Friday, July 1, 2011

An Interview With Jordan Kimura, Zero Sight's Graphic Artist

Today I'm hosting an interview with Jordan Kimura, the graphic designer that created Zero Sight's visually arresting cover. Her work has done wonders for sales, with many readers commenting that the cover image was what snagged their attention.

I was referred to Jordan by a mutual friend after several months of struggling to find a reliable designer. She is creative, prompt and professional, a rare trifecta for an artist.


Shier: Hi Jordan, so nice to sit down with you to catch up. By the way, congratulations on being named All-American Singles and Doubles by the International Tennis Association.

Kimura: Thanks so much, Brian! College tennis has been amazing. I can hardly believe that I've already played 3 seasons and have only 1 left.

Shier: Time goes kinda fast when you're taking rigorous courses, playing high level college tennis, and doing freelance graphic design.You had that golden season last year where you went undefeated too. You're having an incredible college tennis career! I know you're experiencing success with your design career as well.

Kimura:  You and I are both experiencing success! I see that the Zero Sight is high on Amazon’s Contemporary Fantasy List. Seems like it's a hit with avid readers from around the world. That's fabulous! Your amazing storytelling will keep readers fascinated for a very long time, I am sure of it!

Shier: Yes, the reader response has been quite a surprise. I'd hoped to sell 100 copies of Zero Sight…I guess my wife calls me a pessimist for a reason. It's so evident that you love what you do, it really makes a difference, doesn't it?

Kimura: It sure does! I am fortunate that I am able to do what I love and be on a full athletic scholarship. Balancing tennis and school has taught me how to work hard and be a respectful team member. I think this reflects in my work. Better teamwork leads to better projects. It helps in every step from conceptualization to completion.

Shier: Very true. When you returned your first proofs in under 48 hours, I got a pretty good idea how motivated you are. So let's take a step back. When did you become interested in art? Were you a fan first and an artist second or have you been a scribbler since kindergarten?

Kimura: Art has always been my passion. I started painting with watercolors as a toddler and I haven't stopped since. Art is something that resonates from within me. It is relaxing and comforting, like a dear friend I can always drop in on. Being able to see my visions as personal manifestations gives me great satisfaction, and applying my creative skills to commercial design projects is especially rewarding.

Ancient Classic Elements, J Kimura
Shier: What you just said is really interesting. A lot of the artists I know only want to do their own thing. Why do you find working with clients so alluring?

Kimura: Each client is unique. Each client presents me with a unique challenge that forces me to adapt and create something fresh while staying true to the client's vision. The process really encourages me to stretch and grow.

Shier: I draw inspiration from writing giants like Jim Butcher and Robert Heinlein.

Furies of Calderon (Codex Alera, Book 1)Storm Front (The Dresden Files, Book 1)Starship TroopersStranger in a Strange Land

Both writers took their genres and flipped them on their heads. Do you find that your work is influenced by other artists as well?

Kimura: I tend to draw inspiration from structural designers and architects such as Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano and Santiago Calatrava to name a few.

Architecture really inspires me because I love integrating metaphors, stories, culture and symbols while blending aesthetics and environmental issues in every project. I also like the whimsical playfulness that graphic designer Will Staehle's fluid design displays.

Shier: Yea, I like his work too. I believe he did Christopher Moore's covers.

W. Staehle

So what led you to major in graphic design?

Kimura: My B.A. in Graphic Design has prepared me with technical skills in a rigorous program that serves as a solid design foundation. Graphic Design integrates words and images. I love sketching and bringing unique concepts to each of my projects through new interpretations, new structures, and new images. My approach is to blend computer technology with original artwork that I produce. My projects are authentically fresh because it comes down to my passion for illustrating.

Sense of Place, J. Kimura
Shier: But now you're also pursing an MBA...wait, how old are you?

Kimura: Yes, the MBA program provides me with the fundamental business skills needed to become a more innovative marketer. Being grounded in multiple business disciplines, the MBA helps me to integrate the intuitive and the analytical, meet consumer needs and identify strategies for design-based innovation. I just turned 20 a couple of weeks ago.

Shier: A twenty year-old All-Amercian singles and doubles tennis player that has already graduated with their Bachelor's Degree in Graphic Design Summa Cum Laude and is about to get her Master's Degree…Your rates are quite decent considering… : )

So why were you interested in designing Zero Sight's cover? We faced quite the marketing challenge at the time: the ebook world was already crowded with new indie titles, the author was an absolute unknown with zero pedigree to speak of, and there is very little data on what would work and what would not. That was quite the set of challenges. What made you confident that you could nail the design?

Kimura: Well, as a friend of a friend (Jon Steller) I was happy to work with you at a lower rate. I looked forward to a long working relationship and friendship with you as well. That was reason enough.

Shier: Shucks, now you have me blushing.

So you started with the raw images from Sarah Pedersen's shoot:

What was your approach?

Kimura: After discussing the storyline with you, we came up with a design vision pretty quickly. Everything fell into place after that, and a high-impact cover was born! Many readers have commented on how the cover and the story are dynamically aligned. It goes to show that a good product can shine through even under adverse conditions.

Shier: So what feelings were you trying to illicit with your cover design?

Kimura: I was trying hard to bring out the raw intensity of your story in a captivating manner. I did this by providing texture, color, lighting, typography and the blood splatter elements. My goal was to create a design so good that readers couldn't help but be intrigued. I wanted it to be as fascinating and mysterious as the story you had woven.

Shier: Well, I was (and am) ecstatic with the result. I think Zero Sight's cover manages to convey all those feelings even in a thumbnail view. I remember back at the start, we were both worried about what would happen to your design when it was shrunk down to near nothingness. And yet this cover manages to be both legible and intriguing even at a very small image size. Black and white or color, the title and major image elements are retained. And to all you aspiring authors out there, I think a flexible cover for your ebook is critical.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz   vs.  Bitter Seeds

A good cover must be able to survive the many tortures websites and e-readers are going to put it through. You're going to be fighting for impulse buys at first, and no one is going to click on something that they can't even identify.

So, Jordan, what's next for you?

Kimura: I'm going to keep designing. It's in my blood! I hope to continue to create meaningful change through my design concepts as a sustainable, ethical, profitable and innovative designer. I want every detail in my projects—from concept to completion—to be intuitively well-structured and thoughtfully designed. I also look forward to designing many more best-selling book covers for you as your writing career grows : )

Shier: For anyone that doesn't know, Jordan is talking about the covers for Zero Sight's sequels. (Did he just say sequels plural…heck yes, he did!) And that reminds me, I've got to set up another photo shoot and contact my hand models. I've got to track those fine finger toters down again. They'll probably want more than just a taste of the delicious blood mix this time.

So, Jordan, where can people check out your portfolio?

Kimura: I can be contacted for design projects through my website.

Shier: Folks, I'd submit your projects to Jordan while you can still afford her. I can vouch for Jordan's incredible speed, customer service, follow-through, creativity, talent and personal integrity. Those are rare qualities in the industry. Ones any of us that have been through the experience highly value.

Kimura: I really enjoyed this time talking about the success of the book. Earlier today you performed neurosurgery and now you are discussing your novel. Very impressive.

Shier: Um, yea...I mostly held the tools. But they let me move the operating room lights this time. I lit up the surgical field on my first try and everything : ) Still a long way to go, though.


That about does it for this blog's very first interview. Feel free to leave comments and questions below. Jordan  and/or I will be happy to post responses. Just expect some delays. I'm on call this weekend.



Anonymous said...

Actually one of the first book's I've ever purchased based on the cover!

Was so intrigued by the cover design and then the description that I figured it was worth a purchase on my Kindle and I was hooked!

Been reading SF/Fantasy books for 30+ years now and this series is on my "buy upon release" short list.

Will the artist in the above article, Jordan Kimura, be doing the artwork for the rest of the series (or your other books)?

B. Justin Shier said...

@Anon 4:18: Thanks. I sent your comment off to Jordan. She'll appreciate it.

"Will the artist in the above article, Jordan Kimura, be doing the artwork for the rest of the series (or your other books)?"

Yep. She's working on the new one right now : )

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