Remember that junior high art class, when you cut pictures from magazines to glue together in a collage? The cutting, the pasting, and the result. Maybe it worked. Probably it didn’t. That’s because there’s (obviously) an art to collage. And London-based illustrator Haley Warnham does it well. “As a perfectionist, I enjoy how collage allows for various composition arrangements and possibilities without having to commit straight away,” she explains.

Her illustrations are playful, minimalist. Simplicity is a key element. This goes for her color choices, too. While she’s always been enamored with the contrast of color against stark, black-and-white images, these days she finds herself toning down her palette more and more. Warnham’s approach appeals to editorial and book publishers alike. Her work for Penguin is especially striking, and demonstrates her range: from layers of saturated color for G.I. Gurdjieff’s Meetings with Remarkable Men to Stanislaw Lem’s The Cyberiad, with its dark, industrial composition that makes me think of Man Ray and his “rayographs.”

Have you always been drawn to collage?
During the final year of my bachelor’s degree I discovered my interest in collage and found satisfaction in its playful process. Trying to convey as much information through minimal components is part of the fun. I much prefer getting stuck into traditional collage techniques, yet a lot of the briefs that I take on tend to have tight deadlines, so I often work digitally. Collage tends to lend itself quite well to these tight deadlines. It’s quite a fast process, yet the search for the right image can often take a while.

What’s your process when working on book covers?
I had the fortune of producing covers for Penguin whilst working as an intern there. I wasn’t in contact with authors, mainly since I worked on older classics; rather, I was approached with a brief and then given the freedom to research and explore potential ideas. Pinterest is a great tool for me to research and collect initial inspiration, and is often my starting point before getting anything down on paper or screen.

Do you read the books?
To be able to design a great book cover, it’s essential to get a sense of what a book is all about. I’d love to read every book, but of course, time constraints may make that difficult. It’s really important to research well and read as much as you can to truly reflect the content on the outside.

Tell me about the Cut It Up Project.
It was a collaborative project between information experience designer Laura Gottlieb and myself for the Eye Candy Festival in Birmingham. Inspired by the playful Cut-Outs of Matisse, we wanted to combine our practices through a workshop where participants were invited to cut and paste their own collages through a limited color palette. The main focus was to create a playful environment that would encourage creativity for all ages. Collage is so playful and accessible, it’s a great tool to bring people together to create.

What are you working on now?
Next month I’l be creating a giant window mural as part of the Hoxton Window Project, and I’m also looking to add some motion into my illustrations.

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be doing?
Probably thinking about becoming an illustrator.