed in the story.”
CA: “I want my site to be able to be used for future novels without being redone. The cover for my first book has elements that I expect will be in all my books ~ with colour/landscape (or an impression of it) and a cross cultural element.”
We saw that this multi-dimensional need cried out for an illustrative based design with layered imagery.
To delve deeper, we showed Clare other author website designs from our portfolio ~ in particular, Karen Tayleur’s custom illustration, that used text from her books to form her portrait.
CA: “What I like about Karen’s website is not so much the colours, but that it is simple yet complex at the same time. The image is very striking and says a lot about her. It doesn’t overwhelm you with information - it lets you take in as much (or as little) as you want from it.”
Then we explained to Clare the importance of showing her face on the home page. Her immediate reaction?
CA: “That’s fine ~ just don’t make it too in-your-face”.
The Creative Solution
For Clare, our solution was to simply shrink her image in the composition.
We used a shot taken of her in front of a wall at home and combined this with subtly layered images of Arnhem Land (water’s edge and trees), a mountain range of La Gomera and a watercolour drawing from the Nona & Me cover.
The relaxed feel created is low-fuss and minimal; but also hints at there being lots of depth to her personality to discover.
CA: “The images of Arnhem Land and La Gomera give me that sense of adventure and travel, but don’t make it location specific and could be used for future books. My dad is from Vietnam and I’ve long wanted to write a book about our family history – I’m just so pleased the design look will even work for that too”.
The End Result
CA: “I remain amazed that Jin managed to create a site that captures so much of my personality ~ and that says ‘me’ without ever having actually met me in person!” ~ “ I simply can’t imagine the outcome being any better”.
Since the release of Nona & Me, Clare’s work has attracted a host of glowing reviews. She now uses her author website to write a regular blog where she discusses her writing career, school talks and posts news about the success of her first book.
* Update July 2015 *: Nona & Me shortlisted for the 2015 Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year Award for Older Readers.
Well done, Clare! We all look forward to what you pen next.