Hidden stories which come off the pages

Children can truly immerse themselves in their favourite books thanks to smart texts created by a Nottingham Trent University student.

The Little Mermaid in Action
Camera icon
The Little Mermaid in Action

Children can truly immerse themselves in their favourite books thanks to smart texts created by a Nottingham Trent University student.

In a bid to champion traditional print over electronic books, Graphic Design student Hristiyan Pavlov has created versions of three Hans Christian Andersen books which only reveal their stories when they are read in certain environments – such as when wet, cold or hot.

"This really was a way of re-inventing the print copy in a modern context," said Hristiyan. "Confusingly, all efforts from designers have been towards mimicking the digital copy as opposed to looking at the inherent qualities of the printed book and exploring different ways to amplify them."

The books he has chosen – The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen, and Little Match Seller – match the elements and conditions he is working with.

For The Little Mermaid, Hristiyan, 21, has used special ink which reacts with water so that the text becomes visible when it gets submerged or splashed in water. For parts of the book which tell tales of life above the water, the ink is visible when dry. But to reveal the adventures below the sea, the reader has to get the book wet. When it dries out, the text disappears again.

"This truly is about immersion," said Hristiyan, an international student from Bulgaria. "It's about simple and intuitive interaction with the book. These smart materials have previously been used for their gimmick value but I wanted to utilise them to really engage people in print. That's why I chose children's books because they provide a good entry point into printed literature for people."

To appreciate his version of The Snow Queen, readers will have to immerse themselves in the world of the characters as parts of the story which give clues to the location of the Snow Queen's castle text can only be seen at temperatures under nine degrees Celcius.

For Little Match Girl, the story has to hot up to 27 degrees before the reader will be able to understand the full picture. Only the more sinister tale is told in traditional text but the other, warmer side of the Match Seller's story is hidden until the book is heated up.

Hristiyan has used silicon for the books so that they can withstand the wet, hot and cold. For The Snow Queen, Hristiyan wants to supply the product with a book mark which would be an ice pack to use to react with the thermochromic ink, and for The Little Match Seller it would be a heat pack, though he said the text could be "warmed up" with people's hands.

To make his books, Hristiyan has hand printed each page using layers of screen printing. But he believes his idea could be mass-produced at relatively low cost.

"It has been costly for me because I've had to do things by hand but smart materials are actually quite affordable so the books wouldn't need to be that expensive," he said.

He is now hoping to promote his work to potential investors to try to take his books into production.

"Above all, I have made the point that the concept of analogue interaction can be implemented into an actual product. I believe it is a very plausible idea for the three books to be manufactured on an industrial scale and I really want to try and create a buzz about it in order to get people interested and, hopefully, take this further."

Kathryn Coates, acting course leader for the Graphic Design course at Nottingham Trent University, said: “Hristiyan's work is a superb response to the current challenge of preserving and celebrating print through contemporary design. We have encouraged our students to experiment with different materials, methods and concepts, to be brave and take risks and it's great to see results like this."

  • Notes for editors

    Press enquiries please contact Kirsty Green, Press and Public Affairs Manager, on telephone +44 (0)115 848 8799, or via email.

    Notes for editors:

    • Private view for the degree show is on May 29, 5 pm – 9 pm: This is an opportunity for professionals and representatives across the creative industries to attend an early evening preview event just before the shows open to the public. It will be held at the University's City site. To register for attendance please email degree shows. Exhibiting students will be on hand throughout the event to meet visitors and talk about their work.
    • Attached are images of Hristyan Pavlov's books.

Hidden stories which come off the pages

Published on 6 June 2014
  • Category: Press; School of Art & Design

Still need help?

+44 (0)115 941 8418