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Destruction timeline: my Sunday to-do list.

1 Feb

Above, you’ll see the sad story of last Sunday’s to-do list. My three-year-old daughter often adds illustration to make these dull documents a little more interesting: this is why I took the first photo. Then I left the room for less than five minutes. Spirals were drawn. Water was added. Like a sundae, the list sported a fruit topping.

As artists and designers, we’ve all taken projects too far. Sometimes to the point of no return. (Though the computer can, of course, help with this: saving versions along the way helps.) Just this fall I was working on a tight deadline, trying to finish a work on paper for a group show, and I totally killed it. And I’m not about to pretend that the piece I ended up submitting was better than the earlier version.

This said, I do urge you to push your work, especially while you have the freedom to do so as a student. If you don’t push, you won’t learn. But if you find your piece is covered in fruit? Well, then, perhaps it really is time to take a little breather.

Leo Lionni

2 Dec

We’ve been reading the heck out of Little Blue and Little Yellow at our house lately. The illustrations and the story are so simple. My daughter and I can’t get enough of it, which isn’t always the case (at least on my end) regarding bedtime stories.

A few days ago, one of my advanced students gave an especially good biographical presentation on the author and illustrator of Little Blue and Little Yellow: Lio Lionni. I learned that Lionni actually conceived the book in 1959 while riding on a train with his two young grandchildren, who were starting to act up. Recalling the experience, Lionni wrote: ‘I put my briefcase on my knees to make a table and in a deep voice said, ‘This is Little Blue, and this is Little Yellow,’ as I placed the round pieces of colored paper onto the leather stage.” Once home, he organized the shapes into a simple book structure, and showed it to a publisher friend who agreed to print it on the spot. Lionni went on to write and illustrate an additional 40 children’s books in the next 35 years.

Lionni was a fascinating character: he spoke five languages, was fascinated by nature, displaced by war, designed the iconic catalog cover for MOMA’s Family of Man exhibit, and made influential work as Art Director of Fortune Magazine in the 1950s. But, in the end, he just wanted to explore the potential of doing art and graphic design for good. Steven Heller, in an article for AIGA, wrote that “in word and deed, (Lionni) has been an unfaltering rationalist, a devout humanist and a passionate artist.”

Here are a few of my favorite LB & LY spreads. Goodnight.

This last one is my favorite.

I (Heart) Little Golden Books

22 Nov

I can’t imagine that anyone reading this hasn’t encountered a Little Golden Book at least once in their lifetime. I bought a small stack of vintage titles for Rinn this weekend, and it only renewed my love for this venerable series. Every book features the distinctive golden spine and (in my humble opinion) the best script font ever, as seen in the logo/wordmark.

The first twelve titles were published (during wartime) in the fall of 1942, and new titles have been coming out ever since. Though the parent publisher has changed several times (LGB were started by Simon & Schuster and are now owned by Random House), Golden Books were printed for many years by Western Publishing in Racine. According to Random House, Little Golden Books were designed to be affordable at a time when most children’s books were considered to be a “luxury” for many families. Nearly 70 years later, they remain among the most affordable of children’s titles — especially when you buy them second-hand.

Of course, I also find them to be a fascinating record of recent history. See, for example, the images below. And compare Gordon’s experience as an airline passenger with your own! (And is that a gentle stab at train travel? Hmmm.)

Some of the best work ever…

24 Aug

… was intended for children. I just found this great blog dedicated to the rich history of children’s book illustration. Fact: I had a great job as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota’s Kerlan Children’s Book Collection, where I basically got to spend the whole day cataloging (read: looking at) original children’s book art from the 1950s and 1960s.