Tuesday, 27 January 2015


“Reading has been the one constant that I haven't tired of since since the age of two," says Sydney-based book designer and illustrator Evi Oetomo, "so books ignite passion and hold a sentimental value for me." Since joining Penguin Books Australia six years ago she still loves all elements of book design - from designing layouts, creating visual narratives, choosing paper stocks and finishes, and collaborating with talented people. "I just love obsessing about the tiny details of the book-making process," Evi says. This dedication and assiduity paid off when one of the books she designed for Penguin won the 2012 Book of the Year and Best General Illustrated Book at the Australian Publishers Association (now Australian Book Designers Association). Evi was also awarded the Young Designer of the Year. 

When not working at Penguin, Evi is busy with several other side projects. She is art director for Alphabet Family Journal and about to exhibit in Art Vert Sydney, a group exhibition at Saint Cloche from 31 January. Evi also has plans to launch a design range this year under the name Anekka.

Which five words best describe you? Curious, always dreaming, always tinkering.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I grew up in Surabaya, Indonesia, and when I was 17 my parents generously sent me to study graphic design - and to experience a new culture - at UTS in Sydney, Australia. During my studies, I did internships with a handful of different design studios and ad agencies. 

It was actually a dream come true, a too-good-to-be-true moment, when after graduating I saw a junior design position ad for Penguin Books, applied, and got it. It's been my one and only real graphic design job since graduating six and a half years ago. And I'm lucky that within Penguin Books I've experienced various book design projects, from children's, fiction, non-fiction and illustrated books. 

The first time I had a taste of the complex process designing illustrated books, I knew I had found my true passion and never looked back. For the past three and a half years, I've been lucky to be exclusively working and designing illustrated books under Lantern Books imprint.

I'm naturally restless and always have more than one thing happening at once. Therefore, I never stop seeking other creative outlets, from drawing, art directing magazines for Alphabet Family Journal to designing objects under the label Anekka, launching this year. I find that experimenting on other design discipline projects injects creativity into my graphic design practice, and vice versa. 

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? To embrace change.

What’s your proudest career achievement? To score a job that never makes me feel I have to go to work.

What’s been your best decision? My husband, Sonny.

Who inspires you? My Grandma. My gang of very talented friends and collaborators who I deal with in daily basis - you know who you are! And I find creative inspiration from the work of Bruno Munari, Henrik Vibskov, Peter Mendelsund, Yayoi Kusama, David Band, Haruki Murakami, Iela Mari, Paul Rand, Philip Guston, Irma Boom, Hella Jongerius, Alexander Girard, Kenzo, Martin Scorsese, Ettore Sottsass, Fabio Ongarato, Romance Was Born, Guy Mirabella, Osamu Tezuka, Geoff McFetridge, Naoki Urasawa. The list grows.

What are you passionate about? Books, beautiful objects, fashion, art, big cities, social studies, history, religions and science.

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? I'd like to just hang out with the Beatles. 

What dream do you still want to fulfil? There are so many. But currently, I'm dreaming to see more of the world, to have a fashion-related gig, and be a New Yorker.

What are you reading? I'm on a Haruki Murakami marathon, currently reading Kafka on the Shore. His writing has given me surreal escapism to “be away and rest” from the real world.

images courtesy of evi oetomo

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