Chris Haughton





Chris Haughton is an Irish illustrator and author living in London. He was listed in Time magazine's 'DESIGN 100' for the work he has been doing for fair trade clothing company People Tree. He has written and illustrated three books A Bit Lost (2010), Oh No George! (2012) and Shh! We have a Plan (2014). He is releasing an app called Hat Monkey in 2014. Chris has also created a social business, to connect design and fair trade. 

SHH! WE HAVE A PLAN. Four unusual characters, a colourful bird and a plan that goes wrong. A simple tale told in images and with very few words. It tells a story about four different characters and four different ways of approaching the same problem with very different results.

When A Bit Lost won the AOI award in 2010 it had a huge effect, it was the very first award that I received for a book and that book went on to do very well and received a lot of attention as a result of the awards. I was in complete shock and I feel extremely lucky to have made a career from children’s books.”

BRIEF: Do another book Chris! 

MATERIALS: Cut paper, pencil and digital. I am often asked if my work is made with cut-paper and up until this book I havent used cut paper at all. My work is usually all drawn as shapes first but filled in and moved around in Photoshop so that it is effectively a digital paper-cut collage. For this book though, because I wanted the text to line up with the action in the book it seemed easier to make the physical artwork a little more malleable. Also there were five characters on almost every page so in order for the images to be more simple and easily read they needed a lot of simplification and paper cut seemed to be a good answer to that too. In the end actually I think I will be working this way a lot more in future as in some ways it was a lot easier.

RESEARCH: My idea for this book came from the road runner cartoon. Trying to catch something and always failing was a good visual starting point. This is my third children's book and I was looking for a story like my other books which could be told visually and has an element of pantomime. In my two other books I have tried to have a kind of question posed on each of the pages that is answered on the following page. In this book it was preparing to capture the bird with a ready, one, two, three and then on the following page it is answered as they of course miss and end up collapsed in a heap. 

PROCESS: I settled on the starting point which was the Road Runner cartoon idea of never being able to catch their prey. Then there was trying to come up with a satisfying ending to the story, it seemed to be best if the bird in the story was never caught and not only that but the way they were going about their whole endeavour was wrong. That lead to the ending of another character in their group who has the opposite approach.  Once I came up with the story that pretty much informed how the book would look, I was keen for it to look simple and as graphic as possible which led me to use the paper cut and have a very silhouetted look.

RESISTANCES: Actually the resistance became the insight, which I think is often the way things go. The resistence or difficulty in this book was that I needed to show a thought process for each of the characters, each coming up with a plan in a concise way. The way we cracked it was by telling it all in one sentence said by the four characters across each page.

INSIGHT: I really enjoyed telling the story across the page, and I came up with a few variations, having each of the characters say one line each across the page like a conversation which is a kind of visual way of telling the narrative or a thought process. I think there is a lot of comic potential with that and you might catch me using this again in future books.

DISTRACTIONS: The internet mainly as usual! Also doing the show in the Design Museum in 2012 took a big chunk of my time.

NUMBERS: There are 98 words in the book. It took 2 years. That works out as one word every 6 days!!

AFTERWORDS: I have used a quote or epigraph that sums up the story in some way for all my books. For SHH I used a quote by Einstein 'Peace cannot be kept by force, it can only be achieved by understanding' which might be a weird thing to have in a book for two year olds, but I like it. I like that it is quite open and I hope it adds a little more depth to what is a very simple story.

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