You know the phrase ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, right? It’s an important rule to live by and yet how many times have you found yourself scrolling through book recommendations or standing at the airport bookstore or perusing a friend’s bookshelf, looking for the book cover that strikes you as the perfect next read? If I’m being honest, a book’s cover is the first thing that captures my attention and pulls me to read the jacket to learn more about the stories inside.
Knowing the impact a book cover can have on a potential reader, I wanted to find a designer who could capture the feeling and message of my first book all while translating a personal brand I’ve built for the last 10-plus years to a new medium. That designer turned out to be Iowa native Briana Summers.
Briana is the founding designer behind Brighten Made. She’s on the podcast with me to talk about designing the cover of How Are You, Really? as well as her corporate-to-entrepreneur pivot and the advice she has for other designers dreaming about striking out on their own and landing dream clients.
I connected with Briana Summers several years ago about another project and the timing just wasn’t right for that one, but when I was ready to explore designers for my book cover she was the one and only person I reached out to about the project. Briana and I were introduced to each other by my friend Jen, so I already had a trusted referral for her work and I was eager to see what she would dream up for my very first book cover.
For Briana, the partnership was full circle. She said, “I had spent years working in the publishing world and working for a magazine and so I had that editorial background, but I was like, I don’t know how I’ll ever bring that back again. Lots of publishing companies have their set designers and freelancers and so you really have to be in the know in order to do any of that type of work.”
Briana told me that I was a dream client of hers (which is always so special to hear!) and that she also dreamed of one day seeing her work in big stores like Target. Now, the book cover she designed is everywhere… It even made it to a billboard in Times Square in New York City! “It’s such a crazy feeling and it’s so surreal,” Briana continued, “And one of those moments where you’re like, I need to soak all of this because this is a milestone for sure.”
Tips for Working with a Designer
I was curious about Briana’s tips for working with a designer to ensure you get exactly what you want in a final product. Where does a design process start? What kind of feedback is helpful? What’s the best way to collaborate?
For Briana as the designer, she said that it’s important for her to have a full understanding of what she’s designing for. In this scenario, a book cover, she needed to read parts of the book to get a sense of what it is her designs would represent. If you’re working with a designer on any project, be sure to provide them with assets to learn more about you, the brand, and the specific project they’re designing for.
Briana also encourages designers and their clients to be as collaborative as possible. She explained, “ I need your input just as much as you need my guidance and expertise.” Rather than giving explicit instructions to a designer for the images you have in your head, make suggestions and as for their opinion on design directions you may have already dreamed up. Their expertise can help finetune your vision!
I love this tip from Briana: No matter what the project is, be careful who you show the designs to while they’re in process. “When it comes to anything creative, everyone’s got an opinion. There’s only a few people that I feel really know your book best and know you best and so those are the people that you can totally ask, but beyond that, try to keep it really close to you. Otherwise when you start to involve all different types of parties, you’re gonna get all different types of opinions and then it’s not gonna end up being what you want it to be.”
Landing Dream Clients
Briana has done an amazing job developing her style, sticking to it, and attracting her dream clients that align with what she creates and wants to create. What is her advice for new designers who want to attract their dream clients?
“I think in the early years of design, it’s definitely like trying to figure out what your style is and all of that. I just encourage designers to create, create, create, because you don’t know what your style is until you explore,” she continued, “And it doesn’t happen from searching what other people are doing on the internet. It happens from within. As woo woo as that sounds, it’s so true. The more you are truly living in alignment with yourself, the more your style is just gonna confidently become its own thing.”
More from Briana Summers
Briana shares more about attracting dream clients, including why it’s important to show your design process on your social media for potential clients to see. She also digs into her early days as a side-hustler designer and why she didn’t wait to jump into entrepreneurship… Even though she never pictured it happening so soon.