Stephanie Wykoff is the self-published author of her debut picture book, Now I Know My Avocados. Thank you, Stephanie, for joining me!
So you are a User Experience Designer by day and now a newly self-published picture book author/illustrator. Can you say a little bit about what a User Experience designer is?
Definitely. A user experience designer strives to design and enhance user satisfaction of online applications.
A bit more about the process (for those who may be interested): First and foremost, I start by researching the problem and the users of the application. Knowing who I’m designing for is extremely vital when designing a successful application. After the research phase, I design the look, feel, and workflow of the application’s screens. Once in the development phase, I work with developers to bring my designs and the experiences to life on the screen (that screen may be on a smartphone or desktop computer). After my designs have been implemented and are in the users’ hands, I strive for continued research and usability testing in order to constantly improve the experience based on user requests and needs.
What inspired you to branch out and pursue creating Now I Know My Avocados?
Now I Know My Avocados has been a labor of love for a little over three years. I started illustrating child-friendly objects when I was pregnant with my son and on bedrest. Initially, I used the illustrations to keep my mind and creativity busy while my body was resting. Soon the illustrations began to take the shape of a children’s book.
Your graphics in the book are done in a color scheme that is ideal for those with color blindness (like my son), and you’ve mentioned that you have professional experience doing design for those with varying ranges of visual ability. Is there something in particular that has drawn you to give this special attention in your picture book design?
Over the years I have designed a wide range of online experiences for various users and populations, I’ve found joy in getting to know users and empathizing with them. When I approach a new project, my goal is to create something that is not only useful and usable, but that is enjoyable and meaningful. When creating the book, I made a conscious decision to create simple illustrations and to use an accessible color palette in hopes of including and appealing to as many young readers as possible. As designers, we have so many wonderful tools at our disposal that help us understand and accommodate for visual impairments. I feel responsible to create and provide experiences that are as inclusive as possible, whether that’s a digital application or an engaging children’s book.
Where did the idea for your picture book originate, and how long did it take you to complete from the time of initial concept development?
The more illustrations I created while I was on bedrest, the more I envisioned them morphing into a children’s book with a seek-and-find theme. As a child, I adored “Where’s Waldo” and seek-and-find books. The alphabet seemed to be a fitting concept that children would relate to and that my illustrations could be categorized into. I was inspired to create an interactive book that could grow with my son, from learning his first words to using his imagination for storytelling, and now practicing his alphabet and vocabulary.
After my son was born and my maternity leave concluded, I picked back up on the illustrations when I could, between being a new mom and working full-time. While the creation process for the book was slow, it was a nice change of pace from my other work. I spent 2.5 years illustrating the book in my limited spare time and was determined to publish the book for my son’s third birthday.
Is there an aspect of the book with which you are especially pleased?
I am thrilled to hear all of the wonderful stories and feedback from families and how they interact with the book in their homes. My husband, son, and I have used the book to explore, practice storytelling, vocabulary, and the alphabet. I am overjoyed to know that the book continues to inspire creativity and learning in various ways.
Do you have any advice for novice writers/illustrators looking to get started in the picture book business? Any specific advice for those pursuing the self-publishing route?
I think my biggest piece of advice is to put yourself out there and introduce yourself to the wonderful kidlit community. I’ve met so many wonderful, supportive, and encouraging people through the community who are willing to help spread the word. Self-publishing is an extremely slow process, but it’s an enjoyable adventure!
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I’m hoping to create a sequel to “Now I Know My Avocados” in the future. I’d love to hear any feedback or suggestions on subjects and themes to tackle next!