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As easy as ABC – how graphic design students are reinventing the alphabet

As easy as ABC – how graphic design students are reinventing the alphabet

Led by Jérôme Héno and Nathalie Templier, students produced an alphabet book (content and medium) in 4 working sessions.

Project context
Historically (indeed, as early as the 15th century), the ABC book was used for teaching the basics of reading and writing. Each letter was presented in alphabetical order, with corresponding words and images beginning by that letter. Today, the ABC book has become more of an illustrator’s book than a work of literature. Its purpose has changed: it is about engaging children’s sensitivity, and initiating them to the multiple modalities of modern language.

The alphabet book is now a genre which celebrates the creative act, for which children must be wholly responsible. Its educational vocation has thus undergone a radical transformation within our changing society: the community and normative agenda has been replaced by the need for free development of the individual.

"Wild and/or Domestic" as project theme
The theme of "Wild and/or Domestic" questions the issues of learning and “smoothing” associated with the alphabet book, in its primary function. The students had to dissociate the ABC book’s notion of illustration and see beyond the binary relationship of the working theme. The students were not asked to create illustrations, as for an illustrated book, but to take an experimental approach to the letters and the binding in order to put the emphasis on learning through illustration.

The project’s pedagogical aim was to make students aware of the overall coherence of a project involving binding techniques (format or medium) appropriate to the ABC book (content) and to identify and propose graphic codes that are both original and targeted to the audience.

Project organization
This project took place last February and March in four sessions. The students developed alphabet books, respecting the binding format (210 x 240) and representing all the letters of the alphabet. In the last session, students presented their projects and were assessed on their analysis, the creativity of the ABC book itself and the creativity of the binding and graphic qualities.