SINGAPORE, June 22 – If the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words is true, then a book’s cover is surely a visual introduction of what lies within. It’s certainly the first thing most readers see.
This is something designers Sarah Tang and Alison Schooling understand very well. Collectively known as Sarah and Schooling, the girls first met while studying at La Salle College of the Arts in Singapore. In 2013, they started their own firm and soon became known for their striking cover designs for titles published by Singaporean publisher Math Paper Press.
Besides book cover designs, Sarah and Schooling has built a portfolio of work that includes websites, logos, posters, corporate identity and print ads. These passionate designers share what keeps them inspired at their new office.
Alison: My favourite part of our workspace is probably the window my desk faces.
Sarah: She stole that spot from me!
Alison: I “booked” it first.
Sarah: She suggested that I sit by the other window but I wasn’t going to be sitting two feet away since we are working together, so I took the table next to her.
Alison: I think when you stare at the screen all day, all you need is a window to stare out of and give your eyes some rest. We love windows. In houses, it’s the most important thing. The natural light that comes in through these old-style shutters – you don’t get that everywhere these days.
Brand and logo
Sarah: For our company, we went through a lot of different names before we finally decided on Sarah and Schooling. It was supposed to be branded after a law firm, hence the “surname and surname” format. When we tried designing logos though, we realised that my surname has four letters and Alison’s had nine so it was impossible to balance the name. So we decided to go with my first name and her last name, and also drop letters to make it balanced.
Alison: I had to sacrifice more letters; she just dropped the As. Basically, we didn’t want to hide behind an anonymous company name; we wanted to be upfront. The firm is the two of us and this is who we are.
Sarah: I’d never be able to do this without her!
Alison: Of course, some clients would telephone and call me “Sarah Schooling”! But so long as they remember the name...
Alison: At first, I was supposed to be the one watering all the plants in the office because we were the first company to move in. I think it didn’t work very well – I love plants but I don’t know how to take care of them. I didn’t mean to but most of the plants died. It happens. The plant I have now doesn’t need to be watered much or looked after, which is perfect for me! It’s a simple plant. It just sits by the window and doesn’t make any noise.
Alison: When we first moved in, we thought that our landlords wouldn’t allow us to drill the walls because if we move out there will be holes in the wall. To our surprise, they said “Go ahead!”
Sarah: We were very happy to finally be able to put up these invisible bookshelves because the books look like they are just hanging in thin air. They are our pride and joy because they reflect our main design work, i.e. “We do books.”
Cover of Making Love with Scrabble Tiles by Joshua Ip
Alison: When we first started working with Math Paper Press, Kenny Leck gave us this book by Joshua Ip about his ex-girlfriend and how she had cheated on him. It was a very emotional book. Kenny wanted a cover that was quite sexy. To cut costs, I was the photographer and Sarah was the model.
Sarah: The book was then put on hold as the author wasn’t happy with his manuscript and wanted to revise it. We were discussing via email about how the book cover looked and at one point Joshua wrote, “I don’t like that model. She’s too skinny. I can see her bones protruding out.”
Alison: Kenny replied, “You do realise I don’t have the budget to pay for naked models so the model is actually one of the designers?” Then Joshua went, “Oh no, I like it!”
Sarah: Joshua certainly caught my attention! But his work was good. I told him it was no big deal. Later he worked at our previous office to revise his manuscript so he finally met me in person.
Alison: Every night when I went home, these two would stay back and mingle, and then...
Sarah: Then we got together!
Alison: Now Joshua wanted her image to be the cover but she didn’t want to anymore! She changed her mind!
Sarah: Yes, now that I’m dating the author, I don’t want to be on the cover of a book about his ex!
Alison: How ironic, right?
Pantone Colour Fabric Swatch
Sarah: This is something I got when I was studying in the UK. I was in this large school with a large press that could print colour on fabric. We weren’t actually allowed to take anything from there – it was only an excursion – but I couldn’t help myself and I stole the swatch!
Alison: I knew it!
Sarah: Till today it reminds me that even though it can be tough, I have fought and studied very hard for this passion of mine. I have managed to get a degree, got trained in this field, and this is really what I want to do. That’s why I put it in the office as a constant reminder I have to keep paying my dues.
Sarah and Schooling
110 Mackenzie Road, Level 2, Singapore