2019 backstage

Behind the scenes - between the pages, windows and walls

Now in its third consecutive year, the BCBF Visual Identity Workshop gives a young artist chosen from among those selected for the Illustrators Exhibition an opportunity to develop the visual universe for the next Bologna Children’s Book Fair in co-production with Chialab Design, the design practice entrusted with the trade show’s visual identity.
The Chialab team – made up of Beppe Chia, Alex Weste, Jessica Cantoni, and Michele Tomasini – assisted Russian illustrator Masha Titova with the creation of what will be the 2019 Bologna Children’s Book Fair Visual Identity.

The workshop: an account
Again this year, our workshop considered the visual identity of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in terms of the art of illustration. At our first meeting, we found ourselves confronted with a sea of illustrations laid out on tables: all the works selected for the 2018 Illustrators Exhibition. We were looking for something that stood apart from the animal kingdom of Daniele Castellano of the 2017 edition, and the plant kingdom depicted by Chloé Alméras for the 2018 edition. We went in with an open mind as to the possible worlds, techniques and styles to choose. The only fixed concept was to find something new with which to experiment. In fact, our first selection was of three very different types of illustrations:

The machines of Hisana Sawada (Japan), the cities of Lian-An Lin (Taiwan) and the dragons of Masha Titova (Russia). Machines? Cities? Dragons? Acrylic? Collage? Carbon paper? What should we choose? Which of these possibilities should we go with? It was a difficult choice. All the illustrations opened up intriguing worlds to explore. For a whole month, we debated, considered and reasoned, going back and forth. But came to no decision. Further indecision followed… Then someone said: “Let’s get them to try. Let’s get them to apply their ideas and artistic sensitivity to the Children’s Book Fair world”. “Good idea!” said somebody else. “Let’s send them the outline of the Visual Identity Workshop that will serve as their brief, namely, to design the underlying concept of the system of illustrations that although different from one another, must have a common thread.”
So invitations were sent to Fukui, Taipei, and Moscow. At the end of May we received their work. All the proposals were brilliant… but we had to choose. We chose Masha.

We were drawn to Masha for her methodological approach and the overall consistency of her work. She came to see us in June. We worked practically non-stop for 3 days in the studio courtyard. She wanted to have a clear idea of what she was expected to do once she returned to Moscow.

Day One. We explained to Masha what the Book Fair required: a range of different formats and sizes; illustrations that immediately identify the activities of at least four sections (awards, translators, digital books, and the Illustrators Exhibition); illustrations that could be animated, and designs that could be swiftly and simply turned into a range of other formats and artefacts. After the explanations, we all set about drawing.

Day Two. We looked at what we had turned out the previous day. An idea started taking shape of environments where walls are really pages, with people and figures going in and out of windows, folds in the paper or tear-off tabs. Sometimes it isn’t even clear where the figures end and the ‘page-walls’ start. But we realized we had something worth pursuing. Before our eyes Masha developed the idea, cutting and snipping pieces of thin cardboard that turn into wily foxes, elegant butterflies, distinguished gentlemen in hats and docile dragons.

Day Three. We became more and more attached to the idea. Masha worked incessantly, taking the idea forward and asking for confirmation. We looked on and sometimes asked for changes. She would come back with new characters, textures and colours. We then lined up all the proposals and chose one. We said goodbye and left her the job of perfecting the proposal. All the ‘page-walls’ had to be designed so that they could become part of vertical or horizontal environments, palaces or squares, stairs or streets.

And with that, we closed the third day of the 2019 BCBF Visual Identity Workshop.
What we learned is that there is no single way of conducting our workshop.
Masha, on her part, says she has learned a collaborative working method she intends to adopt in the future.

The 2019 Bologna Children’s Book Fair will be depicted as a labyrinthine world of mirrors and axonometric views, a world in which visitors can happily lose themselves between ‘page-walls’ with figures that melt into the background, and backdrops that materialize into people. It will be a fantastical world that does not follow traditional visual canons, reassuringly repeating essentially the same image. In fact, we might well have chosen this special polyhedral, multi-facetted, animated world because it best reflects what the Bologna Children’s Book Fair really is. But you will judge that for yourselves!

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Design practice Chialab is especially focused on visual communication. In all its forms: hardcopy, physical environments and screen projections. As visual identity experts, the practice provides all allied management tools and processes. It also plans and develops digital publishing and reading systems. Chialab willingly shares its know-how with its clients.

Born in Moscow, Russia, 1988, where she lives and works as illustrator, printmaker and teacher. Masha Titova graduated in 2012 from the Moscow State Academy of Applied Arts and Design, BA in Visual Arts. In 2011 she won the Presidential scholarship for study abroad and spent the last year of her studies at the Academy of Architecture, Art and Design in Prague, exchange program. In 2015 she graduated at the Boris Trofimov Graphic Design Studio, MA in Visual Arts. Masha has already worked as illustrator and designer under two book’s projects: «1917 — our life after», Preobrazhenie Publishing House, 2017 and «The hamster was walking», Samokat Publishing House, 2018. Since 2014, her artwork has also been presented in several exhibitions in Russia.