Part of the reason for a lack of new posts here lately is because I’ve been busy with several book designs. It’s enjoyable work but very time consuming. A recent job is for a book which details the untold story of Walking Pictures. Before the photographic selfies which we’re now so familiar with (whether we want to be or not!), walkies were a world-wide photo craze which peaked during the inter-war years but were still popular right into the early Seventies.
Simply put, if you were on holiday at just about any resort in the UK between 1920 and 1970, chances are you would be snapped as you walked down the main street by a commercial ‘walkie’ photographer. He (they were almost but not always men) would then hand you a numbered ticket, and you could pop along to view and buy your photo at a kiosk later that day.
Millions were purchased and are now a fabulous resource for social historians, family tree researchers, fashion students and anyone interested in portrait photography.
This book sets out to tell the story of walkies, with hundreds of examples and text detailing the trade, the photographers and the firms involved.
The design problem was how to encompass all this on a book cover. Many of the walking picture images were taken on old movie cameras, so would have three or four frames of the person walking toward the camera. Visually these are very atmospheric and seemed the obvious cover choice, so I worked with a couple of frames for the first design. After scanning, the images were additionally given slight motion blurring to add to the sense of movement, and the title was taken from a piece Walking Picture paper, supplied and printed as such on the back by manufacturers like Kodak. It did the job but failed to convey the sheer variety of the material in the book, so I next tried a grid design.
A background walkie was used across the cover area. The idea was to fill in a number of the grid squares with smaller walking pictures to build up a mosaic, while leaving enough of the background image to make it readable. The second version here shows this process.
Finally once I felt the balance of background to small images was right, I emphasised the grid structure using white rules. The last element was the title. Rather than rely on vintage lettering again, I opted to use a very basic sans serif typeface – Helvetica Neue – instead. A few of the squares were given a sepia tint to give a little more variety to the grid.
All the images on the cover are featured inside the book, so buyers will be able to find out more. The book itself is scheduled for publication later this summer and you can read more about it on the publisher’s site, or learn more about walking pictures (and maybe be inspired to check your own family photo albums for examples) on a sister site Go Home On A Postcard.