Change in Publishing: A Reflection from BookMachine’s United We Publish: III

Last week BookMachine and Unite hosted the third in a series of events focusing on working in the publishing industry. United We Publish III: Consent or Coersion consisted of a panel of speakers discussing the role of change in the workplace and how to manage it. During a fascinating evening we heard about ‘change’, ranging from the past 45 years in the industry to day-to-day change in a growing publishing company. The founder of BookMachine, Laura Summers, says that an event is only worth attending if you learnt three things and it was as I was considering my three insights that I saw how they applied to us here at emc design.

I Change is Inevitable

The idea of change was a constant of the discussion and one fact was assumed – as John Pettigrew put it – change is inevitable. Whether it is something we choose or whether a victim of circumstance the fact is that change will happen. Richard Charkin demonstrated this very well when he spoke about the change he had seen in the industry, from the rise of digital publishing to the globalisation of rights in today’s market. We see it in sudden market shifts, the rise of social media, the e-book and the advent of Adobe software. But our industry is also going to change because in a creative atmosphere people are always going to try something new.

Here at emc design a lot of change is both created by us and given to us. We have seen change in the form of new clients, adapting workflows and sometimes changing projects. The very nature of publishing means that relationships grown and fostered with clients can change when people we work with move on. Those relationships need to adapt but we also gain the ability to work with new and talented people. Over the years we’ve worked with many fantastic editors, designers and production teams and I think everybody would agree with me when I say that we always hope to maintain those great relationships no matter the move. Change may be inevitable, but it is not necessarily bad.

II Change is Constant

Another overarching theme was the idea that change is constant. Throughout all of our careers things will change around us, sometimes even those very careers themselves. We are always encouraged to have a five year plan but how often do we reach those five years and discover that we are in a completely different place from our expectations? John Pettigrew discussed change in the form of redundancy, a sad form of change that is the reality in many companies now, both in and outside of publishing. I was particularly struck by the idea that change will happen throughout our careers. Recently we have had our own staff changes. We will sadly be losing Kathryn to the wilds of Kent and personal change that occurs on top of career change! Kathryn has been a vital part of emc, driving change in the form of creation of the Creative Services team (newly dubbed Publishing Services). However, this kind of change offers opportunity and here we have been able to hire an incredibly talented and experienced individual to help drive and grow the team towards offering further services in the future. Watch this space to see more developments!

We also see constant change in a much smaller way. As part of a deadline driven company I see change on a day-to-day basis. New artwork is needed, design styles adapt and schedules are shifted dependent on the client’s needs. If we receive an email asking for proofs early, discussions ensue about how best to allocate work to get the proofs ready and checked. I find that ASAP is a term used often in our line of work! The recent volume of work in the studio has meant that we have been able to welcome three new graduates this year – part of constant planned change in the form of our graduate scheme. Keep your eye out for introductory posts to meet our new grads.

III Change is Manageable

Possibly the most important thing I took from the evening is that change is manageable. This was a conclusion reached by all speakers. Even if change is thrust upon us we can still make choices. Hazel Cushion, Managing Director of Accent Press gave an honest account of how a change she had taken had backfired when she had eased control of her company. To manage the unfortunate downturn that ensued she had to step back into the day-to-day business. Sometimes change can result in unexpected circumstances but the choices we make can turn that around, as Hazel did. Accent Press is once more a growing company with an exciting future.

One example of manageable change we have seen in the studio recently is a noticeable shift in workflows. We see here the desire to improve and drive change. Publishers want to adapt traditional models of publishing and are actively searching for ways to build on current processes, a reflection of our own ongoing efforts to improve our processes within the studio. Part of that effort is our most effective tool to manage change: communication. We believe that honest, open communication is vital to running an efficient project. After all, you can’t manage change if you don’t know about it!

As within the industry, there’s a lot of exciting change coming to emc, particuarly within my own close-knit Publishing Services team. Last week’s event was an excellent opportunity to take a step back and reflect upon these developments. Sometimes it is hard to believe that change is coming, and even harder to accept that it will always be coming, but I take great comfort in the idea that we can take power in preparation, whether it be months or minutes, taking that time to focus can help us face change and be a part of it, enthusiactically and optimistcally.


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Our blog has a new home!

We’re really excited to announce that as part of our 25 year anniversary we have launched a brand new website!

Our new site showcases new projects and has information about us and our fantastic team, including a fun infographic about our story. We’ve added a list of our services too. As part of our new website, we have integrated our blog into it as well. This meaning you can now read our latest blog articles on our website too. However this also means we will no longer be posting on here.

So say goodbye to our old blog and hello to our new one here. We hope you like it!

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Creative Content’s Pic of the Week

Caption: El Ateneo Grand Splendid Book Store in a former theatre , Buenos Aires, Argentina

This week, we have chosen a World Book Day themed pic of the week. We’d love to know how you celebrated World Book Day yesterday and if you dressed up, what did you dress up as?

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Celebrating 25 years of design [Interview with Production Manager John]

John-office-2In the latest of our special 25-year anniversary blog posts, we interview John, our Production Manager. John joined emc back in 1998 as Mike’s first full-time employee and is still with us today.

1.  When you first joined emc, InDesign didn’t exist! In this time what have been some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the tools of our trade and how have these helped/hindered?

Obviously, one of the biggest changes was when we started using InDesign (I’m not old enough to remember when computers revolutionised the industry). I still remember the first time we used InDesign, it crashed and I remember thinking this is no better than Quark. When I opened it back up and it had saved all my work and I hadn’t lost a thing – it was a revelation, and we soon fell in love with InDesign (which obviously didn’t last too long as it has its own special ways of causing headaches!). Computers are always getting faster, software’s getting better and you can see that in the design work. Looking at some of the early books we’ve produced you can see the complexity of the design work increasing as the software became more sophisticated – it’s become far easier and quicker to get the ideas from your head onto the page.

I also always remember having tight deadlines and having to wait for the printer to warm up. The antagonising wait while you stood by a printer with a screen that said warming up, warming up, etc. while the clock was seemingly speeding up. Of course, these days there’s less of a problem with that as almost everything we send is sent electronically.

2. What changes in this time have you noticed that perhaps have a negative impact on production and the ability to design?

I think there’s always been something on most jobs that’s tested us, and it always seems to be something different – I guess it’s what creates the challenge. Jobs crashing, documents corrupting, computers just deciding not to work. It’s the technology that’s probably been the biggest headache overall, but we obviously rely on it so much. I think the way we work now has changed drastically since the explosion of email. Before this a job had to be handed over in one go, there was far less batching and fewer interruptions. Now we find jobs come in piecemeal, there are more queries that are spur of the moment thoughts rather than focussed – to send a letter or pick up the phone seemed to be far less throw away. I’m sure I’m guilty of this as well as it’s sometimes far too easy to ping off an email, then another, then another and before you know it you’ve lost track and some poor person on the other end has an inbox full of disjointed conversations. Of course, it has its benefits as well, and I don’t think I’d really want to go back to a time without the internet.

3. You’ve been instrumental in emc’s success so far. What have been some of your biggest highlights in growing the company to where we are today? And what have been some of your challenges/scariest moments?

Remembering back, the first job that I did that Mike didn’t change and I actually got right was a highlight (although a long while ago now)! When I started, if it wasn’t right it didn’t go out, no matter how many times it took – we still believe in this philosophy now. When we employed the next member of staff was great, it gave me someone to talk to downstairs – it was also a scary thing as well. I think most of the developments and growth have been a mixture of challenges and fear! Moving from Mike’s to the barn was really exciting. I remember working there with the office being pretty much empty, cardboard boxes everywhere and wondering what we were ever going to do with all of that space. The next thing you know we moved out – I remember looking around and wondering where all the people had come from, and how we’d actually managed to run out of space.

4. In your time so far at emc what do you think ELT publishers, in particular, have got right in that time and what do you think they’ve got wrong?

It’s hard to say what our clients have done wrong and right – I’d like to believe coming to us for design work is always a good decision. We often hear that the courses we work on do well, which always fills us with pride. I think our clients are always trying to improve the way they work. Sometimes it doesn’t always work, sometimes it does – it’s the evolving nature of the publishing industry, more so at the moment than I can remember. Our hope of what shouldn’t change is the look of the product and that design will always be important.

5. Lastly, have you seen an increase in the value of design and the skills designers bring to the table over the last few years and do you think publishers are using us to their advantage?

I’d hope that there’s always been a high value on creating beautifully designed products. It’s my belief that it’s not just the look we’re responsible for but the usability, which is where I think as a design company we add a huge amount of experience and value. I’ve always believed that design done well is engaging, but to some extent probably doesn’t get noticed by the user, whereas a bad design and poor usability will always be noticed.

For more of our ‘Celebrating 25 years’ posts see [Interview with MD Mike] and keep an eye out for upcoming posts on the emc blog.


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Creative Content’s Pic of the Week

BP9CWH Daffodils Daffodil Narcissus

Caption: Daffodils (Daffodil Narcissus) Credit: © Avico Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

Spring is on it’s way and we’ve been seeing lots of these popping up everywhere. ELT teachers, how are you planning (if you are) to talk about Spring in the classroom?

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New Ways of Working for New Ways of Learning [Event Round-Up]

On Saturday Sophie from emc headed down to London to the beautiful Macmillan campus for MaWSIG’s conference ‘New Ways of Working for New Ways of Learning’.

The day was a real mix of practically looking at the ways in which our working practices have changed over recent years to how these have impacted the classrooms and learners we are all connected to, in some way or other.

Working smarter, not harder: the nine characteristics of the Productivity Ninja

Graham Alcott from Think Productive kicked off the day with his fantastic exploration into the messy and muddled way in which we work in ever quickening and complex teams and organisations. He also looked at the way in which we add our own stresses to this mix by heaping pressure on ourselves to be quicker, think better, do longer all of the time, which inevitably is counter-productive. Taking 9 areas he suggested small, do-able adjustments to our working patterns and ways of thinking where we could have significant, positive, impact on our work-life balance – for the long term.

Our key snippets from Graham’s talk:

View our storify of Graham’s full talk here.

Working in a digital space

ELT author Antonia Clare gave us an interesting overview of the digital space – what that means to her and us now, but also how it has changed over time. Antonia looked at the opportunities that working in this space provided us with as well as some great tools for being able to work effectively in them. What we loved about Antonia’s talk was the emphasise on collaboration and making a point to communicate effectively with each other – whether that be digitally or face to face. Here’s a few of the top tweets, but read them all here.

Looking after number one

One of the areas that often gets neglected at conferences aimed at CPD is the focus on yourself. Bev Alderson’s session was aimed to get us thinking much more about how we can look after our bodies and our minds. Bev told us some frightening statistics about the effects of sitting at your desk has on our bodies:

And then proceeded to give us a host of really simple, practical ways we can alleviate some of these effects:

And we even had time for Bev to take us through some stretches that would help keep us supple and pain free.

At the time of publishing this post Storify was down so we haven’t been able to publish the full tweets from Bev’s session, but we’ll add it as soon as it’s up and running again 🙂

Writing skills for effective 21st Century materials

After lunch we then launched into a fascinating and in-depth look at the current issues facing writers when working on digital materials. Heather Buchanan and Julie Norton are both lecturers as well as ELT authors and have been pulling together research on digital pedagogy. It was by far the most comprehensive and sensible analysis of the state of the industry and we’re really looking forward to hearing more about the research at IATEFL when the next instalment will be ready. There are far too many interesting tweets from their session to list below so it’s definitely reading the full storify of tweets if this interests you, but for now here’s a few essential points:

Emerging new pedagogies: should we change the way we design classroom activities?

A joint presentation from Thom Kiddle (Director at NILE) and Kirsten Holt (Publisher for Teacher Professional Development at Macmillan and MaWSIG Event Co-ordinator) on whether we should change classroom activities given the new pedagogical implications of emerging technologies.

We ended the day (well, before we had wine courtesy of Macmillan) with the opportunity to discuss and reflect in small groups these questions:

So as you can see we crammed a huge amount into the day. And there was a lot of great discussion as well as sharing of frustrations! Sophie has also been organising MaWSIG’s next event which is the Pre Conference at IATEFL in Birmingham. This day will be delving into a lot more of the practical issues surrounding writing for digital so don’t miss it if you can be in Birmingham on Tuesday 12th April.

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Creative Content’s Pic of the Week

Embed from Getty Images
Virunga Volcanoes in Rwanda
Credit: Andy Rouse

Wow, what a stunning image this is! How would you use this in your classroom to generate discussion and vocabulary on creativity?

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25 Top Pics of the Week

As photo researchers, we come across beautiful photography every day. Whether it’s stock library, specialist or editorial imagery, there’s so much content out there that sometimes it’s hard to just pass by. That’s why we dedicate our creative content series to some of the most beautiful, high impact and inspiring images. Some of our choices are purely aesthetic and some document the most topical news of today. 

As part of our 25th birthday, we have chosen 25 of our top images we have chosen as our ‘Creative Content’s Pic of the Week’ and here they are: 

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Embed from Getty Images  Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images  Embed from Getty Images

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Embed from Getty Images Embed from Getty Images

 Make sure to keep an eye out every Friday for more ‘pics of the week’.

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Creative Content’s Pic of the Week

BY5N4Y.jpgCredit line: © Chris Grady / Alamy Stock Photo
Caption: Mute swans forming a heart shape with their necks during courtship.

It’s nearly time for Valentines’s weekend, so here’s our Valentine’s themed pic!
ELT teachers, how are you planning (if you are) to talk about it in the classroom?

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Design does matter: BookMachine event round-up

Last night emc design and BookMachine co-hosted the first BookMachine design themed evening ‘Why Design Matters: Collaborating with your design team‘, at The Square Pig & Pen in Holborn.

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Sophie from emc design along with Sam and Laura from BookMachine had been plotting the event for a number of months, as part of emc design’s year long celebration of our 25th anniversary.

We wanted to have an evening that not only celebrated us as a company but more importantly raised the profile of design within the publishing industry. We’ve been to lots of publishing events and conferences over the years, but very few consider the role of design and designers. As a design company who solely works within publishing we recognise on a daily basis the areas in which designers work with publishers. From the conceptual stages right through to delivering the final product to press. This means that we often also see the areas where design could have more of an impact and we often feel that if more collaboration happened at an earlier stage (and throughout the process) then the results could be really amazing!

To help us explore some of the diverse areas designers work in we invited three speakers with different perspectives and experiences of working within publishing design and production.

Ken Jones, from Circular Software kicked off the first talks with a quick exploration of some of the features within Adobe software that can help save time & money. Adobe’s latest releases within CC enable users to quickly share files across the applications, which means you can edit key features within Illustrator and quickly import the edited file into your Photoshop/InDesign document. Ken alluded to the fact that good production designers really do know lots about how to maximise the use of software. And that it’s in all of our interest to ensure that we do use time-saving and consistency features when producing materials.

Second to the stage was David Pearson, who runs his own studio Type as Image and has worked on some of Penguin’s most iconic and striking cover designs. David explained that when he first worked at Penguin, delving into the archives was one of his favourite things to do as it enabled him to look chronologically at the covers and spines. This enabled him to get a real sense of how trends have changed over-time and how important it is to get the design of your cover right to draw the reader in.

David went on to explain about the importance of collective design – something that Penguin are really good at. If you have a series of books, then thinking about them as one body of work enables you to play with lots more design features. And the use of colour and numbering can be clever ways to make books more collectable. As well as using additional printing techniques like embossing/de-bossing instead of needing additional colours.

Designers have the ability to help define space on a cover, and draw the reader in and David gave us countless beautiful examples of covers that do just this!

The final speaker of the evening was Dan Franklin, Digital Publisher at Penguin Random House UK. He kicked off his talk with a statement that has been ringing true for us for some time “Design isn’t just about how things look, it’s about how they work”. Designers are increasingly becoming “architects of experiences”. And where design input has been lacking is within the design and production of ebooks.

In Dan’s current role he has been working with designers and developers really closely and explained that he’s noticed there is a conversation that happens between the author, designer and the end reader. This makes design intrinsically linked and important to the publishing process.

After the talks we then had more opportunity to mingle and carry on the conversations about why design matters. There was a real buzz to the evening as people talked about their favourite designs, the skills designers have and also some of the new things we’d learned just in the evening! There was also the realisation that design is not talked about enough within the publishing circuit and that this had been a great opportunity to start doing just that.

We hope it prompted some new thinking and has given people inspiration to be bolder in their approach to design and to work more closely with their designers. And we really hope that the conversation continues with more design events to come.

To read more about the evening have a look at the twitter feed #whydesign.

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