Bembo’s Zoo

I’m way late to the party for Bembo’s Zoo, but thankfully they still have some noisemakers and punch and room for more before the fire marshall shuts ‘er down. Not only is the book itself an experience, but check it out here as well. The animations add the dynamic of visual interest, and might be your only place to enjoy Bembo’s Zoo, as it is currently out of print. I tracked down a gently used version, but saw new copies online for $235! When you hit the lottery, be sure to add this book to your library.

Designed by Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich, a master of typography and brilliant graphic design, Bembo’s Zoo whacks the alphabet piñata, and the result is some serious eye candy. (Groan. I know. I couldn’t resist.) {Side note: He’s also the cover designer for Little Bee, which is making the book club rounds these days. I have no idea what the book is about, but wow-is that cover pretty!}

But truly, this concept kicks the typical ABC book up a notch. deVicq de Cumptich arms himself with the classic font Bembo Roman and only using the letters in an animal’s name, recreates the animal with Bembo letterforms. And be sure to check out his self portrait on the dust jacket. The marriage of type and picture just explodes in happy bliss in this book. Adults with a keen eye may enjoy the level of sophistication a tad more than a child, but as Marla Frazee taught me, kids are experts at reading pictures, and they will surely enjoy deconstructing this puzzle.

{Seriously, I just can’t stop with the elephants. Obsessed.)


So it goes like this:

The sand crab shimmies along with his pinchers made up of Cs and Rs.

And like this:

The king of the jungle lurks in darkness, framed by his mane made of Ls.

Why did he choose Bembo and not Comic Sans? Adobe’s font store describes Bembo as “a fine text face because of its well-proportioned letterforms, functional serifs, and lack of peculiarities.” Because Bembo is so well built, his illustrations have added whimsy from the serifs, but never feel too cluttered or chaotic in their layout. He chose the best tool to tell the story, the best solution for the problem. THIS is what separates an exceptional design from a mediocre one. Similary, his limited color palette of a deep greens, oranges, black, and pale yellow represents a restraint that oozes with beautiful, and intentional, design choice.

It’s this MASSIVE design lesson wrapped in a concise picture book that makes my heart skip a beat. And celebrating a book that marries letters and pictures in such a unique way seems like a fitting way to kick off my own Picture Book Month celebration! It’s why I’m here, and what I love, and I’m glad you are joining me for the party.


  • Posted November 2, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for introducing me to this gem–I am SUCH a font nerd, and Bembo is one of my favorites. I am setting my intrepid family the task of scaring me up a copy for Christmas. :-)

  • Posted November 2, 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    And it’s just plain fun to say BEMBO!! Let me know if you can’t track down a copy, and I’ll send you mine! It was a used copy, but it’s in good condition…and I like the idea that it’s revolving through the hands of font nerds like us:)

  • Posted March 5, 2014 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    its really not even fun to say BEMBO. bembo…

  • Posted March 5, 2014 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    lol I am soooooch I foont nerd 2! we shood meet up sumtime and talk about our things in commun 😉

  • Posted November 2, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Oh my word! This is the coolest book ever! Love how they have done the pictures. Fabulous find! Glad you shared it so we can all join the party!

  • Posted April 30, 2012 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Even better than the lovely printed book is the website:

  • Posted April 30, 2012 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    YES! Very, very fun.

  • Cole Doonton
    Posted March 5, 2014 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Totally luve font im SOOOCH a Foont nord, itsa gevin me insperashan thruuuuuu lives purells

  • Posted March 5, 2014 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Wus truly an inspurashion to meh. I love all the foont manipoolashun. soo glade that I foond this webseet. after meh dotter past away lassed year, this webseet brot meh out of teh dark gloomy daze.

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  • By The Serif Fairy « Design of the Picture Book on November 30, 2011 at 7:35 am

    […] to the illustrations in Bembo’s Zoo, each picture in The Serif Fairy is made up of characters from four typefaces. There are no serifs […]