For this part of the exercise I was initially unsure what to look for. But I took my cue’s from my work-book description and looked for examples of which was, “generating new and engaging content through comics, graphic novels, animation and other media”. It tried also to keep in mind that the objective of the content needed to be “to entertain, satirise or educate”.
I came across Coralie Bickford-Smith’s work as an illustrator/graphic designer for Penguin Books, she designed the beautiful covers of their Cloth Bound Classics range. But I wanted to focus on her work which she had authorial control over. Her début novel The Fox and The Star, is a good example of authorial content – she has written the text and designed the graphics within.
The front and back covers are beautifully printed onto cloth, they’re incredibly tactile, you have the feel of the cloth but also the raised ink on the surface. The dense illustration on the front is a good foreshadowing of the inside content of the book.The use of just white ink against the navy cloth has a striking effect, making the image appear to jump off the cover. It’s simple but arresting, Bickford-Smith seems to like sticking to a limited colour- palette and this gives a distinct style to her work
The front and back covers seem like a nod to previous older practices of book binding and printing. Which doesn’t really scream new and engaging content, but I think there’s a return to this style of craftsmanship returning to design at the moment which offers a break from high colour, glossy overloaded modern graphics.
I think it’s the inside content of the book, in terms of layout, colour choices, illustrative style that offers a new engaging way of telling a story. There seems to be no strict rules to the layout of the text or illustrations, she uses several different layout formats across the book. Sometimes the illustrations have a large white border and then another central white box for the text to sit inside.On other pages the white text box sits towards the bottom left corner of the image or off centre. I think this encourages your eye to keep moving around the images and also fits well with the story.
The fox is searching for a lost Star, so he’s moving around.These quite structured layouts are interspersed with double page images, with little or no text, which allow for a break from reading to just consider the imagery. Again this is unusual for a novel or children’s story. I think this encourages your eye to keep moving around the images and also fits well with the story, the fox is searching for a lost Star, so he’s moving around.
The layout of the text is also played with throughout the book, sometimes sitting within a white box, sometimes dispersed around the page surrounded by illustrations, even zigzagged between an illustration of the fox. I find this a fresh way of playing with text, as often text in a novel follows conventional forms, staying in the same place throughout.
Her use of colour is also refreshing, she sticks to a limited colour palette, again allowing this to be different on alternative sets of pages. I think keeping the colour palette limited keeps everything together, if the colour palette was really varied alongside all the changing layout options I think it would feel disorientating and detract from the story. I think at most there are four colours on a page, and it least two (not including black and white as colours here)! I think the its a bold choice really in an age where lots of graphic design is loaded with colours and saturated tones.
Perhaps on the opposite end of the design spectrum to Coralie Bickford-Smith is Josh Cochran. Specifically I want to mention a children’s book he published with Big Picture Press, called New York. I’ve chosen it because it’s a very different format of book to the traditional children’s novel. Firstly there are no words, no real story line, secondly the book unfolds into a giant double sided poster.
It’s a bit like the where’s Wally books, but set in New York and without a central character to find. Instead you’re invited to explore New York through the eyes of Josh Cochran in the form of a fun, hectic illustration. I think it mostly aims just to entertain but I suppose there’s a bit of education or exploration thrown in there for young children wanting to learn more about the world we live in.
Visually you couldn’t get much further opposite in content from The Fox and The Star. The pages are packed with illustrations of buildings, people, rubbish, animals, shop signs etc. The colour use is interesting, there is a certain style to it, there’s a mix of soft and bold, pastel shades and vibrant shades, but it’s certainly not a limited palette. The finish is allowed to be rougher, with pencil marks and shading lines left in, which gives a lively textured finish.
The School of Life, exists to educate and enable people to develop emotional intelligence. It explores all areas of life and uses culture to do so. It makes use of YouTube as a platform for it’s education videos. These video’s explore a range of subjects but also use a range of forms of visual communication. Below is a video about Confidence, which is an animation with an illustrative quality. It seeks to visualize our struggles with confidence, defining it, where it comes from and does so (at least I think) fairly well. Using this medium is interesting, I think having this topic explored through a visual story, where the character is illustrated, instead of watching real people, gives the space to project your self, your own thoughts towards confidence onto the video.
Animation exploring confidence:
They use different formats/types of visuals for different topics. For instance in the video for Design below, a much more busy visual approach is taken.
Cut out images of figures or buildings or objects are animated to move on and off the screen. Some are made to look more humorous by adding googly eyes to them. The images are set to the same backdrop throughout an area of blue texture. It feels like a factual lesson or presentation without becoming dry and boring, I think this is largely due to the moving graphics and fun presentation. To me choosing to explore this content through this medium is about helping people to engage with the topic. It makes use of our limited attention span by keeping the video short, even being on the platform YouTube is part of a recognition of the technology or communication preferences of this age. Also their output of content; a video a week, is in keeping with educating an audience in a world where information travels quickly and attention is short lived.
I’ll leave my thoughts there for now and move on in my next post to Interactive Design…