In these times when readers are responding to our books “more than ever,” when our authors—including Richard Blanco, Imani Perry, Robin DiAngelo, Dina Gilio-Whitaker, and Bettina Love—are appearing in the media, their ideas going viral on social media, their voices being heard on so many platforms, we thought it might be good to take a break to focus on some of the staff who work hard to find, shape, edit, produce, and promote those works. Our blog series “Beacon Behind the Books” introduces to you a member of our staff and gives you a behind-the-scenes look, department by department, at what goes on at our office.
For the month of October, we introduce you to our designer, Louis Roe!
What drew you to publishing, Louis? How did you find your way to Beacon?
It feels like a cliché, but I’ve always been interested in books and bookmaking. My dad ran a print shop in Cambridge for many years, so I had what felt like limitless access to paper in a rainbow of colors, giant staplers, laminators and plastic binding. I made my first book when I was five or six and called it “Beautiful Birds,” a collection of bird illustrations for my grandma. When I started thinking about college ten years later, it was pretty much a toss-up whether I’d study writing or art. Designing books is a career where I get to be excited about both, so I set my heart on it early.
As far as I’m concerned, landing at Beacon was an act of fate, or perhaps dumb luck. I sort of stumbled out of college into a content marketing job I found very difficult. It wasn’t a good fit. I wrote my resignation letter on the flight home from a vacation where my relatives had convinced me it’d be worth it to leave the job, even without having my next move lined up. But a couple of days later, I lost $1,000 to a scam; leaving the job was no longer an option. Perhaps a month later, I answered a job listing for a designer at Beacon. It was exactly what I wanted. The interviews were already under way, but there was still time to squeeze me in. My interview turned into a four-hour conversation with the creative director about aesthetics, politics and music—an immediate connection! I was offered the job the next day.
What are some of the challenges of being a designer? What do you find most rewarding?
The challenges are similar to those of any creative job: inspiration, creative freedom, and budget. Juggling deadlines. Tempering perfectionism with trust. Knowing when to defer to others’ expertise and when to stand by your decisions. Now that I’ve been designing covers for four years, I’ve been learning to present my designs more from a place of authority. It can be a daunting task when the people judging your work have been in the business much longer, and have the memory of you coming onboard as an assistant—will they take my input seriously? But one of the most rewarding things about my experience as a designer at Beacon is learning that my comments are heard and respected, and that’s a direct result of the work I’ve put in. It’s pushed me to trust my instincts more and more.
In an alternate universe, what career would you have?
I’ve always wondered what might’ve happened if I’d taken a more technical route, like working with printers. Or perhaps cabinet making, or forensic science. Lately, I’ve been dreaming about what it’d be like to work in ecology or environmentalism. Probably quite frustrating! I suppose in my ideal alternate universe, I could try them all. Then master each one in a series of branching universes.
What’s the next queued song on your music player?
I’m currently listening to an artist called A Beacon School. I know it sounds made up, but his song “It’s Late” recently popped up on Spotify radio and I’ve been listening to the Cola album more or less on repeat since then. It’s dreamy and sweet, sort of an aural comfort food for dreary fall days and trying political times.
About Louis Roe
Louis Roe has been designing at Beacon Press since 2015, after graduating from Emerson College’s Writing, Literature, and Publishing program and a brief stint in content marketing. He previously interned at Wind Ridge Books in Shelburne, VT.