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Alessandra Genualdo: The Boy Who Always Looked Up by Ryan Gander. Graphic design: Emilia Bergmark. Published by Lisson gallery.

Work / Illustration

Illustration: Alessandra Genualdo’s work for The Boy Who Always Looked Up by Ryan Gander

We wrote about this project in our Things post a couple of week’s ago, but we love Alessandra Genualdo’s illustrations for Ryan Gander’s story so much that we thought we’d dedicate an entire post to the dreamy, whimsical book.

My German grandmother used to read me a similar story to Ryan’s every night before I went to bed. It was part of a collection by Heinrich Hoffman, the mind behind the creepy Struwwelpeter who never cut his tangled hair or fingernails. This particular cautionary tale was about a boy who always looked up at the clouds, and whose day dreaming and sky gazing eventually meant that he fell into a pond and drowned. A grim lesson for me as a kid, seeing as I spent most of my time away in a daydream.

Ryan’s imagining of the tale transports the story from the dense and dark Bavarian forest of Hoffman, into a sleek and grey world inspired by Ernö Goldfinger’s Trellick Tower. Alessandra’s accompanying illustrations are rendered in an exquisitely soft colour palette and feature chunky characters that look like modernist paper dolls. A typeface has even been designed especially for the book, called Typeface Primer, created by Swiss type designer Fabian Harb. The story is just my kind of cautionary tale, because instead of saying that mind-wandering is a bad thing, Ryan suggests the very opposite. At the end of the tale, the little boy Ernö gazes up and says: “It’s empty up here in the sky, and when I look up I feel like I can do anything, anything is possible.” The captivating ideas made into captivating images by Alessandra suggest that having your head in the clouds is not a bad thing at all.

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Alessandra Genualdo: The Boy Who Always Looked Up by Ryan Gander. Graphic design: Emilia Bergmark. Published by Lisson gallery.

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Alessandra Genualdo: The Boy Who Always Looked Up by Ryan Gander. Graphic design: Emilia Bergmark. Published by Lisson gallery.

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Alessandra Genualdo: The Boy Who Always Looked Up by Ryan Gander. Graphic design: Emilia Bergmark. Published by Lisson gallery.

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Alessandra Genualdo: The Boy Who Always Looked Up by Ryan Gander. Graphic design: Emilia Bergmark. Published by Lisson gallery.

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Alessandra Genualdo: The Boy Who Always Looked Up by Ryan Gander. Graphic design: Emilia Bergmark. Published by Lisson gallery.

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Alessandra Genualdo: The Boy Who Always Looked Up by Ryan Gander. Graphic design: Emilia Bergmark. Published by Lisson gallery.