Up to 400%

Tanya Devaeva, December 4, 2012

We met the ugliest business card ever in the toilet of a café near lake Tahoe. We couldn’t help taking it. First, there was a man in a hat in it. Then there’s a promise that the card makes the holder 400% more kawaii. The card had traveled much inside our wallets before we got its message.

A cool illustration also makes its medium 400% more kawaii.

Let’s take the books from an American bookstore as an example.

Cookery books
The department is huge, everything is beautiful. There are lots of books of perfect design. Photographers, food-stylists, designers, authors – all of them do their best. And they hardly ever use illustration. Everything drawn is rather schematic and average.

But there comes Edible Selby. From the book you know how Todd Selby, a photographer, visited houses, gardens and restaurants around the world and chose 40 personalities of modern cookery whom he likes. That’s not a bargain if you use it while cooking but all the recipes are scribbled and supplemented with the portrays of the people and some other details made by the author. And it’s all so funny and bright that you just want to take the book home and eat it with your eyes. (as well as his previous book — The Selby is in your place is in your place).

But even if you don’t care about all this hipster-like handmade you will be impressed by the The geometry of pasta by Jacob Kennedy and Kaz Hildebrandt. The pasta recipes book produces the WOW impression on everyone by its black and white minimalistic graphics. The “Geometry” stands out against a background of the books stuffed with innumerable photos of pasta.

Love and sex
The department is rather smaller than that of cookery books and tenfold uglier. Most of the books seem to be selling failures printed in the 90s. There’s just one of them which looks modern and cheerful: Position of the Day Playbook: Sex Every Day in Every Way. An old and boring idea of a new position every day they made fresher by means of the abstract pictograms with no signs of gender. This kind of instruction is interesting and not shameful to look through, apart from its sweaty shelf neighbors.

House and design
It’s all like the cookery stuff. But there’s an interesting project — The perfectly imperfect home where all the photos are replaced with elegant and emotional watercolors that are rather detailed but far from photorealism. Comments on Amazon are conflicting. Some people adore it, some think the book lacks materiality. The author of the book wanted the readers think of creativity and expressing themselves instead of copying, and she succeeded with a little help from Virginia Johnson.

There’s a couple of bookshave really great pictures that are of no smaller importance than the texts.

The first one is — The Were, the Why and the How: 75 artists illustrate wondrous mysteries of science. Scientists wrote 75 essays on any topic like “How stars are born and how they die” or “why pigeons shake their heads when walking”. Every essay is illustrated, and as soon as the editor didn’t give any special task, an illustration there is always a sort of fun and a surprise. This is an effective and stylish symbiosis of art and science.

The second book is called Evolution by Jean-Baptiste De Panafieu. There the small chapters about the aspects of evolution are illustrated by the photos of animals and human’s skeletons against a black background. The photographer Patrick Gries has created a wonderful tale of the beauty and energy of the world creation. 

There are two nice books. The big New Yorker book of dogs is a big illustrated issue of the dog stuff. The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds is a book of ovservations made by an enthusiastic ornithologist with his own great pictures in the 19th century style and some true stories, Both of the books are heartfelt but not sugary.

Essays and all the others
We like the book My ideal bookshelf that has just appeared in shops. The author talked to different interesting people about the books they consider to be the most important in their lives, and the illustrator drew all these bookshelves in an appealing manner.

The book is a perfect one for a coffee table, but what is more – it’s a nice and humane project totally based on illustration. There are postcards and posters with different book sets on the website and if you like you can even have a picture about your own bookshelf.

Illustration is beautiful. We get used to good illustration since childhood. There is obvious no reason why we should get cheap trash instead of it. Apart from books, here are more things that illustration can make better and more interesting. Why not use it?