Sketchbook: Creativity For Kids—Set Designer Style

It’s not often that set designers transition into the world of children’s literature, but veteran designer Charles Berliner has made the jump with his first endeavor, I Want Much More Than A Dinosaur, published by Xlibris. The book is a playful and engaging look at what can happen when “the attributes and characteristics of various living creatures, combined with oddly related objects and activities, come into play.”

Berliner has always been uniquely involved with the story, having designed award-winning costumes and scenery for film, television, and theatre. He is also one of the few designers to have been awarded an Individual Design Arts Fellowship in Theatrical Design from the National Endowment for the Arts. No stranger to crossover, he created a series of more than 90 paintings during the 1980s entitled Inner Images Unknown, which—as pieces of art separate from his design work—ended up as projections for Coastal Acts, a dance choreographed by Rudy Perez and first performed at the 1987 Los Angeles Festival. He has also designed for the Improvisational Theatre Project on several collaborations where the script was directly influenced by the visual choices he made, as well as The National Theatre of the Deaf, which introduced him to an entirely different way of storytelling.

As for delving into children’s literature, Berliner says simply, “As an entertainment industry designer, I am a visual artist who occasionally enjoys doing creative projects, and I believe the specificity of my design history to date has brought me to this new creative effort—albeit, working with the visual and the written word in a slightly different symbiotic relationship.”

He also brings up another good point: Illustrators and authors of children’s books have ventured forth as designers within the various entertainment industry mediums, so why not try a reverse move?

“I have been influenced by producers, directors, choreographers, and actors such as Florence Henderson, who wrote the introduction to my book, and I’ve had the good fortune to observe ideas being put together from many points of view,” he adds.

Perhaps Berliner has it all figured out, after all. The book champions the use of creative exploration to find “more than before” and encourages abstract thinking among children.

We’ll be the first to report on its stage adaptation.