Branded Books

In Family-friendly, Local Outings
A recent trip to Value Village began innocently: Moo needed more books. But in the book aisle, we soon discovered how brand and the value of curation were shaping our daughter’s wee perspective of the world.


Value Village, if you haven’t been, is an iconic thrift store throughout the States and Canada. Founded in 1954, they arrived in Canada in 1980 and seem to have crossed that threshold of US-companies-that-make-it-up-north. Today they’re one of the largest recyclers of used textiles in the world, making good in the world through their work with non-profits, job creation, and keeping stuff out of landfills. On the whole, we approve!

The book aisle of the Brantford branch with its large selection is particularly wonderful, and our daughter will just sit there and read and read and read (aka look at pictures). Of course her taste in books is often dramatically different from our own and she races to fill the cart with pink princess books while we race to put them back on the shelf when she’s not looking.

Although not a huge fan of princess things ourselves, we try not to actively discourage Moo’s interest – she loves anything pink, girly, dress-up, and that’s cool. She asks to talk about princesses all the day long so we make up stories about princesses who go on great adventures, princesses who meet interesting people along their travels, princesses who fight dragons or have other weird occupations. We try to always focus on what the princess is doing, not how she looks, what she’s wearing or who’s saving her.

Yet the brand association of princesses is too strong for her to fight! Looking at the pile of books she collected (on the left), and on the same hand the pile of books we collected (on the right), it wasn’t lost on us that we both had an equal attraction to a certain – however different – feel of book. Brand is a powerful thing.

Perhaps the counter balance to the allure of brand is curation. Curation is in sifting through an aisle of motley books to find ones that stand out, like a vinyl collector rifling through records at a record store, making a choice to curate a collection of the same or one of differences.


As designers, we know brand and curation each have their own utility. A tight focus on brand benefits someone signposting for a specific audience whereas curation is often a powerful expression of individuality.


As parents in the Value Village, we’re tasked with encouraging one or the other. Do we reinforce brand, keeping things simple and helping our girl immerse herself in one series of books? Or do we encourage curation, widening her horizons by pulling from all over the shelf? A dozen Curious Georges, a copy of the bizarre Beethoven Lives Upstairs, and just one Felicity Wishes later, maybe the answer is a bit of both.

1 Comment

  1. As parents of a 2-year-old boy, we are also a bit concerned by the differentiation between “for girls” and “for boys” books… Maybe it’s just that we became more aware of this situation when our kid was born, but we feel like it is getting worse each year. Nowadays, you can even find branded atlas: pink for girls and blue for boys! The publicists are really going overboard with this…

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