Vive les Stick Figures

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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Why bother drawing real people when stick figures are just as expressively representational—and educational? That’s the first question raised by the 1909 French primer Le Petit Bon Homme Pierre, written and illustrated by Lottie King for Longmans, Green and Co. (Longmans was the first publisher to ever use a “dust wrapper,” the precursor to the book jacket.)

This is, arguably, the antecedent of Otto Neurath’s ISOTYPE picture-symbol language, as drawn by Gerd Arntz, which was intended to educate by reducing complex information into accessible data-bytes.

King noted in her brief introduction: “This little book is intended for the use of beginners, and the sentences are, therefore, as short and as closely allied to the illustrations as possible.” (Take that, Rosetta Stone!) She further notes the book is designed to be a guide for the teacher who will take the lessons to another level of verbal and visual intensity. And about the minimalist illustrations: “Simple drawings of this description can be made to illustrate poetry, stories, or interesting events in the life of the class or school, too difficult to make use of in the French lessons without some help.”


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