Interview with Jacintha Yap (Designer of Phedra)

Meeting new people can be icky. Formalities, awkward gestures, maintaining a good impression ... Yet meeting Jacintha Yap was like meeting an old friend—we were having intimate conversations about work, life, and aspirations by the end of the night. Only 23 this year, but Jacintha's experiences and thoughts speak more than her age suggests. Currently a project manager by day and designer by night, we probe her to tell us more about her world of design and on her work for Phedra.

What does “good design” mean to you?

Good design, just like good looks, is probably subjective. For me, I am drawn to conceptual underpinnings. So, I would find myself more likely to acknowledge conceptually driven design as “good”.

What are your sources of inspiration?

I guess inspiration can come from many different places at many different times but the one constant place where I'd sought my inspiration from time and time again is the people in my life (you know who you are).

Tell us what goes through your mind as you work.

I work with a ticking clock in my head, a kind of blessing and a curse. It’s like a perpetual sense of urgency – my head is always buzzing.

Are there design principles you follow?

A large part of design work is conversational to me. It is an ongoing conversation.

On book design: What makes it different from designing for other objects?

Designing a book feels quite special to me as it comes from a personal place. I grew up with books and they hold a lot of sentimental value to me.

Describe your encounter with Euginia’s poetry.

Euginia's poems are precise and bear an unwavering quality. There’s a certain sharpness to it – like a needle.

In designing the cover for Phedra, what is the experience you wish for readers?

I didn’t want the design and content to be battling for attention. Euginia’s poems have to take precedence. As such, it was important to consider what to disclose and what to reveal. Subtlety was key.

With Phedra, I introduced the embossed title text on the cover in order to bring about a kind of tactility that I hope was not too overt, but rather gentle.

What was distinctive about this cover design?

The paper stock that was used for the cover came from discontinued series. We used the remaining stock that was left, so Phedra’s cover paper is truly one of a kind.

With Phedra, I was very specific about the shade of grey I wanted proposing, so it was quite a process to pick the “right” shade of grey. Now, I get why there’s “fifty shades of grey”.

Last thoughts on Phedra?

I think the best time to read Phedra is before you go to sleep (preferably at night), so that it lingers.


Phedra is available for purchase on our webstore (free shipping!), Kinokuniya and Booktique.