Charlotte Strick.

“These photos were taken of my desk in my home office where I spent a lot of my free time working while on my maternity leave. With five month old twin boys at home—I work whenever I have a free moment. Creative people are working at all times—taking in the world around them. Often the answers to visual problems are right there in front of you so it pays off to be alert. I passed some graffiti on my walk to the subway this morning, and something about one of the letter forms gave me an idea for a project I was struggling with. I often have my best ideas at 3am when I can’t sleep. If I’m lucky, I’ll remember them in the morning.  Lionel and Oscar are my main distractions these days.”

Charlotte Strick is the art editor of The Paris Review and an award-winning designer known for creating the jackets for books by Roberto Bolaño, Lydia Davis, and Jonathan Franzen, among many others. She is also art director of Faber & Faber, Inc. and of the paperback line at Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

FROM YOUR DESKS: I spy Alvin Lustig. How often do you thumb through the classics and apply to your own process?

CHARLOTTE STRICK: I was very excited to learn that Lustig’s great projects were finally going to be published in a book devoted entirely to him. Like many of my kind, I’m drawn to mid-century furniture design and art. As a student I spent a lot of time memorizing the works of the design greats from this period, and I invested a lot of money building up a library. The design work that influenced me when I was a student is still very much a part of the way I problem solve. These days I seem to more often take my cues from my surroundings and from fine art, and my job as Art Editor at The Paris Review has been wonderful exposure to new artists.

There will always be favorite designs that never make it to the bookstore shelves.

FYD: How do you juggle between The Paris Review and your Faber and Faber jobs?

CS: Each of the Paris Review issues that I’ve been involved with since their new editor Lorin Stein took the helm, has evolved differently. It’s the same with my book jacket projects at Farrar, Straus and Giroux / Faber and Faber. The evolution of every project can vary widely partly because of the people involved who help to bring each one together. I make lots of post-it-note lists and on a good day I am able to cross most things off. Fellow list-makers will agree that it’s incredibly satisfying to see so much red ink by days’ end. Like most everything in life, it’s all an elaborate juggling act.

FYD: Your mom was a Fashion Designer. Do you see her creativity and execution come through in your work? 

CS: Most people who know my mom marvel at all her hidden talents. As a kid I loved to watch her fearlessly cut into a bolt of fabric with giant, heavy shears that make the most amazing swooshing sound and then magically she’d turn those yards of cloth into an envied costume, coat, or dress. When I was young, I’d spend many hours in my room making mini fashion magazines filled with my drawings for clothing lines, and then I’d persuade her to add some too. I’ve always loved fashion illustration, and perhaps in another life I’ll finally be able to draw with the skill and ease of people like Sandra Suy or David Downton. My husband and I found the fashion drawings in my home office at a flea market in Barcelona a couple of summers ago. I wish I’d bought more! I never tire of those ladies.

I’ve always had a real appreciation for kitch. I started a snow globe collection many years ago. Kind friends and family sometimes bring them to me from their own travels. A few of my favorites sit on my desk at home, and I have more packed away. If I displayed them all at once I wouldn’t have any room to work. It’s become harder and harder to find the dimestore-style, plastic globes with moving parts that contain “snow.” The glitter globes sort of depress me. I guess I’m a snow-globe-classist.

FYD: Take us through the process of the highly anticipated Jonathan Franzen book jacket.

CS: I feel very lucky to have worked at FSG long enough to have had the opportunity to design the jacket for one of the most highly anticipated novels the decade. The imagery was intended to be hyper real. The landscape is the sort that exists only in memory—not completely naturalistic. Mr. Franzen requested “vertiginous” type, so I manipulated it to feel like it was falling from above, with the bird being uncomfortably large in the foreground. Of course flight and the idea of freedom are synonymous to us, and the bird, a Cerulean Warbler, might be flying into frame or sitting on a branch just off the edge of the book jacket. It became sort of a stand-in for Patty, a main character in the book—looming large and making her way through the story at a fever pitch.

More often than not, you have to work through multiple ideas, possibly over a period of many weeks.

FYD: Are you constantly playing around to churn out the best version? 

CS: A wise Parsons professor of mine told our class to always work out all of our ideas, even the worst ones, or we’d never be able to work past them. On occasion your muse is with you right there from the start, but more often than not, you have to work through multiple ideas, possibly over a period of many weeks. Of course there are also lots of people in the process who weigh in and direct the projects in different and sometimes, unexpected ways. There will always be favorite designs that never make it to the bookstore shelves.

FYD: Where do you find other creative outlets?

CS: I’ve always wanted to write and illustrate a children’s book. James Marshall’s books like “Miss Nelson Is Missing” and the “George and Martha” series” still make me smile.  I’ve been slowly working away on an idea of my own in between my design projects. I have a little mock-up together that I’ve shared with a few friends. Let me know if you want to see it…

Charlotte’s work can be viewed here.

1 Comment For “Charlotte Strick.”

  1. Jerry Dorris says:

    What an inspiring portfolio. Love her hand drawn typography. Thanks!

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