The Drum’s design project of the week: Ladybird by Design

There’s nothing quite like nostalgia to inspire us in times of austerity. This is why the images on show at Ladybird by Design are set to engage the public and creative professionals alike.

The exhibition offers optimistic images of rosy-cheeked kids and their world from the 1950s to early 1970s. But the venue itself – the stunning seafront De La Warr Pavilion designed in 1935 at Bexhill-on-Sea by Modernist architects Erich Mendelsohn and Serge Chermayeff – is worth a visit in its own right.

Flight three USA (c) Ladybird Books Ltd, 1959

What makes the show this week’s project though is not just the 200 or so illustrations selected with illustrator Lawrence Zeegan, author of the eponymous book, to celebrate 100 years of children’s publisher Ladybird Books. It is that it offers further evidence of the resurgence of illustration to communicate ideas, mood and ambiance across global boundaries.

Ladybird by Design, Shopping with Mother, Harry Wingfield, (c) Ladybird Books Ltd, 1958

The passion for illustration among designers that reared its head some six years ago through the annual Pick Me Up graphics festival at London’s Somerset House hasn’t abated. New agencies like Handsome Frank and collectives like Peepshow are doing good trade with ad agencies and designers as their clients look to convey their messages across the globe in a way that is universally understood – and illustrators are benefitting. Indeed, illustators accounted for a significant number of readers’ nominees for The Drum’s Designerati listing last year.

Ladybird by Design, The Policeman, 1962, John Berry (c) Ladybird Books Ltd, 1964

Meanwhile, public initiatives such as the Campaign for Drawing and painting venture Pintar Rapido are broadening their reach, the latter to extend beyond London and Amsterdam to Glasgow and Barcelona this year. And never have artists such as drawing doyen Quentin Blake – subject last year of a Jerwood Gallery show in Hastings – been in such demand.

We see the raw political side of cartoons in the ill-fated French magazine Charlie Hebdo and its ilk, but the Ladybird imagery reminds us of the broader aspect. Life can take on a rosier hue given the right colour palette.

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