I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy this week. I’m a lover of books, I love the tangible nature of print and I love reading. I do own a kindle, purely because when I do read, I read quickly – and sometimes I just want to power through a good book rather than consider the beauty of turning pages and feeling the paper between my fingers. However, there are definitely some books in my lifetime that have stuck with me, whether by being a beautiful story or because of the physical attributes that bring the story to life.
I decided to go through the list analysing the themes I felt most drawn to, to ensure I wasn’t just jumping the gun – I’ve learnt from a lot this past year, and I definitely rush head first into things. This is just part of my new process to take a step back, analyse things carefully and make an informed decision.
- News Story : Ok, this is hugely attractive because this theme is so vast. You can consider the political implications, the small alterations of language to fire the readers up or change an opinion. It’s dangerous, it’s politically charged and it’s relevant. Each paper has it’s own style, you have tabloids churning out everyday gossip, you have broadsheets which focus on more intellectual/serious topics and discussions. You then have the considerations of not just the language but the physical attributes, I remember my dad always reading the Sunday Telegraph and flicking up the corners of the excessively large paper to try and read it. I never understood why he’d read that when the other papers had the same news stories but were smaller and easier to hold. Only when I considered the differences in content did it make sense. Of course, now, we predominantley read our news online – something which has massively shifted the way we see newspapers… But, looking at the Telegraph vs The Daily Mail online, you still get that sense of difference in the design and display of the news. This, for me is fascinating, how, without a physical object, the paper’s still retain their sense of identity through digital formats. Of course, you still have the standardised Headlines, SubHeadings, Paragraph layouts, wiht relevant images, occasionally stock images, and snappy exaggerated headlines to draw people in.
- Children’s books : As a Primary School teacher in another life, I LOVED children’s books. The gentle, playful nature of the language, the whimsical characters, the shorter sentences helping young children develop their own reading and speaking skills. The different books for different ages really interests me, the subtle shifts in language and sentence lengths reflecting that child’s own progress. When doing our Friday Morning Reading Sessions, it’d be amazing to see a child progress from the Red level books to the Green level books – the upgrade in more mature illustrations or language refecting this progress. Of course, there’s the illustrations to consider – I follow a lot of children’s illustrators on Instagram, I love the whimsical characters developing for each story and the progression they make, However, there’s an evident divide between the author, illustrator and publishers which cause a significant dissonance in this industry and push a lot of children’s authors to self-publish. Interestingly, there’s also a number of Graphic Designers (majority I’ve found so far being fairly vintage) who have written and illustrated their own children’s stories. I want to delve deeper into this and find out why – why write a children’s book when they could very easily write a book about Design and do very well!!
- Launch Document : This doesn’t interest me, but I do recognise a significant language and identity shift within this form of topic. Formal, corporate, promotional language supporting a brand identity. It’s fairly dependent on the brand’s own voice and this is strongly reflect in the tone of voice. You can’t really stray too far from the voice of the brand without risking it becoming a confused identity.
- Love letter : again, I’m not too drawn to this, I find them cringey, soft, fluffy and quite insipid. This tone of voice isn’t something that you’d want to use elsewhere, it’s personal thoughts, it’s a string of letters forming a description of your own infatuation that may or may not be reciprocated. It’s one sided, it’s quite self-assured, but also feels very manipulated in that the language used is powerful enough to convey your emotions. It’s probably also been sprayed with Chanel no5.
- Business Plan : Probably my worst nightmare. I have a real issue with the overuse of technical jargon. Writing streams of words in long sentences, taking up 5 minutes of my time reading a paragraph that could have been very simply written in two lines. I find the language has been fluffed up to fill spaces, to sound relevant and, simultaneously give their ego a swift stroke. To ironically use an unnecessarily large word, the Sesquipedalian nature of business plans just shows how by utilsing jargon and poor grammatical form, these plans are often created purely to make one feel their business has importance in this world. It’s formal, it’s structured and it’s corporate. Perhaps this is the reason I struggled in our Studio&Entreprenuership Module because it’s just not me….
- Diary : Very similar to love letters, strings of thought, perhaps doodles or small notes on the side of the page. Maybe the occasional To Do List? It’s a conscious stream, it’s a glimpse into someone’s mind and deep thoughts and really quite revealing. Diaries have a strong position in our understanding of the world and history – Anne Frank, Samuel Pepys… We’re not just reliant on policital papers or reports about historical events, we’re able to relive them through someone elses words.
I want to look more into Children’s Books – it’s a genre that interests me and I can relate to. I want to know why Graphic Designers write children’s books, the relationship between authors, illustrators and publishers and what pushes the writers or illustrators to self publish. I also want to utilise this time to really develop my own sense of voice and tone, I know I have a certain way of writing and often it’s very “diary” like, it’s a stream of my own conciousness, but arranged in a way that’s clear. But perhaps, for more academic purposes, I need to develop and tweak this tone to reflect the purpose for writing.
Considering the layout and fonts, it’d be fun to reflect the personality of a children’s book in this article and play about with this – this theme gives me the opportunity to combine academic writing with a sense of playfulness and fun.
Children’s literature as we know it today, is formed not just by the author, but the combined efforts of authors, illustrators, and publishers. The physical, tangible nature of children’s books developed intensely over the 20th Century, and the history of children’s literature, as many know, is not as glossy and colourful as we know it today.
Since the early days of man, folk tales and stories have been passed down through families. Narrated stories, folklore, and fairy tales, stemming from predominantly French origin are still told to this day. Taken on by Newberry in 1744, these often dark and twisted stories found their life as words on a page; the little books for little children, less than four inches by three in size were consequently published for the next fifty years.
Fast forward a couple of hundred years, the legacy of Newberry combined with a rapidly growing middle class led to the expansion of children’s literature. From the 1800s-early 1900s, the golden age of children’s literature and illustrations led to a literary epoch producing some of the finest works of art. The tone of voice and stylistic nature of children’s stories were becoming more appealing to the younger generations with supportive illustrations providing a gateway to the text. Take, for example, Carroll’s first editions of Alice in Wonderland, supported by Tenniel’s ground-breaking plate illustrations. The characters and stories we still know and read about today all marked a transition towards anthropomorphic animals or older protagonists within children’s literature. Enter Dr. Seuss, leading the way with rhyming schemes and iconic illustrations, changing the way children read.
The 1950s saw a peculiar shift, the lines between author and artist blended – a crop of famous graphic designers set out to both write and illustrate picture books to explore visual thinking. Paul Rand and Saul Bass led this small movement, demonstrating the potential of blending pictures with words and shapes with sound, leading the way for vibrant, simplistic picture books.
Of course, authors and illustrators have developed and helped the literary shifts through history, but as seen in more recent years, with developing technology authors and illustrators are acknowledging a new transition. Perhaps now publishers need to explore this shift, developing medium instead of copy printing picture books into an E-Book form. This new form of reading should be exploited to invoke this physical experience of children’s literature within these new characteristics. By exploring and experimenting with authors and illustrators alike to evolve children’s literature into a new era. This article looks further into the successes and often failures of modern children’s literature within this new realm of technology.
Rivera, A. (n.d.). The History of Children’s Literature: 19th Century to Today. [online] blog.bookstellyouwhy.com. Available at: https://blog.bookstellyouwhy.com/the-history-of-childrens-literature-part-2.
The British Library. (n.d.). The origins of children’s literature. [online] Available at: https://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/the-origins-of-childrens-literature#.
Hewins, C.M. (1888). The History of Children’s Books. [online] The Atlantic. Available at: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1888/01/the-history-of-childrens-books/306098/.
Popova, M. (2015). A Brief History of Children’s Picture Books and the Art of Visual Storytelling. [online] Brain Pickings. Available at: https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/02/24/childrens-picturebooks/.
PrintMag (2012). Saul Bass’s Only Children’s Book. [online] PRINT. Available at: https://www.printmag.com/post/saul-basss-only-childrens-book [Accessed 22 Feb. 2021].
says, C.M. (2018). Children’s Books by Well-known Designers | CreativePro Network. [online] Available at: https://creativepro.com/childrens-books-by-well-known-designers/ [Accessed 22 Feb. 2021].
Popova, M. (2012). 5 (Mostly) Vintage Children’s Books by Iconic Graphic Designers. [online] Brain Pickings. Available at: https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/04/20/childrens-books-by-graphic-designers/.