Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Molly Leach

Few designers actually get recognition in the world of book publishing, but thankfully Molly Leach seems to be getting at least a little of it.

Molly is the brilliant designing mind behind many children's books including The Stinky Cheese Man. We're used to books breaking the rules these days, but The Stinky Cheese Man expanded the boundaries of what was considered acceptable in children's book publishing at the time (1992). She rearranged where parts of the book were traditionally placed; she melted type (pre-computer enhanced); she ran text off the page; she used several different fonts on a single page; she used extreme type sizes. The list goes on and on.

Probably the most important thing to remember about her work is that everything happens for a reason. Yes, it looks really cool when it's finished, but it certainly isn't random. (Please see some specifics in the Horn Book link provided below.)

The interesting part of the story of The Stinky Cheese Man is the fact that she is the wife of Lane Smith, the illustrator, so they were able to work on the look of the book together. Until Jon Scieszka (the author) presented the text he had written to publishers accompanied by both Smith's illustrations and Leach's design, he was turned away. The March/April 1998 issue of The Horn Book contains an article written by Scieszka that illustrates this specific situation as well as how the design of a book helps relay its message.

Barnes and Noble sat both Leach and Smith down for a short video interview which they posted on their site. I've shown it to my typography classes, and I've embedded it here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Illustrators I Greatly Admire: Exhibit D

My first encounter with Lane Smith's illustrations was because of my kids. Through their book club at school, they bought The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs as told to Jon Scieszka. And then they made me sit still and look at the illustrations.

Those darn kids.

When they thought themselves too old too keep the book, they gave it to me. It was the paperback version, and is well worn. I just received the hardback from Amazon two days ago, and I'm oogling all over again.

Of course, Smith and his wife, graphic designer Molly Leach (unfortunately, no "official" Web site for her work), broke the mold of how a kid's book was allowed to be told in The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. It's hard to mention Smith's work without a nod to Ms. Leach. Both are fantastic. Both are inspirational. And both make me oogle.

Barnes and Noble made a video of the couple's process and posted it on their site. I've embedded it here for convenience.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Bald Soprano=Tim Burton @ the MoMA?

The Tim Burton exhibit at the MoMA included a free, take-home brochure that I promptly and eagerly grabbed up last Thursday. The evening prior, I and my fellow museum goers had a bite to eat at a firehouse-turned-brewery in Philadelphia. In the entrance space, you could peruse various postcards and announcements for upcoming local events, and one in particular caught my eye. It was a large postcard for "The Bald Soprano," all in line art with a spiral on the front and hand-written text on both sides. I mentioned that it reminded me of Tim Burton, and so I took a copy for myself.

When I returned home with both the postcard and the MoMA brochure, I soon realized I wasn't far off in my initial assessment at the restaurant.

I've included here both the front cover of the Tim Burton exhibit brochure, and the front image on the postcard I picked up last week at the firehouse.

Strikingly similar.