Ooligan Grads in the Community: Olivia Croom

Olivia Croom is one of the many talented Ooligan graduates putting her skills to use in the Portland community. Currently, Olivia is serves as the marketing coordinator at architecture firm SRG Partnership, Inc. Olivia provides graphic design, editing, and production support for the Business Development department. She also pitched, developed, curates, and manages the company blog, in addition to managing all of SRG Partnership’s social media accounts. On top of her day job, Olivia does workshops and guest lectures—including a guest lecture about using tables in InDesign for PSU’s Publishing Software class—that focus on elements of graphic design, book design, marketing, and the book publishing industry. On Wednesday, October 8th, Olivia partnered with Literary Arts and used her extensive knowledge and skill concerning book design to give back to the community with an exclusive class.

As a current Ooligan student, I attended Olivia’s class not knowing what to expect. Although I have brushed sleeves with some design work here and there, I have yet to go through any of the actual courses that cover the subject, so I was excited to see what Olivia would teach me, and to discover what I already knew.

Because many of the people who attended Olivia’s class were authors or hardcore book enthusiasts, she had very little trouble engaging the class. She spent some time talking about her background, explaining how she became interested in book design in college while she was the editor in chief of the undergraduate literary journal Northwest Boulevard. Part of her job was the design of the journal, and that’s when she taught herself how to use InDesign and realized how much she liked experimenting with typography. Her passion for not only the cover of a book, but the inside and layout of the typography, easily kept her class engaged. And if her passion wasn’t enough, the books she brought as examples of interesting and experimental book design were enough to keep one’s rapt interest.

Some of Olivia’s examples included Dry by Augusten Burroughs, Building Stories by Chris Ware, and 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. It’s a little difficult to appreciate the artistry of these books without holding them in your hands—especially Building Stories, which is a book that comes in pieces and can be read in any order. It is a little easier with Dry and 1Q84, because much of the awe has to do with the cover (although without being able to remove the dust jacket of 1Q84, some of the magic is lost). See the video Olivia used in her class to see why:

While Olivia did cover the importance of a book’s cover, she also went in depth about the insides of a book and how, if a book designer has done their job well, no one will even notice unless they are deliberately focusing on the design.

Olivia had us bring in two books that we had a design-based reaction to. One of the types of books that eventually cropped up in our examples was “the unpleasant book.” The attendee that brought it expressed that they found the book difficult to read even though the text was one they had read before in other books, and enjoyed. Olivia smiled and took the book, holding it up for everyone to see. After spending two hours with Olivia, it was easy for everyone to see the flaws in the book: the text was too crowded, the margins too thin to allow for comfortable holding between the thumb and forefinger, and the page unweighted towards the folio text (text that includes things like the page number, book title, author name, and chapter title).

Only a few hours with Olivia, and I learned all that. Ooligan alumni are such powerhouses.