In conversation with Olga Grlic



Olga Grlic is a book designer and currently a VP, Creative Director of  St. Martin's Griffin, Wednesday Books &  St. Martin's Essentials and an Executive Art Director for  St. Martin's Press. Olga also freelances. 

Tell me about a typical day for you.

Well, nothing is typical anymore because of Covid. Since working from home, I've had to find a way to design roughly 100 novels/nonfiction titles per year—while managing three imprints and my own household. My partner is a book-jacket designer, too, we share an office, and shift gears between working and parenting, cooking and laundering, approving proofs and still trying to have a sense of humor about it.

6AM I wake up, answer emails, and make lots of lists to help me visually map out the to-dos of the day.

7-8:30AM Feed my tweenager and toddler and drink copious amounts of coffee.

8:30-9:30 Work!

9:30-10:30 Take a Crossfit class, which allows me to feel less murderous for the rest of the day.

11-2:30 Back to work!

2:30-6 This is where 'typical' gets thrown out the window, as this part of the day includes trying to keep my 3-year-old from bleeding, attempting to work, cooking dinner, and is just an overall chaos.

6:30-8:30 I work on freelance and/or finish working for the day. 

Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin

To date, what's been the most memorable cover design you have done? Why?

One of the most memorable was Z by Therese Anne Fowler. The publishing team launched it and didn’t like the title because it was a single letter, and the big guns worried that it would look strange and Zorro-like. But I loved the book and the title so much, and I had a very clear idea of what the cover should look like—a comp that actually ended up being approved for the final cover. That was about a decade ago, during a time when the entire publishing process was a bit more organic and there were not as many cooks in the kitchen who needed to issue approval for cover design.
Who would you say has inspired you most in your career? 

I am inspired by so very many incredible book designers that I’ve looked up to forever, and the books they were able to package, but now more than ever, my fellow commercial designers who know how to do the amount of work we do and still manage to make it look amazing.

Working in a creative position can be extremely demanding with all the looming deadlines and constant need to keep up, but it must also be thrilling. What's the best part of your job?

I absolutely adore my job, and in order to appreciate it as I do, I've had to learn how to reconfigure rejection into a challenge as designing covers consists of a lot of work and a LOT of rejection. Translating what they are really trying to say, and figuring out a way to make it your own but also being approved by the very many people involved is rewarding, especially authors! Exploring and hiring amazing illustrators is also a huge joy, as is watching people on my team grow and become such great talents! No day is the same, and ultimately dressing novels is a pretty sweet design job.

What are you currently reading? 

I am reading Jumpa Lahiri’s Whereabouts, What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez, and a whole lot of manuscripts for work.

To stay updated on Olga's work, visit her website or Instagram