Exploring Non-Traditional Typography and Visual Narrative Through Ray Bradbury's "Cistern"


  • Shae McMullin MacEwan University


The imagery in this story informed the treatment of the type. “The Cistern” by Ray Bradbury is about a pair of sisters discussing the idea of a macabre couple living in a city that exists in a cistern. The bleeding ink on the spread gives the illusion that the pages were submerged in the same way the woman in the cistern is described. It emphasizes important parts of the spread and attracts the readers eye to these parts of the page. The title, thebeginning, and the reveal that the fictional man and woman are dead, in particular.

The arrangement of individual repeated words gives these themes emphasis. The physical representation of rain through its arrangement underlines the motif of water in the story. The word love is used twice in the second column: once by Anna with relish and then by Juliet with an unimpressed tone. The italicization and tracking of the word emphasizes both tones and helps to give each character a voice in the reader’s head. Similarly affecting the syntax of the narration, the bold treatment and the lowering of the baseline of dead helps to emphasize the word in the reader’s head and calls attention to the repetitive use of the word by Bradbury.

The placement of the paragraphs in the first two columns clearly is formatted to highlight the conversation between the sisters. It also subtly creates a flow as the eye of the reader travels between paragraphs, reminiscent of the “ripply” quality of water that Anna later imitates with her hand in the air. The last column of text becomes more dense as the paragraphs all span further. This coincides with Anna’s dialogue becoming more dense as she becomes more enthusiastic in her story-telling. The last paragraph washes away off the page just like the litter in the rain water Anna is describing.

Faculty Menor: Constanza Pacher

Department: Design Studies