“Complementary” Approaches to Picturebook (and Transmedia) Design

The design of picturebooks can take one of two approaches in the relationship of text and images. In their book Children’s Picturebooks: The Art of Visual Storytelling authors Martin Salisbury and Morag Styles describe “complementary” versus “counterpoint” picturebooks.

Broom, Zoom! (top and middle) and Timo and the Magical Picturebook contain complementary text and illustrations. (Sources: Sergio Ruzzier for Broom, Zoom! and Rian Vissar for Timo and the Magical Picturebook)

In a complementary design, the “images reflect and expand what is in the written text or where each fills the other’s gaps” (pg. 92)

The illustration from Sergio Ruzzier’s picturebook Broom, Zoom! (top and middle images to the right) is an example of the complementary design approach. In this case, the text lays out the primary idea while the artwork reinforces it. The authors intended meaning would be clear if the illustrations were removed and only the text remained.

Timo and the Magical Picturebook (bottom image) is an interactive story designed for the iPad. The text and images throughout the book are complementary. The illustration on this page, for example, provides additional detail about the mix up with the “bobble hat”.

The transmedia marketing campaign for Ridley Scott’s film Prometheus used the complementary approach with a series of video clips, including a presentation by fictional entrepreneur Peter Weyland to the TED Conference (see video clip below), a sophisticated “corporate” website, and mobile content. All of the material developed for the transmedia campaign was designed to reflect and expand on the story presented in the film.

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