Typography in Publication Design

Picturing Words

Associative Typography and the Picture Book
Rathna Ramanathan, Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, University of the Arts London,

Abstract: This paper discusses the use of typography as both word and image to tell a story. It uses
varied case studies ranging from European graphic design history to contemporary Indian examples
by Tara Books, India’s well-known avant-garde publisher to explore how expressive type can convey
sound, texture, movement, colour, atmosphere and emotion. Associative typography can allow
children (and adults) to discover unexpected meanings and associations in language. While
traditional books are created with linear story telling, associative type can allow us to explore the
page spatially, leading to new relationships between reader and the book. This talk uses historical
examples as well as three Indian picture books designed by Rathna Ramanathan– Tiger on a Tree,
Anything but a Grabooberryand In the Land of Punctuation - to make its case.
Key words: type play, associative typography, picture books, design process, Indian publishing 

1. Introduction
When designing children’s books, the relationship between the visual and associative
aspects of typography and the production of meaning in a printed book has been the focus
of my work. Johanna Drucker (1984) noted that ‘writing produces a visual image: the
shapes, sizes and placement of letters on a page contribute to the message produced,
creating statements which cannot always be rendered in spoken language’ (Drucker, 1984:
8). Living and working in India, as a designer, one quickly realises that the word is
immediately and inseperably both visual and verbal, text and image, written and spoken.
In my practice as a book designer, I have been interested by these connections between
spoken and written language and typography. Using type play and the concept of the...

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