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The House of Illustration is quickly becoming one of my favourite galleries in London, they have an amazing programme of talks and there always seems to be something interesting happening there. I recently went to visit ‘Ladybird by Design’, a touring exhibition from De La Warr Pavilion, co-curated by Lawrence Zeegen and Jane Won with graphic design by Fraser Muggeridge Sudio.
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For over 100 years, Ladybird books (part of the Penguin group since 1998) have been publishing beautifully illustrated books for children. They’re best known for their Learnabout series, non-fiction informational titles that explored a wide range of subjects, from jobs and industries to the passing of seasons and how machines work. Though originally aimed at children it wasn’t uncommon for curious adults to read these titles, apparently even the RAF used them as part of their training!
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The word ‘accessible’ perfectly describes them: being pocket sized and very affordable with clear text and full-colour illustrations, they contributed to making reading fun for so many generations of young readers. If you didn’t read them growing up you would have certainly come across them in the library or second-hand bookshops. I remember picking up ‘Printing Processes’ from a charity shop as a book design student and to this day that little book is the most comprehensive and thorough guide about production methods that I own.

Design was an intrinsic part of Ladybird’s success. It played a key role in establishing the direction that the company would take. The size and format of the book – 56 pages printed full-colour from a single sheet of 40×30 inch paper – was born of necessity during wartime paper shortages. The simple yet effective layout –  single page of text using clearly legible typography with an accompanying illustration on the facing page – was a fundamental aspect of all Ladybird books.

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The gallery space is divided into two main spaces. The first shows framed original illustrations and a selection of the books by genre and chronological order and the second offers a more hands-on experience where the audience are encouraged to read and interact with the books. The visitors are also asked to answer some questions such as: ‘What is your favourite book?, Have you kept any from your childhood?, etc.’ and all responses are added to a big Ladybird wall. 
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I was pleasantly surprised to see so many children were visiting the exhibition and engaging with the activities, with these many future readers save to say books are saved for many generations to come!. Ladybird-by-Design-Mina-Bach-thumb

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