Micaela Alcaino on the complexity of e-book cowl design

Market researcher, avid reader, trend analyst, social media strategist – the modern book designer wears many hats, says multi-award-winning Micaela Alcaino, who’s capitalising on a renewed interest in beautiful covers. And she always reads the manuscript

“You know some people have that weird thing of going into someone’s house and looking inside their fridge, because it’s a gauge of who that person is?” says illustrator and book cover designer Micaela Alcaino. “I’m the person that spends 20 minutes on someone’s bookshelf.”

Some of Alcaino’s own covers might be on those shelves, with the designer building up an online fan following for her work, which often features intricate illustration, flashes of gold foil, and type interwoven into imagery. When we spoke she’d just finished working on a new Italian edition of George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones series – carrying some of the aforementioned hallmarks of Alcaino’s style – which is just the latest in a long line of fantasy covers created by the designer.

Born in Australia, Alcaino – recently awarded Designer of the Year at the British Book Awards – has been in London for the last decade and immersed in the publishing industry since the start of her career. She remembers arriving in the capital from Sydney with just three months’ living expenses, and a fierce determination to land her first design job. Having always been a bit of a bookworm, it made sense to take on a junior design role at Transworld – a subdivision of Penguin Random House. “I grew up reading books,” she says. “My parents wouldn’t let us watch TV or be on the computer … so the only form of entertainment we had was to read.”

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