Interview with Olga Lavecchia, designer of the new EPAAs branding

The Educational Publishing Awards are organized by the APA Schools Committee, which is made up of elected representatives from publishers across the industry. After the committee decided that the branding of the event needed refreshing for its 21st anniversary, Cengage Learning offered the services of Creative Manager, Olga Lavecchia.

As a committee of font-nerds, we were curious about the process of reaching the design concept that we eventually went with, so we spoke to Olga about how both she and Danielle Maccarone (Lead Senior Designer) came up with the new image…

olga

Olga Lavecchia

What’s your background, Olga?  

I’ve been in the educational publishing industry for 16 years, starting as a marketing designer before moving into book design shortly after. I’m currently Creative Manager for Cengage Learning, working with a great bunch of very talented visual/UX designers and Mac specialists.

What was the brief you received for the new branding?  

The brief was non-restrictive, very open in its delivery. We gave particular consideration to the following sentence: ‘Educational Publishing Awards celebrate with pride the unique contribution of education products to Australia’s intellectual capital, to our schools in particular.’

Key words from the brief that stood out for us were: Coherent, identifiable, pathway, journey, education.

We were also asked to keep other brand identities surrounding the awards in mind – the APA and the ABIAs for example. The main incentive behind the redesign was to give the awards a new energy and encourage publishers across the industry to be a part of it.

What process did you go through to  come up with the new concept?

The process was clear – concept direction and consideration came from the brief, and we started by analyzing that and pulling out what we interpreted as important to the client, extracting key words.

Key words often drive a concept. For example, if the brief uses words such as ‘playful’, ‘fun’, ‘energy’ or ‘youthful’, we would most likely keep away from introducing a serif font for the typographical treatment. Fonts like Garamond or Times are both serious/sophisticated looking typefaces. Instead, we would consider a sans serif, with a curved soft edge, emphasizing a playful energy and better addressing the tone mentioned in the brief.

Coming up with something that captured three very varied markets – Primary, Secondary and Tertiary – was difficult, so we initially centred our attention on the word ‘education’, and the concept ‘education in today’s world’. After a few options (and several weeks), we achieved a vision that the committee was happy with.

How has the design/conceptualization process changed with the advent of branding suitable for social media?

This is as important a point as how the design looks in print, but initially when brainstorming a concept I don’t restrict myself with either consideration. Once the concept is almost there, I then work the elements for a variety of end formats. Establishing the brand identity comes first, the finish is something I workshop post-concept.

Can you describe the rationale behind the final concept?

  • Design: ‘e’epaa_version_3
  • Keywords: pathway, journey, education
  • Concept: A single stroke in the shape of an ‘e’ respresents the pathway to an educational journey. A standalone ‘e’ is iconic and powerful while remaining playful and fun. ‘e’ is also symbolic of education, e-learning, environment.
  • Look: The graduated colour used brings the ‘e’ to life. The gradient helps to further articulate the path the student takes on their educational journey. Merging three colours represents the three levels of schooling: primary, secondary, tertiary, and the transition through the three.

The Australian Book Design Awards are coming up in August. Have you seen any designs published over the last year that you’ve been very impressed by?

Oooh – I recently came across A Bite of the Big Apple by Lantern. Amazeballs!! (Can I say that?!)

Do you have a favourite book that you love for its design quality?

I absolutely love books. However, what inspires me often lives outside of book publishing. Magazines, in particular interior design/architecture magazines have an amazing design sensibility and quality. The magazine production itself, but also the content it features. I draw on parallels and often implement many in my work – space, layout, colour, shape… I think they often showcase the best design work because the target market lives in it, and therefore they need to be both appealing and functional.

Do you have a favourite educational publishing project you’ve worked on, from a design perspective? What were the education-specific challenges?

I’ve enjoyed so many projects it’s difficult to pick one! I believe educational design is more challenging now than ever before. We’re not specifically creating a concept or story for a print product, but thinking how the concept will move across an entire series, including print, ebook, teacher book, student book, website, interactives, videos, and so on. Different mediums, different consumers, different markets – all these considerations but remaining true to the publisher’s brand. A designer’s focus has become so much more than just ‘the book’.

The EPA organising committee thanks Olga and Cengage for their time on both the rebranding exercise and for this interview!