Choosing a designer, typesetter or illustrator for your book

When I tell people I design children’s books, I forget that a lot of people haven’t even heard of The Adobe Creative Suite. To me, they are my office, my sketchbook, notepad, paintbrushes, rulers, printing press and darkroom all rolled into one. I use a combination of Adobe InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop to create branding, artwork, puzzle books, storybooks and educational content.

For you, intrepid author explorer, how are you going to choose between a graphic designer, or a typesetter, or an illustrator for your project?

All three people can make your work sing – maybe you even need a combination of two of these disciplines? To help you decide I have outlined the key differences between each kind of role (I would add here that many Creatives don’t like to be pigeonholed into any one category – myself included!). This is merely to help you understand the different sort of services you might need for your project:

Graphic designer

To me, the role of a graphic designer is to give any project, be it a logo, a puzzle book, a website, book or magazine, a visual identity.

  • If you have a book that needs specific types of pages, and different sorts of information – then a graphic designer’s job is to look at that information and organise it’s layout in terms of hierarchy, and theme.
  • Maybe your book is an educational book – a designer will organise that content to ensure it is easy to navigate, accessible, and above all, engaging.
  • A graphic designer can take your text and add graphical elements to it – small illustrations and page furniture to enhance the text.
  • Your designer should also be able to assess your output needs and requirements – printers settings/e-book settings.
  • You may also need someone to project-manage for you. An experienced designer can liaise with printers, editors and illustrators.


If you have a large page extent, a typesetter may be for you!

  • Typesetters are wonderful people with speed as their middle name. They are brilliant and taking your word files and turning them into neatly set pages of beautiful type very quickly.
  • This approach might be ideal for you if your project is a novel, with little or no illustrations.
  • Like a graphic designer, your typesetter should also be able to asses your output needs and requirements – printers settings/e-book settings.
  • You may also need someone to project-manage for you. An experienced typesetter can liaise with printers, editors and illustrators.


An illustrator’s job is to take your words and add value by giving them a ‘physical’ presence.

  • If your project is a picture book – you are definitely going to need an illustrator!
  • However, if your project is an information book, illustrations may help to break down some of the more difficult-to-explain content. Illustrations will also break up areas where there is too much text. A designer will do this as well – but not necessarily with artwork.
  • An illustrator can give your book a very curated aesthetic, which will enhance your books visual identity.
  • If you are intending on setting the type yourself, an illustrator may be what you need. You can then insert the illustrations into your book and do the final out-putting yourself. Many self-publishing companies have their own online book-editors to enable you to do this. Word also allows you to do this.
  • Your illustrator should also be able to asses your project needs. If your book is intended for colour or black and white? Line art or full-colour? These things should affect the type of artwork your illustrator supplies you with.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the services and skills that graphic designers, typesetters and illustrators offer – many of us do a mixture of all of these things! My key advice is to look at portfolios, be clear about what you need. Of course budget and timing is always a key factor. If you have any questions, please ask away in the comments, or get in touch via the Contacts page. I am more than happy to help.

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