Let’s see inside: the Isotype Institute’s approach to child-centred book design

A session at Information Design conference 2009

Thursday 2nd April, 2009

2:20pm to 2:20pm (GMT)

Graphic explanation for children is one way to describe the children's books that were designed by the Isotype Institute from the 1940s to the late 1960s and which included series such as the Visual History of Mankind, Wonders of the Modern World, Visual Science, The Wonder World of Nature, They Lived Like This. Many were translated into languages other than English, including German, Japanese, French, Danish, and Italian.

This talk is an account of the approach taken in the making of these books which shows how Isotype principles are used to enhance accessibility, and how Otto and Marie Neurath understood the importance of finding ways to encourage younger readers to engage with non-fiction texts. They brought a child-centred approach to book design; the concept of the ‘magic knife’ used first in If you could see inside was one such example.

This phrase was used in the text to link with the cross section diagrams that was a characteristic feature of Marie Neurath’s way of explaining complexity to children. Further, the schoolbooks show how her role as transformer underpinned an approach to integrated book design in which editors and designers worked as teams making books in which text and pictures were considered alongside each other.

The talk is illustrated with examples of Otto and Marie Neurath’s sketches, and discusses in detail some of the graphic explanations and the rationale behind them from The visual history of mankind and other series.

About the speaker

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Sue Walker

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Time 2:20pm2:20pm GMT

Date Thu 2nd April 2009

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