indieBRAG Interview with Cathy Helms-Graphic Designer

Cathy being herself!

Cathy being herself!

indiebrag welcomes Cathy Helms! Cathy lives with her husband of twenty-three years in Troutman, North Carolina. She earned her degree in Advertising and Graphic Design in 2008 and founded Avalon Graphics in 2009. Years before she attended college and gained a formal education in the medium, Cathy taught herself how to create graphics for the web and print media using Adobe Photoshop. Her formal education in 2008 gave Cathy the technical skills required in order to apply her creative talent in book cover design, marketing materials, and book trailer production. Cathy is a member of the Historical Novel Society as she is an avid reader and fan of history. If money were no object, Cathy would travel the world.

What is your Graphic Design Company called?

Avalon Graphics LLC – which was inspired by my love for the Arthurian Legends as told in books, film and TV. I’ve always been fascinated by Arthur – who he might have really been historically (if he ever even existed), but I will always devour any books about Camelot and the fairytale legends. Great escapism!

How did you get in Graphic Design?

I have always been a creative thinker and visual person. I kept journals and sketched often as a young girl. But I never dreamed of making it my profession until much later in life. I spent decades working in customer service jobs (dying a slow death of boredom) until I discovered a magical and powerful software program called Photoshop back in 2004 while working for Duke Energy. I had spent hours searching the internet for a good desktop wallpaper of Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings and found none to satisfy me. So I set out trying to figure out how they were created – and my life changed forever once I had installed Photoshop on my computer. A few years later I quit the corporate job, went to college, and earned a degree in Advertising and Graphic Design. After graduation, I was unsure of what direction to go in, as the field of Graphic Design is so wide. And as fate would have it, I had just finished reading Helen Hollick’s Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy – and for the first time in my life, I wrote the author (I was that impressed by her storytelling!). We struck up a lovely conversation only to learn that she was just about to re-publish her entire catalog in the UK – Helen asked what I did for a living, I explained my new credentials as a Graphic Designer and she offered me the chance to send a mock up for her Sea Witch novel – she loved my design and the rest is history! I owe my book cover career to Helen!!

SeaWitch-3DWill you please share the first book cover you designed?

It was ‘Sea Witch’ by Helen Hollick

Where do you find inspiration for your creations?

My fellow artists, designer communities, Pinterest, Photoshop magazines, movie title work, movie posters…the list is endless as design is all around us. I also dabble in photography.

How do you keep your work area organized?

I have a file for each client, I have a calendar on my desk (along with a notebook) where I keep lists…I would be lost without my lists! I order my client folders based on due dates, progress and next available. And I keep clutter off my desk when at all possible, with the exception of my Star Wars BB8 and Rey action figures guarding my collection of crowns. *laughs*

What are your goals as a graphic designer?

Good customer service, professionalism when dealing with my clients and potential clients (even when I’d like to scream in frustration), and providing a polished and professional design that I can be proud to display myself.

The earths End BookCoverDesign-5

Is there a particular designer that has been influential in your work?

I couldn’t possibly name a single designer as so many influence me daily even without me knowing their names. Culture and history influence me.

What lessons have you learned along the way honing in on your craft?

Always expect the client to select my least favorite design in the conceptual stage. *laughs* Always plan for a paperback layout (print resolution) even if the client hires me only to design an eBook cover (web resolution). Organize my files as I go and never assume anything. Design is imagination and design is objective – I must always think outside the box. Most important of all: my formal education in layout, typography and proper file formatting for print has been invaluable to me in this business. And network! Word of mouth is gold.

What book cover that you have designed that stands out to you the most?

My-Favorite-DesignsThis is a tough one – impossible to choose only one. The Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy that I did for Helen Hollick back in 2011 are sentimental favorites. The Bitti Chai by Jane Grey is still a favorite design. And I have been quite proud of the crime covers I’ve been designing for both Bill Kirton and Wendy H. Jones. I also love Flight of the Black Swan that I designed for J.M. Erickson a few years ago too. I also won a design award for Cache A Predator by M. Weidenbenner back in 2014, so that one is special too.

What covers have you designed that are B.R.A.G. Medallion Honorees?

18 that I am aware of –  Sea Witch, Bring It Close, Pirate Code, and Ripples In The Sand (all Helen Hollick), Claire (Carol Edgerley), The Assassin’s Mark, The Jacobite’s Apprentice and The Kraals of Ulundi (all by David Ebsworth), Red Fury Revolt and Vows of Revenge (by J.F. Ridgley), The Bitti Chai and The Lost Souls (by Jane Grey), God Johnson (Linda S. Godfrey), Sometimes It Happens (Pauline Barclay), The Covenant Within (R.A.R. Clouston), The Amber Treasure and The Last Seal (Richard Denning), A Fatal Verdict (Tim Vicary).

Sometimes it happens

What are the tips, tricks and tools that help keep your designing career moving?

I keep trying new things in Photoshop – I work through tutorials to learn new things as often as possible. I play around with images from my favorite movie and tv shows for inspiration – you can find these musings on my personal website . I take breaks to recharge my batteries and I read a lot of books – imagination is key to design.

Where can authors find you?

Main Website
On Facebook: AvalonGraphics
On Twitter: Avalon_Graphics

On Pinterest (I have book cover and marketing materials portfolio collections)

Book Trailers on YouTube

                                                        Official Blog (embarrassingly enough rarely updated)



15 responses to “indieBRAG Interview with Cathy Helms-Graphic Designer”

  1. Cathy Helms says:

    Thank you so much for having me at indieBRAG! And what a wonderful new interview series with designers! I look forward to reading more. I have been proud and honored to work with the indieBRAG team over the years; what a great group of talented and generous folks!

  2. Stephanie Hopkins says:

    HI, Cathy! Thank you so much for participating in this series! What you had to say about your designing is so fascinating! I enjoyed reading tour post very much. And I must say, your cover Earths’ End is eye catching!

  3. Peter Johnstone says:

    Cathy is currently working on the cover of my third book. For the first one, I didn’t tell her what I was after but, after asking questions about the covers I liked, came up with something so close to what I had in mind.

    Every time I commission Avalon, I check emails every day hoping to see the mock ups come through. It’s so exciting and the results are brilliant

  4. Stephanie Hopkins says:

    That is fantastic, Peter! That is great Cathy has caught in image of what you had in mind. Takes a good artist to do that.

  5. Cathy Helms says:

    Thank you, Pete!! You are a gem to work with and it has been such fun developing your cover designs! Keep watching your inbox as I should be sending more to you soon!!

    And thank you very much, Stephanie ♥ you are one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met!! I hope we have more opportunities in future to get together in person and just chat.

  6. Stephanie Hopkins says:

    Awe, Thanks, Cathy! So are you and I love your enthusiasm! Yes, we must get together in person soon!

  7. Helen Hollick says:

    I can’t say how thrilled I am to have ‘found’ Cathy (well, technically, she found me!) Not only are Cathy’s designs superb, she is a lovely lady, and a very good friend!
    I very highly recommend her!

  8. Maggie Craig says:

    Great to read this interview with the wonderful and talented Cathy Helms, who has designed quite a few book covers for me. I’m beginning to lose count! She is so easy to work with and such a lovely person as well as being a great graphic designer.

  9. Cathy Helms says:

    Bless you both, Helen and Maggie. I have really enjoyed getting to know you both and working with you over these years. Helen, yes you get full credit for my discovery as a book cover designer! Of course we met due to your Pendragon’s Banner trilogy which I treasure ♥

  10. Richard Dee says:

    Cathy is Brilliant! She understood what I wanted straight away and produced a superb cover. She was quick to reply to my emails and attentive to my suggestions. There is no question that I will be using her services again very soon.

  11. Cathy Helms says:

    Thank you, Richard! It was such fun collaborating with you too – I am looking forward to the next cover design!!

  12. judith ridgley says:

    Everyone who sees my books wherever compliment me on the covers. Cathy you are amazing.

  13. Cathy Helms says:

    Thank you, Judy. We always have such fun!

  14. Char Newcomb says:

    Cathy – you didn’t tell me you were a Star Wars fan! We must talk!

    It was great working with you on my new promotional materials. I’ve just ordered them and cannot wait to actually hold them, and of course share them with lots of people!

  15. Cathy Helms says:

    It all started in a galaxy far…far…away… *laughs* Yes, I love Star Wars! Happy to gab with you about that universe any time, Charlene!!

    Let me know how the promo materials print – it was a lot of fun designing those for you!!

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