Getting the Ladybird books' perspective on Britain's social and design history

Date
5 January 2015
Reading Time
2 minute read

“God, those Ladybird books are rubbish,” said no designer, ever. Indeed, these sweet little volumes that educate on everything from The Story of Oil to Mick: The Disobedient Puppy to The Postman are almost universally loved not only for the diverse and helpful knowledge they impart, but for their beautiful illustration style and exemplary way of communicating through imagery. It’s perhaps the books from the mid 20th Century that are most fetishised by the design community though, and it’s these that are to be celebrated in a new show at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill on Sea.

According to the gallery the show, entitled Ladybird by Design, is inspired by a book by Professor of Illustration and Dean of the School of Design at the London College of Communication Lawrence Zeegen, set to launch in March 2015. The book and show look to explore the Ladybird perspective on Britain’s social and design history. Lawrence has also worked with the De La Warr to curate the exhibition.

Above

G. Robinson: Things to Make, 1963
© Ladybird Books Ltd

More than 200 original Ladybird illustrations from the late 1950s to the early 1970s will be on display, including pieces from illustrators including Charles Tunnicliffe (What To Look For titles), Robert Ayton (Great Inventions and The Story of Oil ) and Harry Wingfield ( Shopping with Mother and Key Words). Together, they create a wonderful nostalgia for times we didn’t even live in, when children were happy just strolling about on little plant pots, when sitting rooms all featured fireplaces that look like the tin man from The Wizard of Oz, and you could order the contents of a small patisserie on board an aeroplane.

And while these are things we’ll lamentably never experience, we’re very much looking forward to popping down to the seaside to revel in these glorious images, which prove the very big influence of these very small books on the creative world.

Ladybird by Design will run from 24 January until 10 May at the De La Warr Pavillion in Bexhill.

Above

Harry Wingfield: Shopping with Mother, 1958
© Ladybird Books Ltd

Above

John Berry: The Policeman, 1962
© Ladybird Books Ltd

Above

Robert Ayton: The Story of Furniture, 1971
© Ladybird Books Ltd

Above

Gerald Whitcomb: Things to Make, 1963
© Ladybird Books Ltd

Above

Jack Matthew: Flight Two: Canada, 1959
© Ladybird Books Ltd

Above

Robert Ayton: Tricks and Magic, 1969 (detail)
© Ladybird Books Ltd

Above

Ladybird By Design cover

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About the Author

Emily Gosling

Emily joined It’s Nice That as Online Editor in the summer of 2014 after four years at Design Week. She is particularly interested in graphic design, branding and music. After working It's Nice That as both Online Editor and Deputy Editor, Emily left the company in 2016.

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