Jennifer Coffey

Grab a cup of coffee (or tea) and enjoy!

A Reader’s Playground

Sometimes a reader refers to a library or a bookstore as their “playground.” What if there was an actual playground for readers? 

Any avid reader knows you sit, lay down, and stand in many positions while reading a great book. You establish a connection to the characters, and you don’t want to leave them for a second, even when you’re making a cup of coffee. 

As a kid, when playing on a playground, you also find yourself in crazy positions. You’re up at the top, then at the bottom, or somewhere in between. Naturally, you go with the flow of your own mini-adventure. 

The Story

At first, the image might seem like a random assortment of different positions, but they are more spontaneous improvisations of the reading process. 

“One of the premises of spontaneous art is that it allows access to your subconscious and liberates you from inhibitions.”

— Robin Landa, Graphic Design Solutions 2019

When I get interested in a book, I’ll start sitting up, then laying down, flip over, and sit back up again. Not only am I constantly changing positions, but I am taking the book with me to get a glass of water or snack from the kitchen, with my eyes never leaving the page. 

That is what I wanted to covey in this image. An organized chaos of what it is like to read a good book. That is why there are many readers in many positions. 

Not only am I reading, but I am pushing and moving the books around. When I finish a good book, not only do I talk about it with friends, but I maneuver my bookshelves around to make sure my latest favorite is front and center. 

The Process

I used photoshop to create this image. I took ten different photos, used the quick selection tool, and copied and pasted the selections into the background photo. Each reader, or element, was on its own layer, which made it easier for me to manipulate. 

The Composition

I attempted to create an asymmetrical design that used an infinity transition pattern so the viewer’s eye would never leave the image (Landa, 2019, p. 151). I wanted the reader to look at the reader in the middle first, then to loop around toward the top left, then down and around before coming to the center again. Then repeat the same process on the right. That is why the tallest reader is in the middle and carries the most visual weight (Landa, 2019, p. 144). 

I also made sure to add some elements from Osborn’s Checklist (Landa, 2019, p. 97). I magnified, minimized, rearranged, and reversed the images so they weren’t the same size throughout the image.

What I Would Do Differently

After taking the time to reflect on the final product, I can spot a few things that I would change.

First, there is a lack of depth in the image. There is a small foreground, middle ground, and background. In real life, the windowsill is about eight inches, but at this angle, it looks even smaller. By taking the background photo at a higher angle, I would be able to capture more of the flat plane of the book and therefore giving more depth. 

Second, I wouldn’t have the reader on the far right leading off the edge of the page. It draws the viewer’s eye away from the image, despite having the majority of the element on the page. 

In Conclusion

My goal for the future is to create an image that doesn’t look obviously photoshopped. Once I gain more experience, I would like to try a similar exercise to assess my progress with the program. 

Prof. John Heskett said that “design is to design the design of a design” (Hardt, 2006). From this experience, I have learned more about the design process, photoshop, and that my work could always be improved. 


Hardt, M. (2006). Guest Professor. University of Lapland.

Landa, R. (2019). Concept Generation and Creativity. Graphic design solutions (6th ed.) (pg. 91-110). Australia: Cengage.

Landa, R. (2019). Composition. Graphic design solutions (6th ed.) (pg. 133-158). Australia: Cengage.

One response to “A Reader’s Playground”

  1. Hi Jennifer, nice project. Speaking as another reader, I loved the idea of creating a “reader’s playground” and the composition does this very effectively.
    The stack of books that everyone is sitting or playing on is what I liked most. It creates a good upward flow that sends the message that this is about books and reading but is not overpowering. The open book at the top is a great touch and the flow of pages off the sides is pleasing to the eye. I am not sure how you could do this and not break up the flow of this composition, but if a book that is positioned so the viewer could see the cover might be a good addition.
    I am not sure that I agree with your concerns about a lack of depth in this composition. The stack of books has enough receding lines to give a sense of depth. One thing that might have given more depth perception is to have one of the human figures positioned so they are obviously behind the books, perhaps like they are getting ready to climb over them.
    My first thought about the lower portion of the composition was that it was too dark. But after giving it another look, I now think that it balances the light from the window in the upper part of the picture very well. I think a similar thing is going on with the light on the right side and the dark on the left.
    I have a couple of suggestions. One of them is to make the central figure bigger. The viewer’s eye is drawn to her immediately, but I think scaling her up a bit would help. I saw the figure-eight composition you were trying for once you explained it in the text and I do think it works on the left side. The right side is too cluttered, and I would have relied on more sitting figures to get the effect you were looking for.
    The other quibble I have is the standing figure on the left who is pushing against one of the books. I was drawn to that very quickly and wondered why she is pushing the book. A composition element that leaves the viewer with an unanswered question should be reconsidered. She adds to the flow you are looking for, but I might have gone for someone who is standing casually leaning with one hand against the stack of books and holding a book in the other hand.
    Overall, I liked the composition and the idea behind it.


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