I received/brought a few books over Christmas and thought that rather than just thinking about how good they were it might be worthwhile writing about them. I’m no brilliant critic, it simply seems a good way for me to try and process why I like certain design or content.
- Maps by
It’s probably not clear from the photo but the book is a generous size, just bigger than A3, around 2 inches thick. The front cover was what caught my attention (I think this should be the case with all books), and its a good indicator for the quality of the inside. I was attracted by the lettering in the title, which has a hand drawn feel, and I guess the sense of fun/play in the colours, animals and lines which add a sense of movement.
It’s worth explaining the book is ordered by continents, so a new continent is introduced by aq double page spread of that continent, showing the individual countries from a distance. Then you turn the page and discover a double page spread of a country from that continent. So below is a picture of the page on Sweden:
Hopefully from the photo above you can make out that beneath the country name is listed it’s capitol, language, area, and then two little children representing what children from the area may look like/be called. I really like that they included the two children as I think it provides children with a reference point to other cultures. It’s definitely a generalised image but still a nice touch.
Across the pages for each country you can find illustrations of famous buildings/landmarks, regional delicacy’s, crops per region, famous authors/musicians/inventors and even local wildlife. It’s worth noting now I am a 24 year old and I have travelled to some of these countries. But even I have enjoyed seeing where some famous landmarks sit in relation to the rest of the country or how food can differ by region.
Above is a photo demonstrating that the orientation of the pages shifts throughout the book, some are landscape some are portrait. I think this is according to how the country looks within it’s context, for example Belgium is a mainly landlocked nation, Sweden is a thinner longer less landlocked nation, and is set portrait.
A couple of other touches really caught my eye. For instance each different nation has a different lettering for its name, reflecting something of its nature. Each nations flag is displayed and features like mountain ranges, rivers, forest areas are also included in rough illustrations. This is obviously not an accurate depiction in geographical/map terms, but I find it liberating to actually get a flavour for the country as a culture not just it’s geographical features.
I would the chance to work on illustrating a project like this it looks like such a fun investment of skill!
2. New York: Inside and Out by
I’m not really sure this qualifies as a traditional book as the pages are stuck together to form a concertina fold, opening out as a wall chart. Part of me finds that really exciting and a fun way of challenging book design, part of me also wonders what kind of house could pull off a wall chart that is 2 Metre’s long. My husband and I discussed sticking it round our living room, I even considered the ceiling,. I don’t think any of our walls are long enough or our ceilings tall enough! Anyway I guess the point I’m trying to make is this is as much a piece of art as it is a book. It could easily be framed or mounted onto a wall and be stared at for hours. In fact one of the best parts about this is like any interesting piece of art you can come back to it and see something new or interesting each time.
It has a bit of a Where’s Wally (sorry Waldo) feel to it as well. The tiny people have all these individual features, like hats, food etc. On the back pages are ’80 NY Icons’ to spot amongst all the detail within the pages. Again I am not a child but enjoyed trying to find these icons.
Trying to write about the style of the illustration is challenging, I feel somewhat inept but I’ll try to explain what makes it endearing. The illustration has retained a hand drawn almost sketch like quality, there’s pencil lines, gaps of white where colours haven’t overlapped. But then there’s blocks of colour, overlays of texture, shadows which help it feel developed and coherent. There’s a larger than life quality to it, with each person a tinge of almost luminous salmon pink, in fact there seems be a large amount of pink and purple throughout. If you’ve ever been to New York you’ll know colour wise, there’s a fair amount of grey and blue, just from the buildings that tower around you. So it feels like a step into someone’s personal view of the life and colour in the character of the city. It captures the hustles, bustle, frenetic feel of New York, nothing ever seems to stop or pause.
Final comments are on the flip side of the chart, the chart has illustrations on both sides (crazy value for money right?). The flip side contains cut away scenes, giving an x-ray vision into what goes on behind closed doors. In the photo above you can see the inside of the Lion statue is the resting place of a giant cat or Tiger. If you hadn’t already guessed by now this is a picture book, there’s no writing, but I don’t think its a book purely for children. I think even adults could and should find this book enjoyable. I do anyway!