Q+A with The Rising Star 2020 Hazel Lam

23 Jun 2020

Congratulations to our Rising Star of 2020, Hazel Lam. This award is given to emerging talent in the publishing industry – and reflects ongoing excellence and growth in contribution to their profession.

We had a Q+A catch up with Hazel via email!

  1.       How did you get started in book design and the publishing industry?

 I actually started out working in television, working as a web designer for Network 10 ( the thought of deep etching Guy Sebastian’s afro still gives me PTSD) and then moving to Channel 7 to work in their on-air promotions team. I eventually got sick of television and got a part time job at Future Classic with Jay Ryves. Jay designed a lot of cookbooks for Lantern at the time and I would help her typeset the books. It was my first taste of the publishing industry and I wanted more but I found it impossible to find a job in book design so I moved to London for a couple of years. When I came back, a book designer position at Harpercollins miraculously popped up on Seek, seven years later I am still here. 

  1.       What’s your proudest moment?

It’s been quite a ride recently. I think winning Designer’s Choice Cover of the Year last year at the Australian Book Design Awards was a real highlight. 

the lost flowers cover designed by Hazel Lam the winner of the ABDA Designer's Choice award

I remember going to my first design awards all those years ago and that award was always the most coveted and seemed like an out of reach impossibility. Also the Rising Star Award this year at the ABIAs was incredible, to be recognised by the wider publishing industry has been an absolute joy.

  1.       Which book designers are you inspired and influenced by?

There are so many great book designers and honestly everyone inspires me. Locally, I am always blown away by the designs by Allison Colpoys, Sandy Cull, Josh Durham, Imogen Stubbs , Alissa Dinallo and of course Darren Holt, who I am lucky enough to work along side everyday (now virtually, since we are all in work from home mode). Internationally, Coralie Bickford Smith and David Pearson’s work desperately made me want to be a book designer. I love seeing new work from Jon Gray, Tyler Comrie, Na Kim, Suzanne Dean, Joan Wong and anything out of the Rodrigo Corral studio. 

  1.       What makes a good book design?

I think book design is such a subjective thing, it’s hard to define or list what makes a good book design. But I think if a cover can capture the essence of the book, arouse enough curiosity of a potential reader that it makes them pick the book up and satisfies all the hopes and dreams of the author then I think the designer has done a pretty good job. 

One of Hazel’s illustrations off her Instagram account
  1.       What advice would you give to someone who would like to design books or work in publishing?

I would say just start! Start rejacketing books you like, share them on Instagram and start reaching out to art directors and designers in the industry. Join the Australian Book Designer’s Association and go to the events they hold to meet more people in the industry. The publishing industry is so small and everyone is super lovely and willing to help, so don’t be afraid to get in touch with people you want to work with. 

  1.       In what ways do you think the publishing industry could improve?

I think the publishing industry is one of the most supportive industries I’ve worked in. It is such a small industry so sometimes I think it is quite difficult for new people to get a foot in the door. It would be great if we could be more open as an industry, more social events, associations and internships/apprenticeships, giving more options for people who decide later on in life they wanted to enter the publishing industry. 

  1.  Self-care is such a wishy-washy term, but what are ways that you show up for yourself – as we live and work during the events of 2020?

On a superficial level, it’s been comfort food (fried chicken and carbs), escapist tv shows (The Great and Normal People have been recent favourites), lots of books (Ali Wong’s biography made me laugh out loud more times than I can count) and spending time with people that bring me infinite love and joy. I think it’s important to keep up with what is happening in the world and keeping informed but instead of being oversaturated and constantly absorbing the negative and sensationalist news stories, it’s great to try and focus on what we can do as individuals to help, finding organisations to support, literature to keep ourselves educated about our history to help us to be better humans in the future and generally holding on to hope when the world’s going a bit crazy.  

  1.       What do books and reading mean to you?

Everything. It’s honestly one of the main things that has been getting me through this isolation period. I’ve been blasting through book after book, being transported into different universes, lives and educating myself on things I know little about. I think books teach you a lot of about empathy, gives you a chance of seeing the world through a different perspective and generally brings a bit of magic into your life.