DouPonceThis week, we’re excited to hang out with cover designer and graphic artist, Kirk DouPonce. In an effort to include more creative arts at Realm Makers, we’re excited for him to share some of his expertise during his workshop. Just another reason not to miss Realm Makers 2015! (There’s still time to register before the price goes up!)

1.  We’ll start with something pretty easy. When did you decide to become a book cover designer and what were the steps you had to take to become one?
At my preschool graduation from Tot Town, I was given a diploma that read “Most Likely to Become an Artist.” So, I guess I’ve always known that whatever I ended up doing it would somehow involve art. My career started as a freelancer fresh out of art college. I was able to pick up a few jobs here and there, but for the most part it was the National Guard that paid my rent. A turning point came when I met John Lucas, an art director who worked at Zondervan Publishing House. He graciously allowed me to show him my portfolio. And then, to my surprise, gave me an actual book cover to design!
A couple of years later, I made the difficult but correct choice of becoming an employee. Two of the companies I worked for were publishers. Being an in-house designer taught me so much more than I could have learned on my own. I now have a much fuller understanding of the publishing and print industries.
Later, David Uttley, a successful designer whose work I greatly admire asked me to hire on with him. Together, with Katherine Lloyd to keep us organized, we started Uttley/DouPonce DesignWorks. The name changed quite few times, from UDG DesignWorks (with Chris Gilbert), then The DesignWorks Group and now FaceOut Studio, a firm known for designing exceptional book covers. More than anywhere else, it was there that I learned how to design under pressure. David and I were each designing over a hundred covers a year and the pace was only picking up. To share the load, David gradually hired more designers and administrators. After many years I felt it was time to go back to my dream job of freelancing. That’s when my wife and I started DogEared Design.


2. In your opinion, how important is the design of a book cover?
Well, the title of my Realm Makers workshop is “Book Cover Design: Your Most Important Marketing Tool.” Notice I’m not saying it’s the most important part of the book, that would obviously be the content. But if potential buyers aren’t drawn to the cover, getting them to consider purchasing and reading the content is going to be an uphill battle.

3. What makes or breaks a book cover?
For fiction, it’s all about creating a mood. In most cases, a cover has less than a second to make an impression. In that time, the cover has to push all the right buttons. And contrary to what many of the publishing committees think, whether or not the series title is bold enough, is not one of those buttons.


4. Do you have a typical process when you create covers?
My process for creating covers has changed a bit over the years. Each project still begins with lots of coffee and research (including reading manuscrips when time allows). But now,  instead of relying on stock sites, photographers, and illustrators, I prefer to create my own imagery. With the help of YouTube and a plethora of other tutorial sites, I’ve been able to teach myself photography and 3D. Considering how much I had been paying others for these services, it didn’t take long to justify purchasing and learning the tools. What surprised me was how much I enjoy using them. My goal is to eventually be able to create “anything.” If a client says they want an Amish vampire riding a steampunk dragon in outer space, I’d like to be able to say, “Sure, I can do that.” After all these years I’m still a student … and will always be one.

5. I’m sure inspiration strikes you in some of the oddest places or at the oddest times. How do you work on the go?
“On the go” implies that I actually leave the house. Which I do. Everyday I take a walk to the mail box and back, during which time I usually am thinking about work. It’s a cliche, but the shower is always a great place to think as well. Because I work at home and my wife homeschools our four kids, often my best working hours are before the sun comes up. I do like the white noise later in the day though.


6. Kirk’s Faves:
​Color: Deep Burgundy
​Food: Sushi
​Movie: Gattaca
​Book: Ender’s Game


7. What do you hope Realm Makers attendees will get out of your workshop?
I’m assuming most of the audiance will be authors instead of artists. A big part of my presentation will focus on ways an author can best communicate their vision to the designer. I’m hoping it will be interactive and educational on both sides.


8. What advice do you have for new attendees?
I’ll be a new attendee myself. Part of what drew me to Realm Makers were the photos of people dressed in costume. Having been to more than my share of DragonCons, I’m hoping to geek out. I hope new attendees allow themselves to do the same, celebrating the funnest genre in literature!
Thanks, Kirk, for hanging out with us today. I know a lot of us are excited about your workshop and everything you’ll have to offer. You can find out more about him and his services at Dog Eared Design.

Do y’all have a favorite book cover? One that sticks out in your mind?