Helping FYP Editions scale up

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I find that most businesses often underestimate design: too often, companies discount the competitive edge that strong design and branding can give them. Short production times and even shorter data loops mean that today’s niche market can become tomorrow’s hottest trend…in other words, the market you once dominated can become saturated on a moment’s notice. And if your customers can’t remember you, then how can they stay loyal to you?

This was a problem I tackled while working with FYP Editions. And I’d like to think we were pretty successful – at the end of it, their yearly revenue increased by about 200%.

Introducing FYP Éditions

FYP Éditions is a radical French independent publishing house founded in 2005. Their extensive nonfiction catalog is centred around the emerging digital economy, covering topics like innovation, technology’s impact on society, digital cultures and economic theory.

With thin competition in its early years, FYP’s high quality content rapidly established it as a category leader. For years FYP released an annual flagship title and a handful of other books – the lack of competition meant they could count on their flagship publications to offset the costs of their passion projects. But as the market for their publishing segment began to expand in the early 2010s, FYP realised that it needed to get strategic if it wanted to keep the spirit of the publishing house alive.

Finding a competitive angle

I joined FYP as Art Director in 2014, when I was studying my Masters in Graphic Design. I’ve always been passionate about editorial design and was excited to join FYP, who had expressed to me that they wanted their editorial identity to start reflecting the edginess of their content.

Fairly early into my time at FYP, we started casually talking about our concerns on the increased competition in our publishing category. It seemed like the old publishing model wasn’t going to scale very well. So I floated an idea: what if we divided the book catalog is divided into different collections targeted toward their different customer segments?

To see if this was a viable strategy, I decided I wanted to work with as much data as possible and undertook the research part of the project, trying to validate our hypothesis about the collections:

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  • I helped the publishing house founders go through their post-purchase information and did customer research to identify the different personas and potential costumers. I knew this would help us set up a framework for the visual languages we would need to develop if the project progressed.

  • I then did market research on their new competitors. The ideology behind FYP’s formation is quite radical, and so the convergence of the subject matter and the publishing house’s own positioning gave it a unique place in the market. I have to say that this was the part I enjoyed the most!

  • I synthesised and shared my findings with FYP’s leadership team, and we agreed the project was realistic. We settled on the business goals of this project and what our KPIs were.

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FYP’s founders really wanted readers to understand that FYP is a little bit edgier than your regular independent publishing house, so they encouraged me early on to go big and bold. As part of my process I worked on mood boards for each collection, encouraging participation and feedback from all stakeholders. This helped us align on the art direction and create a shared understanding of how each collection would feel once they were on reader’s shelves (and also helped me understand which of my ideas were too big and bold). I then proposed typeface, colors, illustrations, and graphic elements that would maintain scalability while also giving designers enough freedom to expand on the concept for future series. I also have to say that one of the reasons I love working with FYP so much is their openness to big, exciting fonts!

The results

The collection system has been rolled out for almost two years now, and the yearly performance increased by around 200% revenue.

  • I helped cut the spend on art direction and marketing since we now template the design of six to twelve books at a time.

  • Consumer feedback showed that I helped make collections (and not just books) more identifiable and recognisable to potential targeted customers…what was once one purchase now just might become two or three at a time!

  • Consumer feedback showed the collection system made it easier for a happy reader to identify and engage with the rest of FYP Editions' catalog. This really helps as their publishing category becomes more and more saturated.

On a personal level, working with FYP is always such a pleasure not only because I love the project on the team, but also because it really cements my love for editorial design. I’ll always enjoy the unlimited freedom and wild colour palettes of digital design, but I’m sure most designers would agree there is just nothing that beats holding a physical copy of the book (or poster, or card, or textile, and so on…) that you designed.

All books featured in this article are from books created by me during my time at FYP. A special thank you to the wonderful Esa McGavin for all of her help with copy editing this post.

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