Daniel Benneworth-Gray designs book covers and posters. He also publishes, Meanwhile, a newsletter about his craft that you should probably subscribe to.
Tell me about you, Daniel. Where are you? Where did you grow up?
I’m a designer based in York, UK. I grew up in Kent, but moved north twenty-something years ago, so I’m now an honorary Yorkshireman with a wonky accent.
How did Meanwhile come about?
I’ve always loved sharing the stuff I discover through my work, reporting back from the online rabbit holes that I fall down. I used to do this on a blog, but over the years this gradually mutated into a newsletter. The format and platform has changed over the years – it’s a constant work in progress – but the gist of it has remained the same: here’s some stuff I like, you might like it too.
What else are you working on?
Book covers, film posters, some articles for Creative Review, driving lessons. I keep myself busy.
How many subscribers do you have, right now? What have you done to grow the audience? What worked? what didn’t?
I have around 5000 right now, but this fluctuates al the time. I wish I knew the magic formula for growing the audience! I link to it from my twitter and this brings a few people in, but growth has mostly come about thanks to mentions from bigger newsletters and blogs. I might get one or two new subscribers one week, and then suddenly five hundred will appear out of nowhere, and I spend the day trying to figure out where they’ve come from, eventually tracing it back to one little hyperlink.
What’s your big goal for Meanwhile? How does it fit in with your other projects?
I have no big goal for it, it’s basically just a way to channel my procrastinating into something useful! Sometimes I’ll use it to share my own portfolio, which can be useful, but mostly it’s about showcasing the work of others.
I’m obsessed with other peoples’ processes – how does your newsletter come together? What’s your workflow? What tools do you use? Who else is involved?
A routine workflow would be so useful, I really should look into that … Basically I’ll come across some artist or collection, be obsessed with it for a few days, and then pour that obsession into an issue. Ideally this would happen at the same time ever week, but it rarely works out that way. Sometimes I’ll have a load of issues all lined up, sometimes nothing.
As for tools, I’ve tarted my way around various newsletter platforms over the years – TinyLetter, Mailchimp, Squarespace, Substack – but right now I’m really enjoying Revue. By far its strongest feature is the complete lack of features. I’m far too easily distracted by design tools – and frustrated by their limitations – so I can end up spending more time fiddling with the newsletter’s header than actually putting content together. Long-time subscribers will know I’m incapable of sticking with one design for more than a couple of months, so the fact Revue has nothing tweakable is an absolute godsend.
What’s your business model for Meanwhile?
No real model as such, but I have just started offering paid membership for those loyal few who wish to support Meanwhile, and I’ll be putting out special content for them soon.
What’s something about your world of book covers that only insiders know? is there anything that still blows your mind about what you do?
I don’t think it’s a big secret or anything, but book designers are lovely! It’s a relatively small community, and although we’re all technically in competition with each other, everyone is supportive and kind and generous with advice. Every now and then there’ll be a social event – such as the annual ABCD awards – where it’s a room of nothing but cover designers, and it’s an absolute blast. It’s a peculiar vocation for this generation of designers, as printed books were meant to be dead and buried by now, but for some reason the universe has allowed us to carry on, and we’re loving it.
What’s the last thing you changed your mind about?
What big idea would you love to work on if you had unlimited time and money?
I’m not sure of the specifics, but it would involve travel. Lots and lots of travel. If I could carry on doing what I’m doing, but while pretending to be Michael Palin and/or Willy Fog, that’d be just swell.