Ellen Kokontis

Ellen Kokontis - Designer

Chicago, IL, USA

Art director with more than ten years of experience in publishing, finding delight in all kinds of book design.

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Hello! I am an art director with ten years of experience in children's publishing. My specialization is books for ages 0–18 (board books, picture books, early readers, middle grade, and young adult), but I also have experience in adult nonfiction in the form of cookbook and arts & crafts design. Picture books I have art directed and designed have received starred reviews from Kirkus Reviews and have been awarded such honors as Junior Library Guild Selections, Sydney Taylor and Kansas Notable Books, and the Southwest Book Award. I also had the great privilege of reinvigorating the Boxcar Children series with new packaging in 2018 as well as designing the logo and packaging for the Jane & Me line with the Jane Goodall Institute launching in 2021. Other brands I have worked with include John Deere Kids, the Smithsonian Institute, PBS KIDS, and CoComelon.

I love playing with the relationship between text and artwork, especially when it comes to picture books. I believe that the words and artwork in a picture book need to do equally heavy lifting in the storytelling. Coming to a project both as an art director as well as with a child's eye is how I try to make each book appealing and engaging to everyone.

When we work together, I am probably going to ask you a lot of questions to get at the heart of your vision. I will also specifically ask you to point out comps in the marketplace that you do and do not like. This exercise helps me get as much information as I can up front so that we can both start on the same page. With cover design, I start with a few thumbnail options, then will work on a rough cover concept that is more realized, and finally the finished cover. You'll have input at each of these stages in steering the design to look the way you envision. I started my career in production and am well versed in all the technical aspects of design, so the file(s) you will receive will be easy to work with and ready for print or web.

I would love to hear about your project and how I can help. I am available for cover and interior design and can also assist with illustration direction. I'm also happy to help design and create images for promoting your books on social media or your website as well as activity sheets or ancillary materials for additional marketing support.

Listen to my interview about being an art director on the Illustration Dept. Podcast.
Children’s Non-Fiction
Cooking, Food, Wine, & Spirits
Middle Grade
Middle Grade Fantasy
Picture Books
Young Adult


  • 2018 Graphic Design USA In-House Design Award

Work experience

Art Director

Cottage Door Press
March, 2019 – Present (over 2 years)

Associate Art Director

Albert Whitman & Company
August, 2014 – March, 2019 (over 4 years)

Portfolio (15 selected works)

Dust of Eden

Nagai, Mariko

Ignite the Stars

Milan, Maura

A Friendship Yarn

Moser, Lisa, Demidova, Olga

Teach Your Giraffe to Ski

Elbee, Viviane, Gowdy, Danni

Mary Had a Little Lab

Fliess, Sue, Bouloubasis, Petros

Ride On, Will Cody!: A Legend of the Pony Express

Rose, Caroline Starr, Lillington, Joe

If the Hat Fits (Miss Bunsen's School for Brilliant Girls)

Waters, Erica-Jane, Waters, Erica-Jane

The Healthy Cooking Bible: More than 300 Natural Recipes for a Clean and Whole-Food Diet (Love Food)

Fuggle, Georgina, Dennis, Sarah, Sheasby, Anne, Cooper, Mike, Hamilton, Haarala

Ellen has 7 reviews

Communication & Punctuality
Communication & Punctuality

Chloe Simons
So wonderful working with Ellen. I look forward to it in the future.

Chloe Simons, September 2021

Arnon Hurwitz
Ellen Kokontis was a delight to work with. She was always professional, receptive to new ideas, and produced an outstanding end product. I'd recommend Ellen without reservation!

Arnon Hurwitz, July 2021

Tamara Haque
Ellen was a dream to work with. She took on my vision and produced a beautiful book with research as my book was unique from those she is used to working on. Very accommodating, responsive, and went above and beyond what I required. If I turn my book into a series, I know I will be turning to Ellen again for her impressive book and cover design skills.

Tamara Haque, May 2021

Michael Farnsworth
Ellen was the layout designer for my self-published illustrated children's book. She was also an amazing guide and helped walk me through the publishing process. I appreciated that she went the extra-mile in her work and feedback to me. She was able to take my criticism as well for a healthy collaborative environment. She did a great job bringing the text and illustrations together to produ...
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Michael Farnsworth, April 2021

Akilah Trinay
Ellen was great to work with. From the start she was very thorough in explaining to me the process and kept things moving along. She was prompt with her responses and delivered everything that she said that she would. In my opinion she went above and beyond and I can't wait to work with her again. She has great work ethic and what she didn't know, she learned to deliver a quality product. I hig...
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Akilah Trinay, March 2021

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