The triptych solid: text, image, gesture

Design review of the book "Mala quadrada, cabeça quadrada" (Square suitcase, square head) for the literary newspaper Suplemento Pernambuco #152 (October 2018)

Hana Luzia
3 min readFeb 13, 2020
Photo: Press / Caleidoscópio Editora

The origin of the book Mala quadrada, cabeça quadrada started from the author Patrícia Vasconcellos’ experience on a trip to Siberia, Russia, in 2004. On a retreat with Siberian shamans, she fumbled to pull a huge square suitcase. A shaman said: “square suitcase, square head”. The sentence stayed in her head for years until it was transformed into the story of a girl who lived in a square world (metaphorically and literally). The girl used to be and to do square things, when a big event turns her and her world round. This is the most importante moment of the character. The transition between these two worlds, the square and the round world, is exactly the middle of the book, where the stitch binding is visible.

However, the story is not only narrated by Patricia’s text, but also through two other dimensions that complement verbal language in different ways: pictorial and gestural language.

Pictorial language refers to abstract illustration and typography. The letters change according to the narrative, becoming more rounded and less square. The illustration creates its own space, using the potential of colors to convey consciousness, affections, metaphors and allusions. The shades of gray and colors, which do not mix, represent the square world, and their fusion and dilution represent the round world. Gestural language is induced through the text’s layout. The placement of words incites the need to rotate the book continuously, through the handling of the reader. This triad of text, image and gesture are very cohesive from the beginning of the story to its end. From the cover to the back cover. From the triangular shape of the book — which, when opened, becomes square and when rotated becomes round — up to the maximum fusion of the three languages on the last page, emphasizing these three qualities. There are also three authors, each of them responsible for a type of language: Patrícia Vasconcellos (text), Gabriela Araújo (graphic design and layout) and Eduardo Souza (graphic design and illustration).

Photo: Press / Caleidoscópio Editora

Besides that, the book doesn’t follow time and space accurately, in a linear story, but describes an existential transition from a girl to a woman. The beginning and end of the story coexist at the center of the book, where the character’s life changes. The book provides an endless cycle, inviting the reader to reread the book in search of new meanings and feelings, like a mantra.

Mala quadrada…, by its three dimensions and by its narrative, fits not only as an illustrated book. It combines visual and verbal narratives, which is not the same thing as a book that contains illustrations. Neither does it fit in the children’s genre. It seeks greater interactivity than is usually reserved for books, an experience for any age. Other differentials of the work are the triangular shape and the handmade binding. Which demonstrates a concern with the value of the book’s materials, making it unique and necessary. The shape of the book, as well as the character, pose a question: how long can you live your life in a square world?

Mala quadrada, cabeça quadrada — Booktrailer — Narration: Lula Queiroga / Motion design: André Menezes / Script: Eduardo Souza
Suplemento Pernambuco #152 (October 2018)

Mala quadrada, cabeça quadrada
Authors: Eduardo Souza, Gabriela Araújo, Patrícia Vasconcellos
Publisher: Caleidoscópio Edições
Print Lenght: 48
Prize: R$ 65



Hana Luzia

art director, designer, illustrator & educator based in recife, brazil.