Responses by Caz Hildebrand, creative partner, Here Design
Background: We wrote and illustrated compelling children’s books that were both well designed and exciting. It was important that the books would appeal to both children and parents, so we ensured that they were fun and engaging from a child’s perspective, rather than what an adult would expect a children’s book to look like. Both titles, A Bare Bear – A Book of Words That Sound the Same and In a Minute. Take the 60-second challenge!, were created as more than narrative stories—the intention behind the books was to encourage children to actively engage with the material and to help them understand the idiosyncrasies of our language.
Reasoning: As designers, we like to think about the whole—both text and image combined and brought to life through the use of illustration and typography. The illustrations needed to be visually stimulating while being uncomplicated enough to evoke a sense of whimsy that would entice young readers.
Challenges: The world of children’s books is freighted with many “rules” or givens that we had to learn about and incorporate. At the same time, we needed to think about which of these conventions to explore and where their boundaries lie. It’s easy to assume this would simply be an exercise in simplification, but striking the right tone is surprisingly challenging.
Favorite details: The mix of words and imagery. In our studio, we have a real enthusiasm for words, so the opportunity to create children’s books that made it fun to learn about words was a joy. For example, A Bare Bear takes readers on a journey through homonyms and homophones with exuberant illustrations that make it easy to understand the difference between the two. With short sentences and key words in bold, readers are invited to say the words aloud to hear their similarity.
Visual influences: Ann and Paul Rand’s work was a big visual influence. We were particularly inspired by the way they use color and playful imagery to bring their stories to life. The composition of each illustration was important to capture movement throughout the book. The graphics use depth and scale in a way that readers are taken on a visual journey from page to page.
Specific demands: The number of pages and print limitations are always frustrating, but ultimately are good challenges to our creativity. When you only have four words on a page, choosing the right four words is crucial—and it requires so much consideration to get it right. The simpler the pages appear, the more complicated it is, as you’ve got to find the perfect marriage of a word and a picture.