Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Ladybird by Design

Things to Make, 1963, G. Robinson. (c) Ladybird Books Ltd, 1963
Things to Make, 1963, G. Robinson. © Ladybird Books Ltd, 1963

Like the many thousands of British children who, like me, grew up reading Ladybird Books in the 1970s—and the decade either side of this—can doubtless recall a certain fascination with at least one Ladybird title. For me it was the beautifully realistic and slightly unnerving illustrations by Robert Lumley for The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Like many Ladybird titles the illustrations were engrossing. They were images to be pored over, and as such many remain as indelible memories.

Bexhill’s De La Warr Pavilion is exhibiting  ‘Ladybird by Design’. Containing some 200 original artworks the exhibition is a testament to Ladybird’s commitment to publishing illustrations of the highest quality; images that would help with learning by being both descriptive and well made. They are realistic yet somehow convey so much more than any photograph might. Yes, the content often depicted a somewhat idealised view of the world, and it is easy to criticise some of the content for being being middle class and for having very gender specified roles, but judging by the stream of visitors that I have seen on my visits the exhibition it’s easy to see that these books are held in firm affection by the nation. Of course, I say that with some bias as one of the many who associates these books with part of my childhood. Seeing these illustrations again, and in the context of having trained as an illustrator and now teaching the graphic arts made me appreciate these wonderful books and their images more than ever. It perhaps also suggests that illustration, often viewed as a lower art form, can rival the interest generated by many ‘fine’ art collections. The exhibition runs until May 10th.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Typography e-book

Typography by Tim Bones

In the summer of 2014 I wrote series of blog posts for the Interactive Design Institute (IDI) on the theme of typography and typeface design. The posts are very much aimed at those wanting to gain an insight into the fundamentals of type and some of the approaches to its design. IDI have now collated these writings and put them into a nice little e-book which is available for all to read on Issuu.

spread 2

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The Crystal: A model for sustainability (and exhibition design?)

The Cystal 2

Well, this is something of a hidden gem.  I’m not alone in saying I’d never heard of The Crystal. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to says they’ve not heard of it, even those teaching design in London! Having been there I left impressed and feel like spreading the word particularly given that The Crystal is the “World’s largest exhibition dedicated to urban sustainability.”

Having been tipped off by a student who stumbled across it, my teaching colleague and I decided to organise a visit. This striking building in London’s Royal Victoria Dock in east London contains a permanent exhibition about sustainable development. It is owned and operated by Siemens and is an exemplar of sustainability in architecture. The Crystal “is one of the world’s greenest buildings” and it emits an impressive 65% less carbon dioxide than other comparable office buildings and consumes 50% less energy. But as well as being of interest as a model of sustainability part of our reason to visit The Crystal was to see how had been it is designed as an exhibition space and how it was presented in terms of display graphics. The same student who told us about the building mentioned that the exhibition graphics were good and he was right. Typographically the building contained a real mixture of design that the materials and surfaces must have provided the graphic designers with as much pleasure as they did challenges. (These can be seen below.)

The most important thing was that I took something with me when I left. This was both a mixture of hope and a slight dread for the futures of the coming generations. The exhibition was a great way to drive home the importance for planning and anticipation as well as an acute need to reflect upon our needs and our behaviours.