Thames & Hudson Design & Branding OPERATION ALPHABET by Mother London

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Industry Books
Media Design & Branding
Market United Kingdom
Agency Mother London
Typographer Ben Mcnaughton
Illustrator Luciano Lozano
Released September 2011

Credits & Description

Category: Books
Advertiser: THAMES & HUDSON
Agency: MOTHER
Creative Director/Art Director/Copywriter: Al Maccuish (Mother)
Art Director/Typographer: Jim Bletsas (Mother)
Illustrator: Luciano Lozano
Typographer: Ben Mcnaughton (Mother)
Agency Producer: Paul Adams (Mother)
Agency Producer: Caroline Downes (Mother)
Agency Producer: Emma Lewendon (Mother)
Account Director: Andy Medd (Mother)
Media placement: Book - 33 Territories World Wide In 400 Stores Approx - Sept 2011

Describe the brief from the client
The brief was to create a world of letters, words and language to inspire and entertain children aged 4-7. The concept was to bring the alphabet to life through the creation of a top-secret government organisation where all the words in the country came from. The first expression was a 64-page hard cover book whose illustrations evoked the nostalgic, retro illustrations of the 60s with lots of charming details designed to make repeat reading enjoyable for children and adults. The creation of entertaining alphabet characters was key to ensure the children could connect with the story.

Describe the challenges and key objectives

We wanted to create a vintage-style book that could fit in a modern and digital world. Our key objective was to bring the idea that letters are alive into a format that would excite and engage children with the alphabet. One of the biggest challenges from a design point of view was typographically: we needed the characters to be as alive and important as Charlie. We needed them to look like a cohesive unit but wanted to give children heroes to believe in so they each had to be unique enough to have a strong individual character.

Describe how you arrived at the final design
We researched vintage books both typographically and visually. We then experimented with different styles working with our illustrator to simplify everything. We all had the same vision so the work evolved very quickly in both illustration style and design. We created the Special Alphabet Service (SAS), who are a combination of funny characters led by Colonel A, each with their own personality and job e.g. W is a medic. Typographically we had to create depth so they could all be seen together and used colour combinations that would work to make a SAS family.

Give some indication of how successful the outcome was in the market
Operation Alphabet launched in 33 territories worldwide with American, German, Polish and French co-editions. It sold out of Amazon within 24 hours, had unprecedented press coverage for a new title including Vogue, Guardian, Telegraph and The New York Times. It’s been featured in over 70 blogs. It was Selfridges book of the month and been in the prime display windows of Waterstones, Foyles and Daunt UK over the Christmas period. We’ve been approached by literary festivals, a clothing company, closing a merchandising deal with leading design group Conran and placed in the top 50 children’s books by The Daily Telegraph.