Exercise 7

Visualising, editing, and critiquing

This task asked me to use my work from previous exercises and consider how these designs worked within the context of a book. Aspects such as format, framing, and narrative needed to be explored. I found this to be quite a challenging task, but aimed to be open to ideas, explore as much as I could, and find something that I thought worked.

This images shows my pamphlets and my A3 sketchbook ideas for this task. There is a mixture of thumbnailing, mock-ups, and some exploration printed from my laptop.

After selecting some of my favourite designs from previous exercises, I began by drawing thumbnail sketches of pages of books to test out some of my designs in this format. Once I had an idea of what I might want to try, I folded an A6 pamphlet and tested out this design. My first little pamphlet pulled together a few ‘oldest trick’ ideas. On each page, you can see me trialling the rabbit ears book in different positions and sizes, adding text here and there. This first book was definitely not an exploration of narrative; it was a space to trial some ideas. As the images show, I was keen to see how the rabbit ear book design would fit into this format, and I played around with some text too. I tried folding one page to make the process more interactive.

I then returned to my A3 sketchbook to sketch out some more thumbnail layouts. I wanted to explore the worm character and came up with a few possibilities. Here, I also added a bit of colour to help me see how this would look. I started one book, did not like it, returned to the thumbnails, then tried another book. Below is the first book, where I started exploring the worm character and tried a few ideas out.

Next is a similar idea, exploring the worm character, after a little more thumbnailing in my sketchbook. I felt the middle page, with the books making up the worm shape had potential, but seemed quite sparse. I did, however, love the ‘enraptured’ worm, hoarding a pile of books – this was a pose previously explored and I thought the text really added to it.

However, the narrative seemed a bit dull and boring, so I considered how to merge the magical theme with the bookworm character. I went back to draw more thumbnail sketches. The artists’ books that I explored previously tested the structural aspect of a book; I found this fascinating and wanted to see if I could create some interesting pages. I did a small test of a curtain page that could be folded to reveal a hidden character.

This became something I used in my next book. I think it would have worked better reversed – with the text page on the left and the curtain with the person peeking around on the right, then the curtain page could be turned in the normal right-to-left way – but I enjoyed the way it fed into the narrative of the character discovering a magical book and getting drawn inside. I also created a half page that showed the ‘normal’ bookworm character and then revealed her turning into a worm underneath. Again, this was a structural device that created a more layered and interesting narrative; it was functional in telling a story. There was also a chance to use the worm made of books, and I thought this fitted into this layout much more effectively. I liked the way the text explained what was happening simply and the half page revealed the transformation quite nicely too. By the time the reader reaches the final page, the character is completely worm-like, which is also much more interesting than the previous iteration.

As I was quite happy with this sequence and some of the ideas, I went back to my illustrations from the previous task and tried creating some of the layouts and pages with text. Using Microsoft Word, I chose random fonts to create the cover – with the idea in mind of a mixture of books that build up a library and a character, and quite a chaotic, exciting feel to the story. It also spoke to some of the zine techniques of cut and paste, bringing random letters together to create something new. The bookworm character was also created using two images I had previously drawn and putting half and half together. Some of the other images were formatted to the correct size and then text was added.

Throughout this process, I was constantly thinking of new ways to present and develop my work; the rabbit ears book is a good example of this. I trialled this over one portrait A6 page, over a double page spread, on the left-hand side with the ‘magical’ purple spreading over to the right, and then settled on a central double page spread. I added different text to the image to see which would look the most effective and work with the narrative.

My process for visualising and editing my ideas was quite instinctive. However, I kept taking a moment to reflect on what I was producing and realised that my style was leaning towards a child-friendly narrative with a mystical, fantasy feel. The books below are books I have used numerous times in my teaching career and books I thoroughly enjoy for their illustrations and, especially in the case of ‘Leon and the Place Between’, the use of typography. If I were to produce finished versions of these page layouts or even the whole book, I would strive to use these children’s books as inspiration. I would aim for magical colours, some gold and silver sparkle, and an interesting use of typography.

Critiquing

What has the format of the pamphlet offered you?

This format allowed me to play with narratives – the movement of the pages allows the designer to show changes in environments and characters. I enjoyed physically changing the shape of pages to hide characters and reveal changes to the bookworm to add intrigue to the story. It was also interesting to explore different ways to position my illustrations on the page to best capture the reader’s attention and build the narrative.

How might your ideas develop further?

I would be keen to continue to explore how typography could help emphasise certain aspects of the narrative and engage the reader. The curtain page layout would need to be reversed. I would also need to trial background colours and see what would work best with the striking illustrations; there would need to be a balance struck. I would certainly take inspiration from ‘The Lost Happy Endings’ and ‘Leon and the Place Between’.

How has your understanding of creative book design changed through this exercise?

Prior to starting this course, I already had an interest in book design, especially the way illustrations and text interact. My work as a teacher had exposed me to many picture books; the use of full-page images versus sequenced frames; the size and shape of text across the page; all these elements built the story.

After looking into artists’ books and zines, I could see that a certain rebelliousness, creativity, and desire to push the boundaries could result in exciting, unusual designs. Also, the artists’ books I researched played with the structure of a book, inspiring some of my own designs in this task.

I would say the main change in my understanding of book design during this exercise was the realisation that the process is far from linear. Although I did begin with thumbnail images, then mocked up physical pamphlets to explore layout, then trialled some ideas on my laptop, I kept returning to the thumbnail images. There was a lot of back and forth between thumbnailing and trying these ideas in a physical A6 pamphlet; I kept distilling my ideas, choosing the ones I thought worked best, and adapting them, until I had something I felt I wanted to take further. This is an important process to go through because there is no point ploughing ahead with something that does not quite work. It is vital to keep editing and refining to ensure the final ideas, layout, and sequence are desirable and workable. Below are images from my A3 sketchbook of some of the thumbnailing I did to explore formats for my A6 pamphlets.

After exploring this process, I am excited to start my assignment. I feel like I have some clear ideas about each stage of the book design process, but also the flexibility to return to other stages if ideas are not working. The thoughts about production choices are at the front of my mind, so I will certainly be considering things like paper choice and how I will duplicate my zine throughout my assignment.

Returning to Exercise 7: Visualising, critiquing, and editing

In this exercise, I wanted to use the ideas I had begun to develop in ‘Returning to Exercise 5’ and create mock-ups, altering my ideas as I took them further, and pushing the ideas I felt were more successful. As I explained in the previous post, I end up critiquing and editing as I develop my ideas, so I have included all my physical experiments here.

The Bookworm

First, I looked at the bookworm ideas I had generated and started creating mock-ups of some of the structures I had visualised.

I found I enjoyed creating the worm-shaped, uncurling booklets because this reflected the character and they would be the sort of thing I would choose to pick up and explore. The concertina seemed like a strong idea too. I did try a concertina as a pull-out, which also had that nice effect of unfurling and revealing more of the character. I wondered if text could be added to the body that then can be read when the reader pulls the character out from the book.

I wanted to try using the photographs of book spines to create the character or hide parts of the character, as I thought this fit more with the initial brief of ‘bookworm’. My first creation was this concertina bookworm, using the books as guides for the folds.

I thought this might work quite nicely as a promotional leaflet for a book shop, advertising their top picks each month. On the reverse side could be some reviews or comments on each book and details of the book shop. The bookworm could be part of the shop’s brand. I also liked the contrast of colourful photographs and the black and white line drawing of the cartoon-y character. It seems friendly and inviting.

Next, I tried a peephole idea, with the worm visible through gaps in a bookshelf.

Immediately, I began writing a little narrative about the bookworm on the shelf, so perhaps this would suit a children’s picture book, with the worm as the main character and some pop-up/peephole/pull-out elements to engage the reader. Sticking to the idea of branding for a book shop, it could work as a container/card holder for a gift card (the card could have the bookworm on and be contained in the bookshelf folder/case).

The Rabbit

Next, I looked at the rabbit ears idea. Below are some of my initial mock ups.

Although I thought all ideas had potential, I particularly liked the pop-up ears idea; when the page is opened, the ears pop-up, like magic. I decided to use card and print some of my own photographs as backgrounds, ready for the pop-up ears. I tried two variations, with slightly different text, ears, and contrast and saturation on the photographs, to see which would look more effective.

I quite like the addition of the wand and the ears are positioned better on the right design. I wonder if this would work well in a children’s pop-up book, perhaps a magic-themed story.

Overall, I would say that returning to this exercise (and the process of researching, developing, visualising, critiquing and editing) was extremely valuable. I think the first time I completed this exercise, I was initially so focused on the visual aspect, on just creating illustrations, rather than thinking ahead to book features and structures. It is vital to think ahead in these processes and to keep returning to former stages to get new ideas and find new inspiration.

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