Picture Book Ponderings: Miffy

Back when I was “tagged” in January, I mentioned that my ultimate dream is to illustrate children’s books. To say that I am a lover of children’s books (picture books in particular) is an understatement. As I troll local libraries for books to read with my toddler daughters, I am continually reminded of the many books and authors and illustrators that helped shape my design sensibilities. Hence the regular feature I’d like to start…”Picture Book Ponderings.”

I figured I’d start out with the Dutch design icon, Miffy! I found Miffy late in life, after I became a mom and my oldest daughter fell in love with the “Miffy & Friends” television program on Noggin. The show’s distinct color palette (basically primary colors, plus the use of white, black, and brown) immediately won me over, as did Miffy’s simplistic shape and features. Who knew that with just two little dot eyes, and a “x” for a mouth, a bunny could be so expressive!? Being a print designer, I immediately ran to e-bay to see what sort of actual Miffy books, stationery, toys and products I could find for myself…Uh…I mean my child. What can I say, I’m a design junkie.

That’s when I discovered that MIffy is HUGE in Japan. Yeah, I know…big surprise right? With a styling similar to Sanrio’s Hello Kitty products, Japanese pre-schoolers and teenage girls alike have scooped up any and all the Miffy they can get. The website Business in Japan notes that while Miffy may not rank as highly as Sanrio’s characters in terms of brand recognition, she still rakes in ¥40 billion (US $332 million) a year on products! And that doesn’t include the picture books where our super sweet bunny got her start.

I credit Miffy with bringing me to the real Dutch design icon here, Dick Bruna, the modern master who created her (When it comes to art, when isn’t the word “dutch” almost immediately followed by the word “master”?). From the deStijl to Droog Design, Dutch Graphic design is consistently defined by it’s pursuit of minimalism and simplicity. Dick Bruna’s ability to capture the affection and interest of both children and adults through the use of simple lines and forms, truly inspires me! After writing about the Dutch quest for nothing more than what is visually essential, I’m off to design myself. Thanks Miffy (*wink*)!

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