By Anneliese Knopp
When I set out to write a children’s book about a Seeing Eye dog, I encountered a rather unexpected problem. Children’s books are composed primarily of pictures, with supplemental text. My challenge is this: I’m blind.
Well, that’s an easy problem to solve, you say. Ask someone else to illustrate! Lots of authors do that! The problem here isn’t obtaining pictures, but developing a well-balanced and engaging text-and illustration layout for each page. Because I cannot see, I have difficulty estimating how much text per page I can use, and balancing that with the size and number of illustrations to go with the text. I’ve encountered this problem rather frequently when developing PowerPoint presentations for school and work.
Layout is such an important part of a picture book because it determines where the eye follows, whether or not the text stands out, sticks in your mind, and often how long the child will look at the pictures. Location, size, angle, and relationship of text and pictures is a complicated formula designed to guide the brain toward the author’s message.
Unfortunately, it’s an under-appreciated art, often considered technical and inglorious compared to the artistry involved with image and word. While overcoming this unique challenge, I’ve gained a new appreciation for the power of layout, as well as the difficulties of communicating in two media (images and layout) that I myself cannot use.
Next time you want to share thoughts or ideas, I challenge you to experiment in a medium you’re not entirely sure you’re qualified to use. Grow as a writer, grow as a communicator.