A visit from DK

This year we once again welcomed designers from Dorling Kindersley (DK) to the Department to hear about working for the UK’s leading publisher.

Karen Self (Art Director), Michael Duffy (Managing Art Editor) and Kit Lane (Designer and alumni of the Department) joined us for a day of workshopping, portfolio reviewing, mock interviewing and advertising the internships they offer to students and graduates.

The DK approach

The team started the day with an insight into the publishing industry, learning about the different departments within DK, and an explanation of how than their approach is a little different from other publishers. At DK, every designer is paired with an editor, designing books collaboratively, spread by spread, with visual flat plans to give an overall view of the consistency throughout. Their process takes time, but also yields rewards. It’s geared towards a high quality output that is visually striking but also disciplined enough to be translated into dozens of languages without disruption to the layout. Designers get a lot of freedom and are encouraged to bring their own skills and interests to the work. Many students were surprised to learn that much of the illustration and photography in DK’s books is done in house, and that they’ve even commissioned whole books based on ideas put forward (and then excepted by) members of the design team.

Every DK book is of incredibly high quality, with huge attention to detail throughout

As an international company, the importance of generating the right content for the right consumer is key. It was enlightening to hear about some of the issues and considerations required to generate content for such a diverse market, such as ensuring that content is inclusive and kept up to date.

It’s a great opportunity for students of the department when we receive visits from external speakers, especially when they show such an interest in us. Karen, Michael and Kit were open to answering a wide range of questions about topics such as format, process and file setup, giving an insight into the working environment at DK and their industry expertise.

The afternoon workshop

Having set a brief to come up with a new book/series concept surrounding the theme of climate change, the afternoon workshop involved following the DK process to further develop ideas, an interesting but challenging task.

Beginning by taking into account the target audience and purpose of their book to decide on the most appropriate format and materials for their books, students then created mood boards and thumbnail sketches (‘scamps’) to present to the group.

Thinking in depth about the reader of the book is something that we should all be doing constantly as designers, and this was emphasised as being really important by the DK designers. Whether in print or digital, hopefully we can all begin to start thinking more about the ultimate user of the product to achieve appropriate and engaging designs.

“Presenting my design proposal to a professional was something new to me, so it was good that I was exposed to it this early in the course” – Lamar A.Kaki, part 1

Students saw lots of examples of published DK books to help with inspiration!

Portfolio reviews and mock interviews

Karen Self was kind enough to conduct portfolio reviews and mock interviews for a select number of our students. The chance to receive feedback from such an accomplished industry professional is an incredible opportunity for us, and will no doubt strengthen our portfolios, presentation and interview skills. Many of our part one students made the most of this and were proactive in attending the session at such an early stage in the course!


Many students from the department go on to work at DK after graduating, or as an intern. This year alone, three of our graduates begun full time work there, and two current students completed summer internships. The designers from DK expressed how they felt the course content at Reading was great for preparing students to jump straight into work in the industry, with strong skills and knowledge of software and design.

There is a selection of internships offered by DK. These include three months from September to December (great for graduates!), temporary contracts throughout the year and two to three months over summer.

Having completed a three month internship at DK myself over the summer between my second and third year, I could not urge students to consider it more! Working for such a highly respected company is great experience and I learned so many new skills which I can apply to my own design.

Overall the session was eye-opening for students, giving us an idea of the design process behind every book published by DK. A massive thank you to the designers from DK for coming to visit! I’m sure we will all be able to apply our new knowledge to our own projects!