From picture book to experience design

A House Around the Corner

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Jenni Erkintalo & Réka Király
(orig.title: Talo kulman takana)
2016, Etana Editions

Eppu, a young and shy child moves to a new home, it is in an apartment house with many flats. Luckily his Grandma lives in the new building too. So many new neighbours to meet and various ways to live. A House Around the Corner is a picture book about the various residences of an old house, as seen through the eyes of a child. It talks about courage and acceptance of difference, and provokes children to think about their own living environments.

This picture book’s illustrations are rich in colour and details. Already the structure of the books gives the reader the feeling that you enter into a house. You find the staircase and each spread opens up a new home. Eppu overcomes his shyness, takes all his courage and floor by floor discovers the building, he makes new acquaintances.

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On the second floor lives the Do – family, with great enthusiasm for music, no wonder that they named their many children Re, Mi, Fa, So, La and Ti. The twin sisters, Dawn and Dusk Light are living on the third floor, their only disagreement is about the perfect shade of pink. On the fourth floor Eppu rings the doorbell, but he meets only the strange mister Goblin’s nose and his dog Monday. One the fifth floor lives the architect family Metre, who measure and archive everything. The top floor is occupied by the von Organics, who’s home is like a green jungle. Eppu’s Grandmother lives on the first floor. How will Eppu find his way all around this big house?

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This fabulously imaginative picture book highlights the differences in people without putting anyone other better or worse. While making this book we – Jenni Erkintalo & Réka Király – have been discussing over and over again how could we formulate in a simple but interesting way the beautiful diversity there is in people. In this book race, religion, gender becomes irrelevant, our very basic differences are not dependent on those.

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While we worked on the book, Helsinki Design Week approached us, and we started a collaboration with them as well as Habitare -fair with a satellite project of Helsinki Design Week. The picture book grew into a large scale installation and even visuals. Habitare -fair is the biggest interior design fair in Helsinki, held every autumn. In 2016 Habi Kids a new area for visitors with children was introduced within the fair. The 400 square meter area had three installations, a workshop area and a Kids Café. We worked on designing experiences for the visitors. Each installation was based on one spread – home from the book A House Around the Corner. By the Metre family installation, kids were able to measure, discover different weights, participate in two non-stop workshops that were related to architecture and design. They were able to experience how all the small details, measurements, information adds up to a wholesome picture about the house the story takes place in. The installation about Do family gave space for children to use their energy piled up while going around with their parents at the fair, for jumping, running and building with large colourful soft “donuts”. Products we found from the company bObles. Last but not least the twin sisters Dawn and Dusk Light occupied the last area with a magical mirror installation where everything got multiplied numerous times. Visitors could take photos from many angles and play with cardboard elements to add to their fun photos. The Habi Kids area was a great success both loved by children and their parents. Parallel to the fair an intensive Children’s Weekend by Helsinki Design Week was also carrying visuals and illustrative elements from the book. Kattilahalli the beautiful old building in Suvilahti, turned into a children’s paradise for two days, when the 1000 square meter space got occupied but numerous free workshops and small companies selling children’s goods. We used the illustrations, small details and objects from our book to create large scale mobiles

When we started to work on this children’s book, little did we knew, how complex project we will have in the end, including the picture book, installations, visuals, experience design and workshops. Our aim was to create a book about the beauty of diversity, awakening curiosity, listening and paying attention to one another. We believe by doing so we are able to understand and accept each other as we are. When we are more aware of our close surrounding, care about people around us even with the slight notion of a node or a smile our differences turn into peculiarities that enrich our surroundings.

“The story is told in the most fun way, exaggerating elements that highlight the very differences in people – without putting anyone other better or worse. The story is delicious, but the illustrations are even more. Erkintalo and Kiraly create a thrilling framework through visual storytelling with fun details and spectacular colour palette.” Johanna Kleemola / critic, Taidekoti

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All pictures by © Aino Huovio, Patrik Rastenberger and Etana Editions.

POP

The story behind the book and working with children.

Pop the bird is an umbrella project about basic shapes, visual learning, character building and storytelling for children aged 3-8. The project was initiated by author – illustrator team Jenni Erkintalo and Réka Király.

Learning material about basic shapes are often flat in content. Storytelling can make an abstract issue for children easier approachable. Twisting the basic idea of learning about basic shapes, Jenni and Réka built the character of the bird, Pop and the world around it by using basic shapes. As such the focus shifted to the character and to the playful storytelling meanwhile the building block like elements remained detectable.

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“There are plenty of books that teach about basic shapes by showing them one by one. We were after a book where the main emphasis is on the story and it’s characters while the nature of basic shapes are embedded.

This is how we came up with the concept of the story around Pop the bird, and the picture book Pop Soon at Home was born. Parallel to writing the book we developed a workshop concept for very small children. By using the set of basic shape stickers we worked on creatures and stories related to them. We questioned the moods and nature of the shapes and characters. When built out of circles and half circles does it automatically mean happy and soft? Was the character built entirely of triangles, becomes a villain in the story? We did also discussed about the obvious and not so obvious associations they are linked to, and how it affects the storytelling.Working together in teams resulted in lots of laughter and wonderful stories. Soon we realized that we held already free workshops for over 2000 children in Finland, and our book and workshop concept was invited to one of the biggest design event in Finland, Helsinki Design Week, where Pop story-cubes were also introduced. We received emails from various daycares who started to use our picture book in their educational material. Pop doodles – activity book was used by families and group of children and the joy of working on the sheet together seemed to follow the principles of the workshops. At present the whole Pop-family consists of the picture book Pop Soon at Home, the activity book – poster Pop doodles, the Pop and numbers poster and our workshop materials Pop-stickers with instructions sheet and Pop story-cubes. We started this project out of personal curiosity for visual learning and enthusiasm for storytelling. Working with children meant content feedback and made it possible to develop and tailor the elements of the concept to fit exactly. With the whole Pop the bird’s package children are able to learn about basic shapes through both visual and haptic senses while developing storytelling skills.”

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At present the project consists of a picture book – Pop Soon at Home, for very young readers (age 3-4), an activity book – Pop Doodles (for children aged 3 and up), a poster – Pop and numbers, a set of Pop stickers with instruction sheet, Pop story-cubes and workshops (customizable for various age groups) that are repeatedly taking place in daycares, museums and at events.

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All pictures by © Aino Huovio and Etana Editions.