Picture Books - Design
Shape and size of bookPicture books are almost always either rectangular or square in shape. If rectangular, then they are either presented vertically or horizontally. A rectangular picture book that is horizontal will have very wide double-spread pages compared with a rectangular picture book that is vertical. You will need to consider the effect and the choice for each picture book that you study, according to its overall design. Some possible effects and practical reasons are as follows.
Rectangular horizontal Appropriate for landscapes Can include action (such as an animal running from left to right) Ideal for stories that involve travel
Rectangular Vertical Appropriate for demonstrating tall buildings, characters and objects Better for narratives involving a change in an individual rather than a change of location as they
cannot present as much action as if they were rectangular Appropriate for stories that examine or express emotions of characters.
Square An unusual shape for a book of any sort Can add to a sense of solidness Notice that a double- page spread in a square-shaped picture book is, in fact, a rectangle
The front and back covers
The cover of a picture book is part of the design. The purpose of a front cover, as with a novel, is primarily to attract potential readers and viewers. Another important aspect of the front cover of a picture book is that it will also have the same design style as the remainder of the picture book. This may include borders, font, colours and images. Often a theme or character will be introduced via the front cover.How do these front covers attract attention? What can you predict about the book from the cover?
The back cover of a picture book is slightly different. As with novels, the back cover will often contain a blurb (a short promotional description). It will also continue the design features of the book such as borders, font colours and images. It differs, however, in that the back cover of a picture book often contains elements of the story that are at a tangent (not directly relevant) to the main plot. In other words, where a world has been created by an author and illustrator, the back cover may contain another element of the world not directly related to the plot. Another example that you might come across is where a minor character is depicted on the back cover.
What features are on the back cover of this book?
When a picture book is first opened, there is usually a page glued into the binding before there are any titles or acknowledgements. This occurs at the end of picture books also. These pages are designed in line with the overall design concept of the picture book. End papers are usually used to enhance mood rather than to directly influence plot or character development.
Front and end matter
At the beginning of a picture book, before the plot begins and after the end paper, there is front matter. This front matter includes title pages, author, illustrator, publisher, editor and publication date, much like in a novel. The difference, again, is that in picture books these pages fit the overall design of the picture book and incorporate elements of design such as font, format size, colour, border and images.
The same elements apply to end matter, except that end matter includes topics such as acknowledgements.
Borders and gutters
Borders are used to frame any part of the page that does not have image or text. This can be simple or complex and intricate. Often borders are used to add to the overall tone and mood of the picture book.
Gutters in picture books refer to the place between two pages where the binding meets. Designers of picture books need to be aware of gutters to avoid parts of images disappearing (such as parts of faces). Be on the lookout for the way in which designers avoid this difficulty.
It is common for picture book design to incorporate motifs. Motifs are recurring images, symbols or text. The meaning of motifs is dependent on the picture book. You will often find that a picture book is designed in such a way that motifs and symbols are included in all parts of the book and not just in the storyline.