Henri’s Walk To Paris

So Saul Bass {1920-1996} illustrated this. You know him, even if you think you don’t.

Recognize any of these?

Saul Bass undoubtedly has a powerful legacy of corporate logo design, but he is also considered the father of the title sequence. I can’t say that I was well aware of him before I was a motion graphics designer, but as an animator, I am very influenced by his strong use of line and his bold color palettes.

{You can see a roundup of his title sequences at Art of the Title.}

And that’s fancy and whatnot, but then he created this sparkling kids’ book.

Henri is just a little French garçon who dreams of Paris, but lives in Reboul. He packs up some cheese, a carrot, and a piece of bread and walks himself there. But {SPOILER ALERT!} he doesn’t make it. A little bird disrupts his navigation, and he ends up right back in Reboul. But Henri? Thinks he made it, and thinks Paris is quite like home. And we love him for that.

In graphic design, unity is the quality that ties individual elements into a beautiful whole. Me talking about Saul Bass is like a dirty sock puppet oozing with glue and googly eyes having an opinion on Jim Henson. He’s a master craftsman, and so let me just show you some moments I love.

Check out these consecutive spreads. The typographic element that reflects the title IS Henri. And from one page to another, there he goes, walking off to Paris. This graphic drives your eye forward and invites you to dive into this book. And of course it tiptoes left to right. It’s how we read, and it simply signifies forward motion. Smart is an understatement.

He doesn’t clutter this illustration with a window sill, curtains, or many details of the room inside. It doesn’t matter. The story is outside. This is a brilliant use of negative space.

Henri’s tiny house, contrasted with the vast world beyond. And color…green and red are direct opposites on the color wheel, so the tiny pop of red is a perfect choice to offset the mass of green.

Soothing pattern repeats in those thousands of trees and the zoo full of animals.

A reminder of the cover, a peek into Henri’s walk. And below, a shift in perspective and point of view.

So Henri leaves home and returns again. Likewise, Saul Bass’ pictures ramp up to the climax of the story, and repeat again as Henri heads home. That same window repeats, that same wide shot of the tiny white house sits still again, only with different text for a different time in the story. It’s a detail that’s hard to show in pictures, but on an overall visual read of the story…it’s magnificent.

Henri’s Walk To Paris in reprint is a gift I didn’t even know I was was on my wish list. It’s joining this monster on my coffee table-slash-corner of my desk.


  • Posted August 9, 2012 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the peek at this really interesting book. Makes me wonder how many contemporary US agents/editors/publishers would reject this MS out of hand because it is set in France? Would “Neville Walks to New York” still fly with the same outstanding design elements?

  • Posted August 9, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    I sure hope so! That’s the aesthetic and sensibility I’m pushing to publish. A good story is a good story, right?!

  • Posted August 10, 2012 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    Amen sister!

  • Posted August 9, 2012 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    I LOOOOOOOVE Saul Bass. Ok, another one for the wishlist! Thank you!

  • Posted August 9, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    My wish list is out of control.

  • Posted August 9, 2012 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    What a masterpiece! Love the art in this book – the colors and perspectives – just amazing. Thanks for sharing!

  • Posted August 9, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    You’re welcome!

  • tinamcho
    Posted August 9, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting! I learn so much from your blog about art! I like how you used the {spoiler alert} which I’m seeing a lot on the Olympics media. Sounds like a cute book! What yeare was it written?

  • Posted August 9, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    Originally 1962! Isn’t that crazy?!

  • Posted August 9, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    Very cool, as always. Thanks for sharing. Listening to you talk about this book makes me think of Watching Words Move by Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar published by Chronicle Books in 2006. The words ARE the illustrations.

  • Posted August 9, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    OH! I don’t know that one! But I’m not surprised something so amazing was published by Chronicle. They have impeccable taste!

  • Posted August 10, 2012 at 6:58 am | Permalink

    Wow. I had no idea this existed. Now that I do, I want it.

  • Posted August 10, 2012 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    simply sophisticated, love it 🙂

  • Posted August 10, 2012 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    You have good taste:)

  • Posted August 11, 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Magnificent indeed! Love this one and how you beautifully point out why. 🙂

  • Posted August 12, 2012 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    Subtle and stylish illustrations! And I love the story concept. Thanks for this introduction!

  • Posted August 22, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    See, Carter??? You always tell me about the coolest books 🙂

  • Posted August 22, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

    I can’t help it!

  • Posted May 8, 2013 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I’ve been looking at the “Soon he sees a city…” page/illustration. It’s as if there’s another entire story just in that one page.

  • Posted May 8, 2013 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    Oh, that’s awesome. Love that idea!

  • Posted May 8, 2013 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    I ADORE this book. Now I get why you are “obsessed” with Senor Bass. HE’S GOOD. And you’re funny. “Dirty sock puppet oozing with glue and googly eyes.” xo

  • Posted May 8, 2013 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    I forgot I wrote that! Still true. (But man, that’s a darn good sentence.) xo

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