Children’s information books communicate their content with an energetic visual language
The task of tracing visual language in book design is a challenge, but one that is useful to take up in order to help us understand how readers make meaning of what they read. Studying the lineage of some forms of layout also sheds light on how design fits into and contributes to culture in a wider sense. Children’s science books – the highly graphic and colourful ones published over the last 30 years or so in the UK – provide some excellent examples of complex visual language, partly because they tend to be more highly illustrated than books meant for adults. But how do diagrams, illustrations and different forms of text interact to produce ‘content’ in these books? Meaning does not reside in the book alone, but is dependent on context: the particular conditions of reading, and the wider social and cultural environment. This is an exploration of book design as a medium of communication.