Josef Reyes: One of Print Magazine's New Visual Artist for 2009 Shares a New Favorite

Josef Reyes: One of Print Magazine's New Visual Artist for 2009 Shares a New Favorite

Remy Charlip's "Arm In Arm" is a children's book I picked up at the Antiques Garage flea market on 25th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. The illustrations in "Arm in Arm" are delightful and intelligent, but what I find most remarkable about this book is the way in which the illustrations acknowledge and exploit the physical properties of the page.

In "Arm In Arm," Remy Charlip tells stories not only through his illustrations but also through his placement of the illustrations on the book pages. In the spread pictured below, Charlip narrates a snow day scene:

Here, Charlip talks about the two opposite ways that kids spend snow day -- some kids see it as the perfect reason to run outside and play, other kids see it as the perfect excuse to stay in bed the whole day. In depicting this scene, Charlip capitalizes on the format of a book spread to great effect. Since the two groups of kids are basically mirror images of one another and the two facing pages of a book spread are also basically mirror images of one another, Charlip simply places one group of kids on one page of the spread and the other group of kids on the facing page. To establish this mirroring scheme, Charlip draws windows on each page, with each window facing the window on the opposite page. Each window looks out to the scene illustrated opposite to it, thereby clarifying the link between the two pages.

In illustrating this snow day scene, Charlip clearly had the format of the book spread in mind -- he acknowledged the symmetry created by two facing pages along with the gutter that creates this symmetry, and incorporated these elements into the illustration. He treated these elements not as constraints but as tools for illuminating the story. In doing so, Charlip tells stories not only through the content of the book but also through the physical properties of the book itself.

To my limited knowledge, Remy Charlip is not a graphic designer, but I regard "Arm In Arm" as one of the most inspiring examples of book design I've ever seen. Charlip demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of the page through his clever use of negative space, gutters, and fore-edges. His pages don't merely feel like dry receptacles for content, they feel like entire worlds you can jump into.




Josef Reyes is a graphic designer at Buchanan-Smith LLC. He was previously a freelancer at The New York Times where he worked on the various Sunday magazines published by the newspaper (Sunday NYT Magazine, Key, and Play). Josef has a BFA in Graphic Design from the School of Visual Arts. He hails from Manila, Philippines.
  • Grant Glas

    I enjoy the snow day scene... which is a reality for a lot of us right now.

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