"The full package of telling a good story"

Published on September 19, 2018 by Kim Dovey

It’s not every week one of your studio’s book designs gets read by a Scottish Granny and hits the top of the best sellers list in the US and UK


For a short period it knocked Donald Trump off the number one spot, but for the last few days it’s been sitting firmly at number two. YES that is on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble overall Best Sellers List, not just the children’s book list. Absolutely stunning and pinch-yourself stuff!

Fellow Te Tai Tamariki board member Gavin Bishop had seen Craig playing at Riccarton Market in Christchurch, and said we really needed this guy to add a bit of atmosphere. Did we what! So Scholastic heard the Wonky song for the first time, and voila, history was born.


We loved Katz Cowley’s watercolour illustrations right from first sight, and we spent hours trying to reproduce the texture of the paper she had drawn on. This delicate but very important subtlety didn’t come through in the high-resolution drum scanning process, and we felt the flat clean background we were left with just wasn’t quite right. So we spent hours clear-cutting, blending and recreating it using the tools available in the day. We all felt the result was worthwhile and a really important part of capturing who Wonky really is. As I’m sure you’ll all agree, he ain’t a clean-and-shiny-background type of guy!

Details like this show the power of bringing a package together to tell a good story.
— Kim Dovey

A book manuscript on A4 paper is just a page of words without the illustrations. The illustrations mean nothing too, unless they’re placed well, for example, not letting them fall into the gutter (that space in the middle of a bound book), which Wonky was at risk of in the early days. The book should also meet the needs of the market with the correct size, shape and emphasis – all things that the publishers play a really important role in deciding.

When all of these things come together, you see the power of storytelling at its very best. Leave one of these out, and you have a lesser experience.

Why we enjoy helping to tell stories

What’s most exciting to us is seeing the impact we’ve had on the power of telling a story. You know, a story. Words on a page. Pretty pictures. A printed book. An ebook. A recording. A game, anything that connects with another person.

That’s what we do, we make connections.

Sure, you could just have a song about a spunky winky wonky donkey, but isn’t it cooler seeing him in full-colour illustrations too?

That’s what a good instructional and visual designer does. We take words and images, and depending on the purpose of the content, we add our instructional and graphic design skills to make that connection. Whether it’s a children’s picture book or a learning module for epoxy resin, we want the reader/user to enjoy and be engaged with the content.

To gain your attention, you need to be involved. For that to happen, all the elements of the story need to come together. A great manuscript and some clever illustrations are powerful tools on their own, but put them all together in the right way, and magic happens!

That’s the essence of what the team and I love to do, and successes like Wonky Donkey inspire us to keep pushing and doing what we do best!

Kim Dovey - Creating culture through learning and books

In the MediaKatz Cowley