Under the Cover: Get Dressed! by Seymour Chwast

A new book from Abrams Appleseed

Working on this project was a designer’s dream come true. When Abrams Appleseed Publishing Director Cecily Kaiser, casually mentioned we were doing a children’s book with Seymour Chwast (!) … she wondered if I had any interest in accompanying her to a meeting with Seymour (!!) … at the Pushpin studio (!!!) … I very nearly fell off my chair. Let me preface: I studied Seymour Chwast and the legendary Push Pin Studios (later renamed Pushpin Group) in art school. Seymour’s work is highlighted in my circa-1999 art history text because even then, as a naive art student, I knew he was the real deal.

So, Cecily and I met Seymour at Pushpin and over homemade banana bread, we discussed the project. The idea for Get Dressed! came from a 1987 fashion issue of Seymour’s magazine, Push Pin Graphic. Here’s how it originally appeared:

With slight modifications, Seymour thought this timeless concept could also work for a children’s book about the possibilities—mundane or magical—that lie within one’s choice of clothing. In his proposal, the structure of the book was a snazzy suit jacket that opened to reveal an interior with interactive flaps. The package was immediately eye-catching and innovative. Here are some of Seymour’s first sketches:

The front of each interior flap would feature various household or clothing items and under the flaps, Seymour would show how those items could be used to fashion an adventure.

One of the best things about working with Seymour was his willingness to give anything a try. A few times, we asked questions like, Why is this character doing that? or Why is this object that color? and his response was always, “Well, why not?”

I loved it.

So that’s how we proceeded. On the title page, Seymour had placed a dapper, black-tie-clad penguin. I thought it would be fun if the penguin acted as our guide through the book, appearing—in one form or another—on each spread as an added bonus for the reader. And guess what Seymour said?

After some revisions and final tweaks, Get Dressed! was complete. Here are a few of the final spreads:

And if we were to add an additional spread, it would be: “Get dressed to illustrate!” showing Seymour’s own version of his preferred work attire:

Needless to say, I loved everything about this project: the whimsical style, the stunning color palette, the honor of working with Seymour Chwast, and most especially, the art of asking, Why not? The possibilities are endless.

Get Dressed! by Seymour Chwast (Abrams Appleseed, 2012) is available now where books are sold! 

Seymour Chwast’s distinct style has had a worldwide influence on contemporary visual communications. His designs have been used in advertising, animated films, corporate graphics, posters, packaging, stage sets, magazines, and adult and children’s books. He is a founding partner of Pushpin Studios, and his work is showcased in major galleries and museums around the world. Chwast has honorary doctor­ates in fine arts from Parsons and the Rhode Island School of Design and was inducted into the Art Directors Hall of Fame.

Maria Middleton is Associate Art Director for Abrams Appleseed, Abrams Books for Young Readers, Amulet Books and Calendars.

on Monday, April 9th, 2012
in Children's Books
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