Children’s Book Illustration

Last quarter I took a class at UC Berkeley, ‘Illustrating Children’s Book’ by Kristine Brongo, who is the design director of children’s publishing at Chronicle Books. This was one of the best classes, I went into it thinking it was just going to be a lecture class, talking about what goes behind publishing children’s book, but after the first class I found out that we were supposed to work on a project ‘Book Dummy’ and the class was about how to become a children’s book illustrator, how to tell a story through pictures with your skill, style, technique. The class was to develop your illustration style, as well as technique and media.

I learned a lot from this class, like what are the basic components of book, different structures of book, the rules of the picture book, and when is it okay to break these rules.

Basic components of book: Book Jacket, Case Wrap, Spine, End Paper (consider this like a wallpaper)

There are two ways end papers can be binder: Self ended book and Traditional Style (separate end paper)

And some of the rules for picture books are:
1) narrative art with beginning and an end
2) don’t try to write in rythm
3) Don’t write about overused topics
4) Don’t try to teach a lesson

Few resources:
2) How to be an Illustrator.
3) Illustrating Children’s Book

I want my Hat Back-Jon Klassen

Story summary:
The bear’s hat is gone, and he wants it back. Patiently he asks the animals he comes across, one by one, whether they have seen it. Each animal says no, some more elaborately than others. But just as the bear begins to despond, a deer comes by and asks a simple question that sparks the bear’s memory and renews his search with a vengeance.

Jon Klassen, the author and illustrator has illustrated other books like Cat’s Night out. The artwork has a watercolor look to it but are created digitally and in chinese ink in muted browns and red palette, and the expression’s of the bear are expressed just through the eyes. The typeface color matches the animal the bear is talking to.When the animals are talking to each other their eyes faces the reader which makes a funny look.

The story is in dialogue (very little) . The bear visits various animals to see if they’ve seen his hat. He (and all of the animals) tend to have this very little expression the whole time, which gives the book a slow tone, until the bear remembers where he’s seen his hat. The large silhouettes are contrasted with delicate foliage beneath each page. The use of white space also makes the illustrations look good.

The things that i like the most: the pacing of the story, the humor, the use of minimum color palette, the thick paper, the funny ending and the scene where the bear runs to the left to backtrack the story.
Children will recognize, the lies and excuses in “I Want My Hat Back,”, and this will make them want the book read aloud again and again.

Following are two of the full spreads which I think work amazingly.

Bear is sad and lonely without his hat. He is sad that he cannot find his hat ever again.
the bear runs to the left of the page to backtrack after he realizes that he saw his hat before.


A grid breaks space or time into regular units.

Typography grids are all about control. They establish a system for arranging content within the space of page, screen, or built environment. An effective grid us not a formula but a flexible and resilient structure.

Typogeaphy is an art of framing, a form designed to melt away as it yields itself to content.

Typography is mostly an act of dividing a limited surface– Willi Baumeister.

The new typography not only contests the classical framework but also the whole principle of symmetry-Paul Renner.


Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, Proximity.

  • Contrast, it makes different things different, brings out dominant elements, mutes lesser elements, creates dynamism.
  • Repetition, repeat design throughout the interface, consistency, creates unity.
  • Alignment, creates a visual flow, visually connects elements.
  • Proximity, groups related elements, separates unrelated ones.