Maus

4 Jul

Watch an interview with Art Spiegelman in which he talks about “writing with a picture”.
Read more about Art Spiegelman on the Pantheon Graphic Novels website.

The more that I think about book design, the more I begin to consider what it is to actually ‘read’ a book. One thing that I’ve learnt this year is that there’s certainly more to it than just reading words on a page: the interplay between the design, typography and content (both the story, and the illustrations) of a book contributes to how we experience that book without us even being aware of it.

I think that graphic novels highlight the importance of achieving harmony between all the elements of a book. Even though the illustration is the attraction of a graphic novel, it needs good writing and design to tell the story. Maus is one of my favourite books because the illustration and design of the book directly relate to the story. As you read it, you can almost feel yourself falling into its world. The pictures and the words actually kind of disappear so that you feel like you’re ‘watching’ the story and I think that’s thanks to the design. The layout of the sequences is simple and clear but also varied: for most of the time it’s from box to box (these vary in size and shape) and occasionally you’ll stumble across a full-page image which will reinforce the importance of that aspect of the story.

I also think that Maus is a good example of not having to do anything particularly fancy or revolutionary with design to make a very strong point. There’s nothing that hasn’t been seen before in terms of design in this book, and even the base metaphor (Nazis are cats and Jews mice) isn’t revolutionary, but it all comes together seamlessly into what is a very affecting book.

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