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Awarding Big Contributors to Books for Little People

Great literature does many a thing, one of which is to make us think. When we started thinking of a name for a new award that Parag wanted to establish back in 2016, one of the pre-existing thoughts was to possibly call it ‘The Parag Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature’. Now not only was that a mouthful, it wasn’t quite imaginative. So we started thinking. We wondered if it could be shorter and fun and if it could make people think. 

Two years before the TV show Big Little Lies became popular making the ‘big-little’ pairing mainstream, we suggested ’Big Little Book Award’ (among others) and it got picked. This award honours Big contributors to books for Little people. The award is a first of its kind, instituted by the Parag initiative of Tata Trusts to recognise and honour significant contribution of such authors and illustrators to children’s literature in Indian language(s). 

Our mandate was to then design a logo, a website and a host of creatives for promotion. But it did not stop at the first year and we went on to be a part of the evolution of BLBA for the next six years (and counting). This here is a glimpse into that journey.  

We are proud to be associated with the great work Parag is doing in the children’s literature space. Since 2013, we have been working with Parag on projects of varying sizes and scope. The ones featured on this website are – rebrand of Parag, an app for children’s books, three Parag events, and a diary

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BLBA logo

BLBA Logo in 2016 and 2020

The symbol of the BLBA logo is not just a simplified butterfly but also B,l and B drawn together in cursive. Butterflies are beautiful, flying insects with large magical wings —  symbolising joy, colour and transformation — and are frequent guests in children’s stories. They also instinctively know and are drawn to flowers with the most and best nectar. So, what else could be a better metaphor for an award that is looking to recognise the big contributors? The genial and light-hearted symbol is supported by the name of the award in a bold slab-serif type that offers it a contrasting weight in order to give the overall logo a balance, finally coming off as a serious award for grown-ups who have done great work in the field of joy (making books!).

In 2020 BLBA completed five years. To commemorate the occasion Parag wanted this fact to be somehow incorporated in the logo. We did a nice little rejig to bring home the point.

BLBA 2020-2021

Each look we designed for the award was used for two consecutive years followed by a design refresh. Our learning from the first two iterations (as you will see further down this page) was to have a modular system in place so that the design elements can be shifted around to create a new composition each time and hence avoid a certain staleness that emerges from overuse of ‘fixed’ compositions.

BLBA 2020 poster
BLBA 2021 poster

At the core of this look is a collaboration between an author and an illustrator, who are seen producing beautiful works (all those vibrant and diverse flowers and fruits) for the children. The author can be seen laying the ‘ground’work, from which stem colourful visuals imagined by the illustrator. 

The four colours of the logo are used to infuse vibrancy into the crudely shaped foliage. A very subdued shading hints at volume and aims to bring in a naive yet sophisticated look to the awards this year.

The language for the author award changes every year. It was English in 2020 and Malayalam in 2021. For 2021 we therefore brought in elements native to the land of Malayalam, Kerala, like house boats, coconuts, pepper, vanilla, cardamom, bananas, and rubber. 

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Outreach posts for 2020

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Posts for 2021. The illustrator remains the same but the author has undergone a change ;)

BLBA postcard 2020
BLBA postcard 2021

Postcards from 2020 and 2021

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Bookart Exhibition (2021)

In light of Covid restrictions Parag decided to hold all events online. A special exhibition was planned on the Parag website to mark five years of BLBA. Entries were invited from children and amateur illustrators to get their artworks featured in the exhibition.  

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A number of talks and booklists on various themes were also rolled out as part of the exhibition.

BLBA 2018-2019

2018 and 2019 were set in a jungle. Various animals were placed against a fixed backdrop of thick bushes. These animals could be seen pushing messages that go with their traits (like an elephant drumming the news of BLBA being back). Scroll down to see them in action.  

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The bunny does a very sincere job of setting up placards with all the key dates. And just so you don’t miss any of the deadlines, the rooster is ready with his announcements and he doesn’t mind repeating them!

BLBA postcard 2019

Postcard from 2018 and 2019

BLBA Panel Discussion

Design for a panel discussion from 2018

BLBA 2016-2017

BLBA language graphic

Our designs for the inaugural year of BLBA were a mixed bag really as we experimented with varied styles. But the dominant style, used for the artworks for social media posts and website, was done in a collage style, using digitally created paper cutouts painted in a crayon style and paired with a hand written font.

The website

For its inaugural year when the Award didn’t have much to say or show, we kept the website very simple and a single page affair. The design emphasis was on bold type (in a hand drawn look), on vibrant colour-blocked pages, and digital illustrations done in crayon style. The website was launched in two phases. ‘Nominate’ section was key for the first phase (June) wherein anybody could nominate candidates for the author and illustrator categories. And the second phase was launched in tandem with the announcement for ‘shortlists’ (October). There was even a confetti shower on the winners (November). (The website was pulled down after Parag’s website went live and BLBA was integrated within it).

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Standees for the award ceremony to announce the winners in 2016

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BLBA Award Night

BLBA trophy and its first recipients on the award night in 2016

BLBA bookmark

Books are vehicles of magic

We modified a quote by Hazel Rochman to give two sides to the same bookmark. A play on books and home, about how books play dual roles in the life of the reader: of taking them on imaginative journeys away from home and at the same time making impossible places feel like home through great writing. 

In here, on one side we see that a book is walking away from a cottage it probably lives in, and on the other side we see it living in all kinds of unlivable yet exciting places. 

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