‘Dorling Kindersley’ Braille Books, Project Art Editor & Paper Engineer Jemma Westing
I worked very hard during my degree course at Falmouth and what the staff say is completely true; you do get out of it what you put in!
During the 3rd year at Falmouth, I re-discovered my ability to design and build 3-dimensional scenes and folding objects out of paper and card. I was completely re-energized by this re-discovery because by this time, I had learnt of a constant challenge within the global reference-publishing sector. The challenge is the need to make learning fun, inclusive, and memorable for young audiences. I set this challenge as my brief to respond to and felt that my ability to work sculpturally with paper could help me to create some really innovative solutions which could appeal to global publishers. It turned out that I was right.
I put together a 3rd year portfolio which included a lot of interactive book spread design and pop-up model work. Armed with this I set out to target reference publishing professionals in the hope of seeking advice and critique. I managed to get a meeting with one of the Art Directors, a Creative Director and a Publisher at Dorling Kindersley. I was still in my 3rd year at the time and so was quite nervous. I just let the enthusiasm take over and after the meeting, I was emailed a few days later asking if I’d like to join DK on a temporary contract after graduation. I was made a permanent staff member after a short while and I have been working for DK ever since.
I started out as a designer and I am now a Project Art Editor. My role here has always been exceptionally varied and fast paced. It feels like the third year at University hasn’t quite ended yet!
The staff at Falmouth taught me to take risks and try new things. However, they also taught me to play to my strengths and that is exactly why I have the job that I do. I work reactively by nature and I am able to realise and visualise my intentions quickly. This is a great skill to have when working in publishing as deadlines are exceptionally tight! Although I mainly design work for children, I can also design work for older audiences and having this adaptability really boosts my employability. I sometimes get approached to help other DK departments which is refreshing and keeps me on my toes!
On a daily basis I design book layouts and book jackets, I create illustrations, I create new concept presentations, I help to make book packaging, and over the years I have used my paper engineering skills to develop several new series of books which include slot models and physical pop-up books with flaps and tabs. I use sketchbooks, scalpels, sellotape, glue, computers, cardboard (a lot of cardboard!) and I even use paint….just like I did when I was at Falmouth. I have an unapologetic working practice and the state of my desk is testament to that as it’s a right mess!
I attend photo-shoots, I brief other designers, I work closely with production teams and printers and I also get to collaborate with external project stakeholders. Over the years I have worked with Fine Artists, Doctors, Magicians, The Smithsonian Museum, Virgin Galactic and most recently the RNIB charity. Two colleagues and I helped DK to create a new range of custom-designed braille books for blind and partially sighted children and their parents and caregivers. We felt that visually impaired readers were under-represented in the mainstream publishing market and we knew that DK had the printing knowledge and experience to change this for the better. We worked in collaboration with the RNIB to make these 5 tactile books and they stand for inclusivity and reader equality. I designed the books, and to have been part of such a socially important project is very special for me. DKBraille won The Accessible Books Consortium Accessibility Award for Initiative this year at the London Book Fair.
‘Dorling Kindersley’, ‘Make Your Own T.Rex’ Picture Book, Model Kit Design by Jemma Westing
Development Work by Jemma Westing
A few other special publishing moments include seeing my first ever pop-up book published, seeing my name as a designer in the book credits lists for the first time, having Fine Artist Patrick Hughes endorse the workability of my 3D paper engineered model which was inspired by his work, being asked to build a slot model of the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo, having scientists at the Smithsonian endorse the accuracy of my slot model skeletons and most recently, agreeing to be an author for my very own DK book, ‘Out of the Box!’
In 2013 and aside from DK, I set up and funded the not-for-profit initiative BrilliantBuilds, with the goal of encouraging young families to take the time to be creative together. In the summertime I travel around the UK with a team of volunteers, and we pitch up at a variety of family festivals. My Out of the Box book will capture some of my favourite BrilliantBuilds moments for anyone to recreate, play with, and expand upon. The book will be published in the UK in spring 2017 and in the US in the summer. I will be undertaking a tour of some of the US cities and attending some Maker Faires in 2017 to help DK promote the book. It’s going to be a very busy year!
‘Optical Illusions’ Information Pop-Up Book, Project Art Editor & Paper Engineer Jemma Westing
I continue to learn new things everyday about the publishing world and about myself. Embracing challenges, trying new things and having a get-on-with-it attitude has been key for me. I can’t predict the future of the publishing world and I’m pleased that I can’t. Not knowing what lies ahead is actually one of the best bits! It gives you the creative freedom to really explore the possibilities without being influenced one way or another.
‘I thank the BA(Hons) Illustration lecturers whole-heartedly for giving me 3 years of professional advice and knowledge and for giving me the time and space to develop creatively.’