Every Picture Tells a Story Don’t It

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Rod Stewart sang:

Paris was a place you could hide awayif you felt you didn’t fit inFrench police wouldn’t give me no peaceThey claimed I was a nasty personDown along the Left Bank minding my ownWas knocked down by a human stampedeGot arrested for inciting a peaceful riotwhen all I wanted was a cup of teaI was accusedI moved on

(Every Picture Tells A Story lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.)

Paris is also a place that tells many pictorial stories. Visit the landmark bookinistes, the old and used booksellers parked on the left and right banks of the Seine, and you’ll find stories galore in each and every piece they have for sale. Here are a few I found:


This brilliant advertising blotter for a store specializing in children’s clothes was

produced in the 1930s when teenagers wore miniaturized adult garb.

This card reveals the energy (and the typographic wit) it took to appeal to the clientele.


She dances the rites of Spring. Or is it Fall? Whatever, the montage of lighter than air gestures is typical of the fare in Paris magazines.

j'ai vu

One of the most important French weeklies was VU (see or saw), but J’ai Vu (I saw)

came first with its photomontages that cleverly juxtaposed celebrities and world

leaders (here Roosevelt and Wilson the two great warring progressives in 1916

American electoral politics).


Entertainment was as essential to France as it was to America. And American entertainment – in this case recordings – were marketed to the adoring French public. And don’t you love the type?


Paris, like New York, is a city of many people and many peoples’ wonderful graphic delights.

Here an Indian tin sign for milling machines has a French look for added eye catching appeal.

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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →