Friday, 16 March 2012

Design and Literature

Topics: Graphic Novels, Illustrations, Literature 

It is fascinating to discover how different disciplines intersect, how they can inform each other, and how that can spawn new disciplines. Architecture (where art + function/engineering meet) is a good example; graphic novels (art + literature) is another one.

A picture book by Oliver Jeffers

I loved graphic novels before it became 'cool' - I guess I've always loved picture books. It's beautiful to see how text + illustration can work together to immerse the reader into the story.

You can think of it as a kind of movie, where you can watch the film at your own pace, frame by frame. I once took an undergraduate course on Graphic Novels and got the opportunity to read Spiegelman's Maus, Craig Thompson's Blankets, and many other classics.

Anyway, this very interesting post by brainpickings made me think about design + literature. Lovely illustrations of Joyce's Finnegans Wake, by Stephen Crowe. That novel is notoriously difficult to read, let alone to illustrate! 

 page 75 of Finnegans Wake, designed by Stephen Crowe

When commissioning an illustrator/designer to create something to go along with the text, I think it's preferable when the image doesn't just illustrate the text in a literal manner. It is way better to have a complementary relationship between the words and the images, so that a reader can't understand the whole story by just reading the words, or just flipping through and looking at the pictures. 

If you're interested in hearing a bit more about illustration and storytelling, and whether 'cartoons' can convey the magnitude and seriousness of real tragedies such as Auschwitz, I would recommend listening to this recent BBC radio podcast of Art Spiegelman talking about his Nobel prize-winning graphic novel Maus

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