Friday, July 12, 2019

Cut Outs: Graphic Design and Children's Books 1970s and 1980s

I have a particular fondness for whimsical graphic design that existed slightly before the prominence of computers.  To my eye, computers made graphic design more mechanical, mathematical and largely based upon typography.  My favorite design is in children's books where non-digital means are still widely used such as cut outs.  Eric Carle, Leo Lionni and Ezra Jack Keats come to mind as some of the most pivotal children's book designers that would influence a lot of the experimentation in this medium of the 1970s and 1980s.  Not to mention the more comic strip influenced pioneers such as Syd Hoff, the Berenstains, Bernard Waber and later Frank Asch.

Lately I've been looking at a lot of readers from the 1970s, or textbook compilations usually supplied to elementary schools by the major educational publishers of the time.  Most of the material in these books were reprints from popular picture books.  However, some of the material was original.  Much of the original content was the overall design of the book that included covers, chapter breaks and incidental materials.  The designers in charge of this portion were usually experienced graphic designers who were as inventive with their own style as the actual content that was compiled.

Gary Fujiwara (1936-2008) was a Boston based graphic designer active since the early 1960s.  He often collaborated with Peter Bradford.  Below are examples of some of his book covers for educational published in the late 1970s.

Marvin Goodman and Marilyn Bass utilized paper and fabric cutouts for many of the books they did together.  These books were often paperback only and are fairly difficult to find today because of their singular printings.  I believe they were a husband and wife team but I have seen Marilyn Bass credits listed solo on some pieces and they look about the same.

Dorothea Sierra - Don't know much about her but I believe she was a designer also in the Boston/Cambridge area.  Here is some of her work from educational publishing.  She was most likely a staff illustrator for one of the publishers in the Boston area because she also did a lot of spot illustrations for Math textbooks and similar items:

Alex Boies is an illustrator who was active in Minneapolis later in the 1980s and 1990s but follows in this tradition.  Her work looks influenced by the Matisse cut outs.  She illustrated the children's book Imani in the Belly and she did several large scale advertising campaigns including one for The Mall of America.

Zenji Funbashi 
- born 1942.  This Japanese designer was also inspired by the Matisse cut outs.  Here is a cover he designed for GRAPHIS in 1983.  He also created wood sculpture and animated films utilizing cut outs.

Lois Ehlert - The well known American children's book author and illustrator who utilizes cut outs for almost all of her books:

from Lois Ehlert's Circus, 1992

Dan Dickas- He illustrated one of my favorite picture books ever, In The City, 1965:

Leo and Diane Dillon: Cover of Making Music Your Own, Volume 3, 1971:

Rap a tap tap : here's Bojangles think of that!, 2001:

Ivan Chermayeff is famous for the iconic logos he designed for NBC, PBS, Mobil, National Geographic and many others.  He also created children's books, and numerous collages and posters throughout his life.  He also did some magazine illustration including a cover to Sesame Street Magzine and Wig Wag.  Below are some examples:

Miscellaneous art, unknown artists:

Cover to Something About the Author, reference book series, 1979

Various photographs from textbooks, late 1970s:


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