VCD alum elevates audiobook experience on Spotify with stunning cover artistry

Crafting stunning visual designs to draw in and set the scene for listeners, VCD alum Ariel VanNatter ‘15 is the face behind a number of audiobook cover designs for Spotify.

VanNatter freelances for a range of clients but was approached by Spotify to design cover art for historical romance books and one of her favorite authors, Jane Austen. After her first design, Spotify was impressed and wanted her to create more.

“Jane Austen is my favorite author and that was the first one I got to do because of my passion behind it,” VanNatter said. 

Collection of covers of Jane Austen audiobooks

Each audiobook cover design is different but follows a streamlined process. During the lengthy research stage, VanNatter listens to each audiobook to get a sense of the story and watches a movie adaptation if it is accurate to the book.

“I watch the movie adaptation to also look at the fashion that was made,” VanNatter said.

After the research process, VanNatter works to provide at least two sketches for the client and whichever one they approve will get chosen. Shortly after, the invoice comes.

“It’s nice to freelance because I have more freedom to negotiate prices,” VanNatter said. “I don’t have a contract with them, so I have more wiggle room to do what I believe is best.”

In addition to freelancing, VanNatter is a product designer and hand lettering artist for American Greetings, working with buyers and product managers to design stickers, greeting cards and stationery.

Working in both corporate and freelance environments, VanNatter has understood the importance of listening and collaborating with individuals.

“My strategy is to listen to everyone’s words and then I start to fill in my suggestions,” VanNatter said. “That’s visual communication, I have to listen to their communication of what they want and achieve the visual.”

Ariel VanNatter standing in front of a mural that reads "Your eyes play tricks on you" against a black background

Collaboration also helps designers understand how to mesh with different personalities in the workplace, VanNatter added.

“You have to fold to other people’s personalities, and you don’t want to burn bridges,” VanNatter said. “You’ll realize that some people are flexible with deadlines, and some are not, so you will have to surrender to that.”

During this process, it is important that designers listen to fulfill clients' and managers' visions, while also staying true to their design work and keeping up with trends, VanNatter mentioned.

“You’re moving at such a fast pace and trying to keep up with trends, which just keep moving faster and faster,” VanNatter said.

As a result, VanNatter says that it is difficult to find inspiration as a professional in a fast-paced environment. Despite this, she remains driven in all aspects of her work.

“My motivation is staying on deadlines because I am a perfectionist and don’t like to be late,” VanNatter said. “Anyone starting out may feel overwhelmed, but that’s normal and it will slow down.”

With countless trends in design, VanNatter consistently stays updated on social media platforms such as Instagram. More specifically, she pays attention to fashion and interior design trends that reflect what she wants in her work.

“It’s natural for most people in the creative world to memorize various trends,” VanNatter said. “I like to look out for fabric or color trends.”

When she first entered the real world, VanNatter often dwelled on criticism from others regarding her work. Learning from her mistake, she encourages students interested in the creative field to accept and learn from criticism.

“Changes are always going to happen,” VanNatter said. “Realize that’s normal, it doesn’t make you any less of a person and accept that change.” 

POSTED: Tuesday, June 4, 2024 04:25 PM
Updated: Tuesday, June 4, 2024 04:54 PM