Opinion by Richard Baird Posted 13 March 2018
Who Protects Me from Violence? is a new publication from UNICEF that focuses on the prevention of domestic violence against children in Sweden. Bedow worked with UNICEF to bring to life the real and often day to day traumas of children in violent domestic situations, and bring to light preventative measures through words, images and layout. The publication is 210×297 mm, features 72 pages and was printed as an edition of 3,000.
Illustrations are the most immediate tool employed here, but there are also a number of other smart details. These include an interesting typographical discourse in size and weighting. There is the small, fine and neutral followed by the large, bold and colourful. A visual volume is used to great effect. Type and layout give words something of an editorial and journalistic quality, an austerity and authority, and functions to moderate the pace of the reader.
Watercolour illustrations are haunting. They take on the guise of an illustrated storybook, yet colour and content are quick to take something that should be cheerful and fantastical and make it dark and grounded in reality. The approach serves to provoke a quick and visceral reaction, with an often ominous quality to many of these, preludes to something disturbing. In places, the inanimate take on a sad and discarded quality.
The technique for illustration adds to all of this. The bleed of paint through paper lends darker shadows the quality of the supernatural, the sense of a waking nightmare, a tool that orientates reader towards the perspective of a child.
An often overlooked component of publication review is the power of convention. The left to right sequence of Western print. This convention is, the known journey a reader will take is a chance to moderate experience through a book, to deliver an unexpected surprise, to go from a quiet austerity in words and typesetting, to the volume of size and colour on the turn of a page. This is particularly relevant here, where the content is about bringing to light and giving a voice to those who do not have one. To weave this in amongst the practical considerations of dividing content is a highlight.
Children are portrayed in profile or with face to the reader and are emotive. Adults as either shadow or with backs turned. It is a small gesture but conveys a distance. Other details include the use of proportion. Doors, windows and walls, surfaces that are supposed to provide a sense of security, dwarf the images of children, they become the apparatus of captivity. This is given further emphasis in the use of its opposite, a child or object lost within a space, isolated.
Bedow effectively balance type, image and space in a way that is modern, engaging and sensitive to the seriousness of content and the potency of illustration. They follow this up with a typographical tone of insight and of genuine concern. There are moments for reflection, and times at which the publication demands an immediate emotional response that will lead to action. More work by Bedow on BP&O.