ABDA Awards 2020 | Student Finalist Molly Keene

This year marks our first year as a sponsor for the Australian Book Designer’s Association Awards and it represents our commitment in supporting and showcasing the work of emerging designers. Our category for 2020 was ‘Best Student Design Award’ and four very talented designers from Shillington were chosen as finalists—Rommey Watts, Laura Tournier, Tara Cosgrave-Perry and Molly Keene.

We wanted to take this opportunity to get to know these talented designers a little more and to dive a deeper into the processes behind their cover designs. Let’s say hello to Molly Keene!

EDIT: CONGRATULATIONS MOLLY ON WINNING THE INAUGURAL BEST STUDENT DESIGN AWARD!


Tell us a little bit about who you are
I am a designer and copywriter and based in New York. I work in branding, primarily on projects in the hospitality and luxury space.

How did you get into design?
I had always been into visual arts but in college I considered it more of a hobby than a professional possibility- I studied literature and creative writing. I happened to get a job as a vague creative at a non-profit that had a wonderful brand ethos but no visual identity. Lots of clipart. So I started making emails that looked a little bit more like what I’d want to see. I was fortunate to have a really supportive, sort of kooky boss who let me play around a lot. Then I started telling people I was a graphic designer, which really felt like an exaggeration or potentially a lie at the time, but I kept getting work! Eventually I took a sabbatical and enrolled in Shillington to enhance my self-taught skill set, and here I am today!

What made you start getting into book design?
I read a lot, and honestly, the cover may just be as important to me as what’s inside. At least in the beginning. I love browsing in bookstores, and feeling enticed by a cover so that I just have to pick it up and read the first line or ten. As a designer, you have a millisecond to grab someone’s attention, which makes the stakes really high, and that is exciting to me.  You have to make something conceptual and intriguing. Otherwise people will just skip to next.

What was the inspiration and thought process behind your book cover?
The protagonist of The Girls is 14 when she spends the summer of ’69 with a Manson-esque cult in California.  The writing is beautiful and moody – very sensory, lots of metaphor. For the cover I wanted to convey the sense of irretrievable loss (of youth, of innocence, of summer, of time) that’s central to the story. A melted popsicle —  impossible to get back — felt like the perfect metaphor. In terms of color, the mood needed to be a bit darker than that of the traditional, fun, cherry red. Visually it becomes like a Rorschach test between nostalgic and sinister.

What’s been happening in design for you since you entered?
I was freelancing at Watson & Company, a great little studio in New York for about a year. Extremely talented and wonderful people there, and I got to work on some really cool projects but I’m not sure I’m allowed to talk about them yet! Covid brought me out to LA, where I am still freelancing and juggling all my quarantine side projects. Hoping to publish some more covers soon!


You can view more of Molly’s work at mollykeene or get in touch with her at LinkedIn.

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