Niki in her studio near Jindabyne, Australia © Niki Fisher

Illustrator Niki Fisher is no stranger to illustrating Lonely Planet titles – The Cruise Handbook is the 5th one she’s illustrated. We caught up with her to find out how she designed the vibrant cover page and how this ties in with previous illustrations for the same series.

Tell us about the brief

The brief was to create a cover that depicted the range of activities available on cruises as well as the broad age groups that cruises attract these days. I was given suggestions from the Art Director, but apart from that, the brief was quite open.

How did you make a start?

I started by doing a bit of research online, finding out about the huge variety of activities on offer on cruise lines – it was actually quite an eyeopener. I would never have imagined that there are entire water parks, tennis courts and rock climbing walls on a lot of these huge ships! Once I had collated a range of activities and popular cruise destinations I started doing some rough pencil sketches of individual scenes. Once I had several sketches done I started to place them on the page next to each other and work out a composition.

Were there any challenges?

It’s a bit of trial and error working out what scenes go well side by side, ensuring that each of the scenes was strong in isolation as well as collectively working in harmony in the overall illustration. Also, considering how the illustration is going to tie in with the title can be a bit like a game of Tetris.

What’s the one item in your studio you can’t live without?

That’s hard, out of necessity I couldn’t do without a pencil. I could always draw on the walls or any other surface if I had to. I like working in a very sunlit space. Having lots of pot plants in my studio as well as a green wall helps create an illusion of the outdoors which helps to make my workspace a happy place.

How did you get into illustrating books?

The first book cover I ever illustrated was The Solo Travel Handbook for Lonely Planet, and I’m now working on my 5th new title. Book covers are a really satisfying thing to work on, a lot of the work I do is editorial which is very conceptual and the actual illustrating is something I do right at the end once the concept is sound. A book cover requires a lot of process for it to come together, which is often something that isn’t afforded on fast turnaround jobs.

Where in the world do you usually work from?

I work from my home which is a small cottage in the Snowy Mountains of Australia, just outside of Jindabyne. I live with my partner and two sons. We moved here from Melbourne last year, we wanted lots of space for our kids to grow up in and explore.

See more of Niki’s work at @nikifisherdesign.

Niki’s illustrations

The first rough sketch for the layout of the cover
Draft sketch of a bass player
Final illustration of the bass player
Sketch of couple dancing
Final of couple dancing
The final layout of the cover page without the title text