It's been a little over a month since I began my internship at Penguin. I think I've been putting off updating a blog post about it because I'm still in a state of semi-disbelief that I'm even here! Every day I get to wake up and go to my Penguin office and work with amazing professionals who are experts in book design and illustration. This is real life and this has been the most amazing summer of my life.
Here is the entrance to the Penguin headquarters at 375 Hudson Street. Penguin Young Readers is the building right next door to it, where I work. Between these two buildings alone, there are 2000 Penguin employees in New York (whoa).
I could not ask for a better internship experience so far. I've been in love with Penguin books all my life and that little black and white bird can be found on countless books of mine. Working at Penguin has perfectly combined my two passions: books and design (I even wrote my senior independent design research paper on Penguin's history of book design). I've been lucky enough to keep up with both these loves over the years, working at my public library in high school, studying English Lit. for a year in Ottawa then moving to Halifax for art school and finding myself working at the country's best bookstore (seriously, in 2010 Bookmark was chosen by the Canadian Booksellers Association as the best bookseller in Canada). And now the ultimate book and design combo: Penguin. What's even better is that I'm working at Putnam Young Readers... the picture book imprint! This means being exposed to tons of illustrations coming in and out of the department and getting to overhear funny things like, "We killed the puppy in that spot illustration but moved him to the next spread."
I had applied for this internship back in February and was determined to get myself noticed. I applied online and sent a physical application too, along with pieces of my portfolio in the mail. I figured it was a pretty slim chance I'd be selected, especially knowing that people from all over the world apply to this program, but why not give it a try? A little while after applying, I noticed that someone from Penguin was actually following me on Twitter, so I sent her a little message about whether or not there are any openings in her department and she is now the designer I report to every morning!
I've only been at Penguin for a little over a month but have already learned so much about the publishing industry and the art department. I am now proud to say that I now know some of my own publishing lingo, like "F&Gs" (folded & gathered book mockups), "lead titles" (big-seller books with a big budget), and the "slush pile" (unsolicited art submissions...in case you were wondering).
I want to remember every moment here so I carry my little notebook with me everywhere I go at work and obsessively take notes: who does what in another department, Photoshop tips from the other designers, names of book designers I should look up. I also like to write down a little "What I did today" list to keep track of everything I've been up to here, which has been a great way to reflect on what I've learned and achieved so far. This list includes mocking up designs for the senior designer, sitting in on Production meetings, working on lettering for book jackets, playing around with type settings for an interior display font, and getting to participate in Art Department meetings.
The office hallways are covered in old award-winning book covers. This one is my favorite:
Penguin's internship program has a very established structure and has scheduled events for their interns to learn more about the company. Every week I get to sit in on talks held by Penguin employees from different imprints and departments, which gives us interns a better understanding of the different parts and roles in the company. This has been so helpful and interesting because I had no idea there were so many different pieces that make up Penguin.
My department, G.P. Putnam's Sons and Nancy Paulsen Books publishes about sixty books a year, most of which are picture books. The Art Department is constantly working directly with illustrators so one thing that I've been really excited about that came to a surprise to me was how much I get to work with the art of some of my favorite illustrators (and some I've only just discovered). I'm constantly packing up, counting, and scanning original artwork. Here are some of my favorite illustrators whose works I've been so giddy to work with!
I kind of see Maira Kalman as an illustration legend. Her works are so playful and she can really do no wrong. My art director was telling me that when working with other illustrators, she provides suggestions to improve a piece of art, but in Maira's case, whatever she hands in for a book is golden and remains untouched. I just bought myself a copy of her The Principles of Uncertainty (with my Penguin discount, no less!) and am so in love with her colours and people and lettering.
The piece that she is probably most well-known for is her and artist Rick Meyerowitz's collaboration on the New Yorker cover, 'New Yorkistan' from December, 2001. It plays on the different New York stereotypes with Yiddish and Middle Eastern suffixes. Because it was printed only months after 9/11, Maira commented, "if [the cover had come] out earlier, many would have been infuriated, and if it [had come] out later, no one would have cared."
Tomie dePaola has illustrated over 200 books in his life, around half of which he wrote himself. My favorite book of his when I was younger was The Art Lesson (for obvious reasons) and it's amazing to see how his work has affected so many children for over forty years. Tomie's known as one of my department's main "pillars", meaning he is one of our best-sellers and is a huge contributor to the imprint's success. Plus, from what I've heard from the people I work with who correspond with him, he is the sweetest, kindest person ever (just look at him! Look at his little grin!)
You Byun received her MFA from School of Visual Arts a few years ago and has already accomplished so much in her work. I've been lucky enough to see her soon-to-be-published book at Penguin, which is so lush and charming, like the rest of her illustrations. Her colour choices are so dreamy (which is appropriate because her upcoming book is called Dream Friends) and I can't wait to see her book in bookstores next spring.
I can't believe I got to work with Tony Ross' illustrations! The Amber Brown series was one of my favorites while growing up and his illustrations had a lot to do with that. I also remember reading his edition of Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox in fourth grade for class and trying to copy the way he drew a piece of ham (I was so proud when it turned out looking like his). Be sure to look out for the newAmber Brown book coming out this September (the last image below). The illustrations in this book were the ones I got to handle at work!
Mike's illustrations are super charming. His hand-drawn style and lettering combined with the screenprint textures he uses create a really interesting contribution to children's picture books because it's the kind of work adults enjoy as well. I just really like how silly and young his works are, and though they look simple, you can tell a lot of talent stands behind it.
So there you have it! This is my inside perspective to the publishing world so far. I can't wait to see what else this internship holds and what possible opportunities it will create in the future! For now, this has just been the best experience ever.