Holly Ovenden was exhausted.
Having graduated college with a degree in physical therapy, she’d spent four years working on the admin side of medical practices. The hours were long and dull. The work was stressful and unfulfilling. Moreover, nothing about it was creative in any sense—so Ovenden’s natural inclinations toward painting and drawing were relegated to evenings and weekends.
Growing up in East Sussex in the U.K., Ovenden was a creative kid, but when university rolled around, a science-based major seemed like the safer bet. So she went for it. And after graduation, the years went by.
Until one day she randomly came across an ad.
“It was for a design course that was really intensive and full-time,” she says. “And I thought, this is my only way out.”
She quit her job. She sold her car to pay for the course.
“It was just one of those massive risks where you either sink or swim,” she says. “The minute I went on the course, I kind of settled in and it was waking up to the realization that I should have just done this from day one. I absolutely loved everything about it. To realize that design is all around you … it was like an awakening.”
After graduating from the course, she came across a posting for a book cover design job at Bloomsbury by chance, which triggered her next awakening: That book cover design was, in fact, a job. She designed her first cover during the interview process, and got the gig. Ovenden eventually wound up at Penguin before going solo in 2020—and today remains as enraptured as she originally was by the art of the form.
“There’s so much that you can do with just one rectangle,” she says. “I feel like there is a pure creative freedom that you can get with book covers—and really connecting to an author via their text.”
Here, the designer riffs on five covers from her body of work.