The telephone in pictures
When I tell people that a big part of my research is about 'graphic description' I often get a blank look; what does this mean? but it can be good fun! I thought I'd share a few double page spreads, for your consideration:
These are also popups for more detail. There's nothing like direct comparison to see how dramatically different approaches to book design and illustration can be.
The first two spreads are from 'The Telephone' from 1972, part of the Ladybird 'How it Works' series. These are beautifully illustrated in watercolour or art markers (in the style of classic commercial art.) Note the realism in the parts that depict actual things; the straight and angular arrows; the garrish colours.
The double page spread directly below is from David Macauley's 1988 book 'The Way Things Work'. Macauley's fluid, sepia-toned illustrations of technical innards and processes are accompanied by a reader's partner in discovery, the little mammoth. This book is an obvious contrast to the Laybird; some simple parameters have great implications in terms of pricing, readership, and reading style, for instance: 'The Way Things Work' is large, heavy, glossy and dust-jacketted, whereas the Ladybirds are small, light hardcover books.
Graphic description involves much more than tallying simple metrics. It may involve an anlysis of typography and layout, language and writing; of the illustrations in terms of formal features; of characteristics that might aid learning; or of stylistic features that are products of their time or unique to the creator. Last but not least, a description might include the myriad ways that we may imagine these books to be actually used and read by the young audiences they are intended for. Graphic description is useful, even necessary, when examining objects like books; 'designed' just as much (if not more) than they are 'written'.