I’ve written a number of posts on design for adult and young adult books, but I’ve yet to feature any books for younger audiences. However, I recently discovered that a few famous graphic designers have made their own children’s picture books, which approach youthful subjects with really beautiful composition and color. One of the most notable authors is probably Paul Rand, who illustrated books written by his wife Ann Rand.
Paul Rand is perhaps best known for his logos for ABC, UPS and IBM, and some of his advertisements and posters. While Rand spent most of his life designing for adult audiences, his aesthetic has a simple, colorful, bold look that works really well in children’s books.
The Rands’ children’s books include the three I’m sharing below, Sparkle and Spin: A Book About Words, I Know a Lot of Things, and Little 1. The books have different topics and slightly different visual styles, but are all recognizably Paul Rand’s aesthetic. The text of the books also has a lot of fun word play, from the number puns in Little 1 to playfully illustrated homophones in Sparkle and Spin.
Sparkle and Spin: A Book About Words
This is probably my favorite of the bunch, as it talks about the power and importance of the written language. Despite the simple text, you can tell that the author is very aware of the significance of the written word in our society, and the playful typographic layouts demonstrate a masterful grasp of letterforms and type. Aesthetically, the book design uses a bright, limited color palette and large blocks and shapes of color to fill the pages. And you’ve got to love a children’s book that breaks out the word “tintinnabulate”!
Originally published in 1957, it was re-released in 2007 by Chronicle Books. Sparkle and Spin has also joined the modern world in the form of an ebook. Apparently available for Android and the iPad, I unfortunately can’t speak to the design of either format as I don’t have an Android device and it seems that the iPad app isn’t available in the United States.
Little 1 focuses on numbers, with delightful wordplay and a kid-friendly story about finding friends and playing together. The design uses a lot more black and white, with bright spots of color to highlight flowers, bees and other illustrations, and the distinctive slab serif typeface, American Typewriter.
I Know a Lot of Things
Originally printed in 1957, I Know a Lot of Things is more colorful, with simple layouts and large illustrations. It also has been recently reprinted by Chronicle Books.
Other books by famous designers include Henri’s Walk to Paris illustrated by Saul Bass, The Alphazeds and The Big Race by Milton Glaser, Alexander Girard Color by Alexander Girard, a whole collection of books by Bruno Munari.
While researching this post, I was also surprised to find some children’s books by other famous people (not just designers), including The Little Baby Snoogle-Fleejer by Jimmy Carter and his daughter Amy Carter, and books by everyone from Steve Martin to Kristi Yamaguchi to Al Yankovic. Barnes and Noble has an entire category devoted to them!