Interview with Danielle, designer of the Don DeLillo stencil for California Bookstore Day


Photo courtesy of Zachary Ray. Follow him on Instagram

Photo by Zachary Ray. Follow him @


California Bookstore Day was May 3, 2014; an exciting day for booknerds all over the state. One of the greatest pieces offered was the stencil with a quotation from Don DeLillo‘s White Noise. I was so excited that a stencil had been made from a book quote, especially one that is so powerful and challenging, “California deserves whatever it gets.” I was fortunate to interview Danielle Hobart, who designed the stencil along with other collateral for the day.

How was your art selected?
Nepotism—Zack Ruskin (from Book Passage) and I are a couple and he was involved with Green Apple; starting this idea [California Bookstore Day] they worked together. It was Pete’s (of Green Apple)  idea and he’s been involved in the business for a really long time. I think he was inspired by record store day and realized that it could translate. Independent bookstores stay in touch and Zack was creating the website for California Bookstore Day and mentioned to Pete and Samantha that I would be super into working on something for them.

They had this idea of a stencil they wanted to make come to fruition and didn’t know how best to do that. And I was like yeah, I can totally how to do that. And I thought it was a great way to jumpstart my portfolio which since college, has been a little dormant.

So Pete from Green Apple and Sam wanted to do a stencil.
They conceived the idea and they wanted it to be this really great standout statement that would be about California, about reading, and bring those kinds of worlds together. The idea of using Don DeLillo and being a bad citizen is sort of the fire behind California Bookstore Day and just being a part of, being aware of your community, but also wanting to challenge it. We are in a position with amazon and books online where the bookstores have to fight to stay relevant and I think that the stencil embodies that sort of feistiness, as does the whole project. They had the quote, it was their baby, they wanted to go with that quote. Yeah unfortunately not my idea for the quote but I thought it was a great one to use.


How was it created?
It was just a really a simple graphic design job. Unfortunately, there was no grand brand scheme. I played around with a bunch of designs, we knew it would be laser cut which definitely affected how much detail we could put into it just because of the cost involved; laser cutting is really time consuming and expensive as soon as you get into minute details. So we had a rough draft where there was a white noise pattern under the quotation that we were crazy about but when we brought it to the woodshop or printers it just wasn’t going to be feasible because we didn’t want to charge people $50 so we had to stay in budget.

We went over a bunch of different design concepts and we wanted it to be a look that if you did see it stenciled on the street that you would have to check twice to see if it’s a real warning or not. You know when MUNI uses spray paint to say, “this is no longer a bus stop and we’re gonna ruin your day”.  Something that people would look at and think was sort of official. I wanted to keep it with nice clean lines and a modern look because that old army stencil font is just so tired.

How long did it take you to create?
I started working on it in December and we had the holidays to contend with which are  just a super busy time. So it was sort of in process for a few months, I think it really got done in April, but just a tweak here and there; definitely a learning experience.

What did you learn?
I learned about working with clients and the delicate balance between making a product that will sell and look good which thankfully I think we achieved and communicating some really original vision which is hard when you’re just trying to keep it to a very simple font and something that can be cut quickly and easily. One of the original fonts we had, the letters were hand-lined so when the printers looked at it they said it would take the machines a lot longer to follow it and to actually be able to cut it out so the cost would be exorbitant. So we had to just scrap any sort of hand done work which was a little  crushing, honestly, to be like, “oh dang, it can’t be something I drew” but maybe next year we’ll get there. We’ll get a boon from this year.

Where were the bookmarks and mini-posters made?
I worked with the printers at Geary Street print shop. They did my bookmarks and my posters and the stickers. I did all of that as well. I made the bookmark for California Bookstore Day, the one that is red on the back, and I did their flyers, and the sticker that’s on the package for the stencil. I think the wood shop was different. Those I did just as a sort of volunteer portion just to be involved and then the stencil. I graciously received a stipend because they got a grant from James Patterson.

James Patterson gave away a ton of money to a bunch of independent bookstores recently. And he gave California Bookstore Day their own grant to keep working, expanding, and growing. So they called me and said, “Great news, we can pay you!” That was really nice.

I remember when I saw James Patteson speaking about the importance of independent bookstores on the news.
It’s amazing, I guess one in ten books sold is a James Patterson book. He’s gotta be up there with Jesus, right? The Bible’s gotta be up there as well. But James Patterson makes so much money on his book sales and is so successful that he just wanted to return the favor to the industry that supports him. And it’s so amazing. He’s made such a huge difference for so many bookstores. Book Passage got a grant too so they were able to buy a van. They do offsite events with schools and I think it’s going to make it easier for them to do outreach.

I believe the stipulation is you must have a children’s section to apply for a grant.
Yeah, they do good events. Green Apple have their great [children’s] section upstairs. And then California Bookstore Day had their great kids’ items that were really cute. One of the authors that did the joke book, she used to write Animorphs, those books that we read in elementarty school, it’s a sci-fi series about these kids who turn from children into animals. And they all had holographic covers. It was when Goosebumps was really big. She did the jokes, and the joke book is called Do You Smell Carrots?

How many stencils were produced?
I don’t know because the orders came in until the last minute.

Don DeLillo stencil, Jason Arnold, Stitches

I don’t know if they were replenishing throughout the day but  when I was there, there were only three or four on the stand at the Booksmith when I was there at 11am.
I was lucky enough to be able to go to the Green Apple party at the end of the weekend because they won Best Bookstore from Publishers Weekly which is fantastic, they’re doing so great. Paul and someone from City Lights was there. I met him and it was really fantastic to get to talk to him and we have a similar perspective of artists in the city, struggling. He said, “Oh man we should have ordered more. I saw it and I was so upset”. I think because we were working on it for so long, we had sort of a working proof to show bookstores when they were doing their ordering process but I used a jpeg of woodgrain, so it looked pretty silly but when people saw the finished product, they said we should have ordered more and I think we did them to order.

I bought one for my parents because I didn’t know if it would stick around or not. And I brought it to my parents and my mom said, “I don’t know what it means so I’m not going to put it up yet”. I said, “it means I did something great,” and she said, “I don’t want people coming to my house and seeing that if I don’t know what that means”. “Oh mom, ok, well I’ll get you a copy of the book.”

What did you study in school?
Fine art as well as modern literature. Literature from here and there, I suppose. And I focused mainly on painting and drawing but I also dabbled in photography and printmaking. I think printmaking would be something I would be more involved in if the spacial studio demands weren’t so high. You can get away with wood blocks in like kind of contained spaces but no one is giving me a press, you know? Since graduating, I’ve had to adjust to not having a big huge studio and managing a full time job (or two) at the same time. My focus is really switched to things that I can contain and do in my apartment or  do outside and take with me. I’ve done a lot of photography since leaving school and messing around on the computer and graphic design that I can do for friends and side projects; it’s a great way to feel like I’m still working on stuff.

Where did you go to school?
UC Santa Cruz.

Why is California Bookstore Day so important?
It’s a great way for  bookstores to connect with their consumers and customers and for bookstores to be relevant and in touch with their publishers. I know that a big part about getting these pieces made, was that the publishers had to agree that it was ok for the living authors—Neil Gaiman made this whole new book—that he would only be able to sell it in California for on this one day or starting on this one day. I’m sure they could have made a lot more money if they released it everywhere but it means so much more for them to do something special and to contribute to a culture of going to bookstores and reading and being excited about books. I think the fact that everyone did it and then these 93 California bookstore day participants were all like yeah, we’re gonna staff these events and we’re gonna come up with cool events to make people excited about coming. And the publishers all thought these are great ideas and products that we can make. And the fact that everyone came out and bought stuff and supported their bookstores was fantastic. It says something, that it’s relevant and important to have those sort of community connections. And I think it’s on trend. There’s a big push, at least in San Francisco, of having strictly neighborhood shopping nights and events, like street faire. I know Bold Italic does great neighborhood events, for us, it’s Clement Time, and Green Apple is always there with a keg. I don’t think there’s anything more luxurious than going to your bookstore and getting a beer and just walking around. There was beer at California bookstore day too and it was fantastic.

I didn’t know anyone there but I wanted to be a part of it. It was kind of funny to see all the introverts in one space because no one was talking to each other but everyone was smiling.
Because everyone was blissed out on the inside.

It was fun to hear everyone say what did you get? What did you get? I bought two copies of Neil Gaiman’s book, don’t worry it didn’t end up on ebay; it went to a lovely home in Canada.
I loved a week or two after the Bookstore Day, California Bookstore Day posted on facebook,

“Trying to buy a Neil Gaiman on ebay for $75? Don’t be an idiot, Come down to one of bookstores that still has it. It’s still just regular priced.” So they said, here’s the list of people that had it to begin with. The whole thing was that they could start selling it that day and if it remained it was just going to be for sale.

Who designed the actual logo for California Bookstore Day?
The girl who designed the bear and logo is also named Danielle and she works at Green Apple; she’s very sweet. I saw her yesterday and I said, oh hey, it’s you! She has an etsy shop that you can find on the California Bookstore Day facebook page.

Will California Bookstore Day expand and become national?
They began with California because it would have been unwieldy to take on more; it was a great test run to deal with one time zone. But we’re hoping that sooner than later it’s national instead. I think once they’re able to look at their numbers and see how impactful it was, people will be clamoring to join in. Because there are so many authors that could be involved. We’re really lucky in this area with a huge plethora of California writers to be involved.

Full disclosure: I am in a Professional Ladies Group which is where I met Danielle. A month later I posted a blog entry about California Bookstore Day and my prized Don DeLillo stencil. A mutual friend told me that Danielle designed the stencil so I asked her if I could do an interview. And she very kindly agreed.

Thank you to the gracious Zachary Ray for allowing me to use his awesome instagram pic of the stencil.


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