Text and images by Anastasia Kuchta, MA Publishing, LCC
The House of Illustration—next to CSM—housed the first PG Pop Up Common Room of the term. Lawrence Zeegen—Professor of Illustration and Dean of the School of Design at London College of Communication—conveyed both knowledge and passion as he spoke about his opus, Ladybird by Design.
The afternoon began in a lecture space with its perimeter lined by display cabinets of Ladybird books. Series such as science and hobbies, people at work and nature and natural history, homogenously sized. Economically made from a single sheet of paper into a compelling format, Ladybird books were once in wide circulation and affordable to he masses—approximately £2 by today’s standard.
Ladybird books shaped generations, this year reaching their centenary. The logo was established in 1915, however, Zeegen focused on the 1960s—the golden years of Ladybird. Utilising illustration to show the safe and simple utopian world Ladybird books created for his generation, Zeegen highlighted the many subjects of Ladybird books.
Ladybird taught children about the world, not only through words, but communicated visually. More than 17,000 pieces of artwork were created for Ladybird books—which were placed opposite of the text on the left. Illustration was used not only as an art form, but also as a vital learning tool. Bird and Eggs was the transitional title that took the books from entertainment to education. Factual illustrations in the nature and natural history books, science and hobbies and how it works helped develop interest in these factual, nonfiction titles.
The gallery space at the House of Illustration is furnished with original artworks created for Ladybird books. A number of ‘how it works’ images are on display. This collection included the image of a car, the entire engine neatly and succinctly drawn in detail. Children’s experiments were step by step depicted, including a number of original watercolours from Tricks and Magic—Zeegen’s confessed favourite title.
The transition from the ‘60s to the ‘70s was poignantly shown through the dynamic duo, Peter and Jane. The clean-cut church outfits changed with the times, as Peter and Jane adopted different—longer and Beatle-esque—hairstyles and Jane illustrated wearing…jeans! The text unchanged, Peter and Jane evolve to stay relatable to the current generation.
Peter and Jane were not just stories, rather they were part of Ladybird’s key words reading scheme. Using an A, B, C format to introduce words, context and grammar to children, the Peter and Jane books taught Britain to read. Between 1964 and today, 100 million copies were sold. 864 illustrations were created for the 36 reading scheme books. The illustrations were commissioned by artists, who were paid ~£6,500—by today’s standards—for 24 illustrations (1 book).
The emphasis Ladybird placed on illustration validates its importance as an art form, a learning tool and an effective means of communication.
More photos from the Pop Up Common Room: Ladybird by Design: