The Red Book

The Red Book is a 2004 Caldecott Honor book by Barbara Lehman. Despite being an incredible honor, I picked this image of the cover unmarred by the regal silver medal. It is so bare and yet so rich, which is exactly what you can expect to find inside.

Plus, how adorable is she all bundled up and ready to run? Don’t you want to know why she has such a hop in her skip in her jump?

The Red Book is entirely told in pictures. Wordless books are such a unique platform from which to tell a story. I find that my impatient and anxious self slows down immensely in order to breathe in the life of each and every page. Each page alone is a work of art, and when connected together, they take you, the picture-reader, on a journey. A little girl finds a red book buried in the snow while journeying to school, and upon close inspection, realizes she is seeing a boy far far away…reading a red book…about HER. Prepare to get your Inception on in a sweet and childlike way when you read this book. {Spoiler Alert: Leo DiCaprio does NOT appear in The Red Book. You can leave your totem in your pocket.}

Element of design: Color

This is an obvious choice, right? I mean the book is called THE RED BOOK after all. So…duh. But let me back up for a minute because one of the things I love most about the design of this book is the window motif. The geometric skyline on the title page shows a cluster of buildings with an endless pattern of windows. Each illustration is also contained in a pane, leaving white space surrounding it. It’s really designed brilliantly to enhance the wordless-book-in-a-wordless-book concept.

But, color. The Red Book. It’s visible on nearly every page, and clearly the unifying subject throughout. Let’s go back to Psychology 101. {Or not really. That means sophomore year at William and Mary, when I had enormous eyebrows and way too many Dunkin’ Donuts.} The infamous psychologist Carl Jung said, “colors are the mother tongue of the subconscious.” While that may be a tad too heavy for your morning-coffee-blog-reading-routine, let’s just consider color psychology for a moment. Understanding even a little of this branch of color theory is helpful as a designer. The question to consider is whether colors affect our emotions as a result of their cultural or societal meaning, or whether there is a direct and more intrinsic link. Say what? This: traditionally, red is associated with danger, anger, passion, power…STRONG feelings. Similarly, color diagnostic tests have been used since the 1940s to determine how personal color preferences affect an individual’s personality traits. Crazy, right? People who choose red as their favorite color are most likely defiant and aggressive, but warm and exciting.

So do the blah-blah-blah-important-words-about-color-psychology even matter? Maybe. Probably, even. What if this was The Blue Book? Or The Black Book? You might have very different feelings towards it. But, red! Bright, warm, inviting red!

I want to crawl inside that book.