Having just published a new range of baby books called Hello Baby, I thought that I would explain our thinking behind the series, especially as books without words or recognisable pictures may seem a little extreme.
I will admit that I have been asked a couple of times before to produce black and white books for babies, but I wanted to do something different to what was already published.
One day, I was talking about it with my daughter Rose, who is at art school. We had wanted to work on a project together, and so we decided to have a look to see what there was out there on the subject. We found quite a few things, the most useful being research work done at the University of California in Berkeley, and articles by the Smith-Kettleworth Eye Research Institute in San Francisco. These, along with a couple of other university studies, got me really excited about trying to create books that would be specifically targeted for babies in the first few months of their lives. The thought that these really would be the first books that a baby would lay eyes upon made the challenge a serious one, too – I wanted to produce something that would really help, rather than just look nice on the shelf of a bookstore.
The research that we found, and cross referenced with several other sources, was that newborn babies can see, but are unable to focus for the first couple of months, so images that are high contrast, not just black and white, are much easier for them to see. We also found that they can see patterns if they are big enough and really clearly defined. As we wanted to produce something that is purely for the baby, rather than the parent, this was the route that we took – deciding not to have recognisable images or words and concentrating entirely on those high-contrast patterns. Luckily, the research also showed a variety of patterns that worked best, including some that help to stimulate babies – I was really surprised to read that some of the stripes and spirals were actually calming (they have the reverse effect on me!).
So we have taken those basic patterns – spots, stripes, spirals, etc – designed them mainly in black and white with the help of red and blue, which are also very strong, and developed a series of formats that hopefully will be perfect for newborns. Board and cloth books, of course, but also some lovely shaped cards on a ring – all made with very safe and lightweight materials. The babies that we have shown them to so far have loved them (well, they looked like they did!).
I got so into the science behind the books, that we are now working on a second series of Hello Baby books, which are for six to eighteen month olds and introduce more activity and sound as the baby develops motor skills as well as their vision. These will have words and some more recognisable pictures, but will still retain the high-contrast principles of the first range. I will admit to having sleepless nights worrying whether parents will take a book that has no words or conventional images seriously, despite the research telling me that this was right. But I like to think that by designing something purely for the baby, we have ended up designing something that is very beautiful for the parent too.
I hope that you like them.