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After graduating from the Department of Typography at Reading, Coralie Bickford-Smith started her dynamic career in publishing and is now a successful book cover designer. 

Portrait of Coralie Bickford-Smith, alumna of the Department of Typography and Graphic Communication

Love of books started from an early age 

Coralie Bickford-Smith began her career as a book designer at Quadrille Publishing in London after graduating from the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication. After a year there, followed by time at an agency and as a freelancer, Coralie applied for her dream job as a book cover designer for Penguin Random House, where she has worked since.

Her passion began simply enough…from an early age, Coralie has loved books and book cover designs. Her role allows her to work on several creative briefs simultaneously – a skill she had, thanks to her time at Reading. 

“I love books and I love book cover design. I like having lots of different little projects on the go, it allows me to play with ideas.”

Choosing Reading for the journey

Coralie believed that studying at Reading was more than just "learning to design." As a student in the Department of Typography & Graphic Communication, this offered a host of advantages, including access to opportunities such as the printing studio and the ability to learn the history of printing. Coralie was also inspired by the variety of tutors' backgrounds and specialties. 

“I knew it was the right place for me when I visited the department and witnessed the energy and passion that was everywhere.”

From learning how to take work from the seed of an idea to final press-ready artwork to an in-depth knowledge of typography, she learned a wide variety of skills that have aided her in her career as a book designer. 

“Being taught how to communicate with printers and truly appreciate their craft has resulted in creating work that has pushed me as a designer and the printers to get the best results from the press and make work that we are all proud of.

My degree at Reading gave me so much: knowledge, confidence, experience, connections and friendships I still hold dear today.”

Creating exquisite designs

Coralie could let her creativity run wild with her drawing pencil at Penguin Random House, which was the ideal place for her to grow her talents and nurture her imagination. Soon enough her intricate designs were being praised as the work she did on Penguin’s elegant, hardcover Clothbound Classics editions drew worldwide attention, harkening back to a golden age of book binding. 

“I firmly believe that as a designer you should do what makes your heart sing.”

The detailed and dreamlike style of her artwork evokes magic, mystery and the natural world.

Becoming an author

Coralie's work did not end there. In recent years, she has also taken up writing. Her debut novel, The Fox and the Star, a modern fable about loss, friendship, and bravery, was published by Penguin in August 2015 and was named Waterstones' "Book of the Year." Her second novel, The Worm and the Bird, was published soon after, and her third, The Song of the Tree, was recently released. Her beautifully illustrated books aim to appeal to children and adults alike. 

Unsurprisingly, she is a firm and passionate believer in the enduring power of the printed word.

“Books will always endure; they are physical objects of beauty and contain history within their pages. The notes and memorabilia other people have left inside, the folded corners of pages, the evocative smell of the ink…”

Coralie shares her words of wisdom for new students:

“Believe in yourself. Follow your dreams and eventually somebody somewhere will see your work and champion it. Never give up!”

Find out more about Coralie’s work

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