The Insider : Carole Edwards, Managing Art Editor, Oxford University Press

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We caught up with Carole Edwards, the Managing Art Editor at Oxford University Press, to discuss her diverse and lengthy career in global educational publishing.

I have worked in educational publishing, specifically English Language Teaching (ELT) for the past 19 years, commissioning illustration and photography for Primary books in this sector. One of the most interesting things about the role is the diverse range of markets we cover which means that there are a lot of different countries to understand and learn about from a cultural and illustrative point of view.  There are always new and emerging markets to learn which is both exciting and motivating.

When we are beginning to develop a new product we will work with representatives out in the field to establish preferences for illustration styles, gain an understanding of cultural sensitivities and the visual culture of the market.  This can involve sending out illustration examples and a survey or going out to the country to work with field editors, sales teams, teachers and children to gather feedback and opinions. Concurrently the whole team will be gaining an understanding of the markets pedagogical needs and which  sector are we to publish into.  We will share ideas and work with the authors, editors and designers to help shape the concept.  Typically we will prototype a product and test it out in the market using sample content, designs and artwork before approving to go into production.

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One example of OUP & Bright project collaboration – The Little Mermaid illustrated by Iva Sasheva

In the Primary sector we often work with a few main illustrators to gain consistency and cohesion in a product but it isn’t always this way. Most certainly though in ELT books, particularly Primary ones, there is a huge opportunity for illustration and usually bright, colourful and clear illustration.  ELT products have to illustrate to the children what an object, place or room is when they will not be familiar with the word or phrase and are learning English.  To this end, briefs will be tight and specific and there is less opportunity to veer from the brief.  However, there is still a lot of room for creativity in terms of composition and fulfilling these sometimes challenging briefs.

Above all in my role I like working with illustrators, they tend to be wonderful, inspiring people. Working with image is a huge privilege and very motivating.  I have a great deal of autonomy in my role.  This and the opportunity for creativity and to work with a huge variety of markets keeps the role fresh.  It is also fantastic when we are given the opportunity to see the products we have worked on being used in the market by children; this is thrilling and hugely rewarding.

 Thank you so much to Carole for her words of wisdom and insight into a demanding yet fruitful occupation in educational publishing!