Allison Colpoys, Designer & Illustrator

It is no surprise that designer, illustrator and magic maker Allison Colpoys was a delight to interview. Her beautiful work graces the covers of some of our favourite fiction and non-fiction, not to mention the pages of The Underwater Fancy Dress Parade. She is as kind as she is talented, and chats to us here about breaking into book design and some exciting upcoming collaborations.

What do you do?

I’m a designer and illustrator (mostly working in the publishing industry). I’m a co-creator, with my friend Kasia Gadecki, of a small stationery label The Souvenir Society. And I do various freelance projects, lots of which involve typography.

Do you have a maxim that you live and work by?

I don’t think I’ve ever stopped to properly think about this till now, so thank you Make Nice for making me take 5! I think my ‘work' philosophy is probably to do my best possible to honour the work of my co-creator, whether that's the partner of my stationery company or the author of a book. And I think my ‘life' maxim is just to be kind. When I was little I reckon I wished upon a thousands stars that when I grew up I might be kind. So basically I am trying to live up to 5 year old me’s massive life goals!

What are the three milestones that have led you to where you stand?

I think that getting a break as a book designer at Simon and Schuster in London, when my background was in animation, was probably my first big break. And then being hired by Deb Brash, the Art Director at Penguin Books Australia, was the beginning of an incredible journey of learning and being mentored. And finally, I think going out on my own as a freelancer, which enabled me to diversify – to start illustrating picture books, commit to my business and work on a diverse and inspiring range of projects alongside many different types of creatives.

What is your dream project?

I think my dream project has already happened! Working on my first picture book The Underwater Fancy-dress Parade with my beautiful friend and author, Davina Bell. Being able to illustrate underwater creatures and landscapes while also creating a meaningful book for children about coping with shyness and anxiety was a dream come true.

What projects do you have in the pipeline?

The Souvenir Society have some very exciting collaborations coming up – we’re feeling very lucky to be able to work with people we really admire. Also illustrating my second book with Davina Bell. It will be out early next year and once again Davina has written a beautiful, sensitive and encouraging story for young readers.

What is the best advice you’ve been given, or wish you had been told sooner?

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. I am still working on this! *eye roll*


If you could choose to hear any female contemporary present at Make Nice, who would it be and why?

Well I would absolutely love to hear someone that you already have lined up for your excellent un-conference – Suzy Tuxen from A Friend of Mine studio. She is an incredible designer and I imagine hearing her talk would be very inspiring! And I would also love to hear two of my favourite children’s book illustrators talk about their practice: Isabelle Arsenault and Miroco Machiko. Their work is magic.

Do you have a supportive female network in your field? Was it always this way?

YES and yes! Publishing is full of smart, thoughtful, imaginative, supportive women, and always has been. I feel very lucky to be surrounded by this protective, inspiring network, and to have had the benefit of strong female mentors, too.  

What are you listening to, reading, watching of late, that is inspiring or entertaining you?

I’m constantly listening to music which would make for a pretty big list, so I’m just going to name the album I am listening to right now to keep the word count down: Are You Alone? by Majical Cloudz. And other than reading manuscripts for work, I’m finally getting with the program and reading Elena Ferrante’s The Neapolitan novels. It’s early days, but I’m loving them so far.

How can we find our more about your work?

Through creative agency Jacky Winter.