Mr Ripley's Guest Post: Q&A with Steve Wells - Graphic Designer and Illustrator - Chicken House

Thanks Steve, for taking the time out to answer some questions for - Mr Ripley's Enchanted,  about you and your work. Enjoy everybody.

Q1 How did it all start? 
I have been a graphic designer for ages. As a tiny child I loved drawing, and when I discovered American comics at the age of about 9 or 10 I became a huge fan and really wanted a job drawing comics (although I don’t think my draftmanship would ever have been strong enough). That ambition drifted into graphic design (a great way of combining an interest in words and pictures). And that’s what I’ve done my whole working life.

About 10 years ago I started designing book jackets for Chicken House and it’s been a part of my working life ever since. I do about 15 a year for them, and have probably done 150 by now. 

I also do illustration and marketing design.

Q2 What Inspires you? 
When I’m working on a jacket it has to be what the author has written.

I think a book jacket has to both reflect the content or mood of the book and put that message across very speedily and dramatically. You have a fraction of a second to get someones attention, to intrigue or appeal.

It’s quite a difficult combination, you also have to make the book appealing as an object. It’s quite a hard design job – but that’s what makes it interesting. 

Q3 What are you most proud of?
About 5 years ago I started doing a bit of illustration as well as design, I did a book called Muncle Trogg which has been sold to publishers in 19 countries. That’s probably the closest thing I’ve done to my childhood ambitions. It’s also more personal than doing cover designs, it’s actually in my style. When you design a cover you are trying to serve the author’s vision (or your interpretation of that) – and you put your ego to one side, and you try to work in whatever style you think will suit.

Q4 What are the best bits of your job? 
I really like it when I think I’ve found a good idea, there is a great feeling of tension lifting. I’m self employed, so I can organise my day how I like, walking into town and looking round bookshops is part of my job!

Q5 Do you read for pleasure, if so what do you enjoy reading? 
I’m a big bibliophile and have far too many books. I love big glossy art, design and illustration books.
I read a lot of non-fiction of the Malcolm Gladwell sort. I still read the occasional graphic novel, recently I liked The Property by Rutu Modan, and am a fan of Guy Delisle. 

Q6 Who inspires you?
A short list of design heroes would include:
Paul Rand, Alexey Brodovitch, Tibor Kalman, Chip Kidd.

I like Tom Gauld, I really like Christoph Niemann, an illustrator and designer. The mid 20th century was a great period for illustration: Maurice Sendak, Ronald Searle, R.O Blechman, Saul Steinberg. Loads of others.

Q7 What is your ultimate aim? 
Well it has to be carry on making a living and doing work that my clients like! It’s a great privilege to do a job you enjoy doing, and I’d like to carry on as long as possible.

Steve Wells website can be found at He is on twitter at @stevewellsart