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There might be people who shrug at graphic freebies. We neither know them nor count ourselves among their number and that’s how we got this map we’re showing you today. To celebrate 25 years of freedom the Prime Minister’s office has ordered an illustrated map of Poland with information about the history of democratic transformation. Then everyone could order a copy for free: I suppose they expected this to be mostly aimed at parents of children but we refused to be stopped by that and our map came a few days ago, close enough to Independence Day.

The map is a work of Hipopotam studio from Warsaw, who proved they can do maps by publishing one of the biggest illustrated books in our collection, with quirky maps of the world. It’s quite an impressive feat and probably gave someone the idea for this little gadget we’re presenting. (Also, if maps of the world sound like your thing, this book is quite widely exported: we saw it in London and in Paris so you can probably grab one somewhere near you.)

The map of Poland is pretty much the same style-wise, only it’s of, you know, Poland. You can find illustrations of historical figures, important buildings, food and, our favorite, animals.

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Here’s Gdynia, where we live.

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The other side presents some crucial moments in Poland’s recent history, titled What We Did Right: 25 Years of Freedom.

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I don’t exactly know how appealing this is for children but we found the whole project a lot of fun.

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As you may have observed we are big fans of a Warsaw illustrator Marianna Oklejak. During a trip to Warsaw two years ago we found her wonderful illustrated history of the city of Warsaw that we determined to buy but before we got to it (long story, doesn’t matter) it turned out to be sold out. We discovered they were considering a reprint but not really actually doing it. So imagine our delight when looking half-heartedly for a gift for a niece in a small, chain bookstore we found a forgotten copy of the book. Maybe it got overlooked because it was somewhat warped or maybe because the cover doesn’t entirely do justice to the great contents but the more lucky us. We bought it and we can share it with you today.

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It’s a large-format, cardboard book and each spread presents a dense illustration of the map of Warsaw in a particular historical moment. Detail-heavy drawings provide a wealth of details that you can look at for quite a long time, admiring subtle sense of humor. We particularly like that some characters, for instance the siren of Warsaw (the symbol of the city) or a pair of bears, resurface in every spread in various roles.

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The oldest history of Warsaw, full of pagans and missionaries and wild animals.

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The time when quarrelsome nobles ruled the country.

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The charming 20s.

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Rebuilding of the city after the war (a personal favorite spread).

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The gray early 1980s.

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Modern Warsaw, full of traffic jams and billboards (but also cultural events).

re-walk-01While we’re still swamped with a ton of work, we took a (very short) break to share with you one more book we bought after our trip to London and it might be actually our favorite. It is called Walk This World by Lotta Nieminen and it shows a walk through various cities of the world in one day. Each spread is given to one city that the children should guess, using such clues as clothing, bits of language, famous monuments and even colors. Some are harder, some easier but all very pretty.

But that’s not even the best part, cool as it is! The best part is that it has those flaps of paper you can open to peek underneath and see what’s inside the buildings. I’m sure we’re well past the target age but we thoroughly enjoyed opening those windows and doors and chuckled at the humorous illustrations. Combined with nice illustrations, an exquisite sense of color and good production values, this is another book on our long list that we recommend to all you book aficionados out there, whether you have children or not.

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The whole journey starts in New York. (Sorry for the gif-y graininess but we wanted to show you the hidden illustrations.)

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This is Sydney spread with its lovely color palette and whatever’s hiding in a kangaroo:

re-walk-03re-walk-05Of course we couldn’t overlook Paris, with Mona Lisa hidden in the Louvre:

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And here’s Italy and the insides of a volcano:

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(Italy actually looks like a mix of several cities, which is a bit surprising at least to our European sensitivities but whatever, it’s still gorgeous.)

Last weekend we went to Warsaw to a Patti Smith concert (and yes, she rocked) and used the opportunity to visit the exhibition of the International Poster Biennale in Wilanów. Having seen at least the last six exhibitions, we feel we have a decent sense of the direction the competition is taking and, unfortunately, we didn’t love this year’s selection. Of course, there were glorious exceptions and we’ll show you a couple below but, in general, the selected group of works felt very uniform and not in a good way.

Most of the posters, especially the ones you see right after entering, shared a few characteristics: a messy all-over-the-place composition, often-pointless typographic games and, worst of all, a general lack of ingenious ideas. This goes against what we usually like in poster design, hence our disappointment. While the previous exhibitions showed enough variance to satisfy all kinds of taste, this year we felt most of the posters were similar and attacked us with their joyful chaos without satisfying our craving for smart ideas and clear design. I guess most of the jury shared similar taste, more so than during previous editions, and a little different from ours.

Enough complaining. Obviously, we also found a few great works and these are the ones we’d like to share. Disclaimer: we certainly missed a few interesting things (as well as the whole student selection) so just because something doesn’t appear here, it doesn’t mean we didn’t like it.

dmitry-mirilenko-majakowskiThis series of posters by Dmitri Mirilenko about Mayakovsky won a third prize (one of three) and we feel it could’ve won more. Seeing as this kind of dispersed typographic composition dominated this year’s selection, and was not always used successfully, we really appreciate how in these posters it’s made to click. This works in a somewhat abstract, but legible, way appropriate for the work of an avant-garde poet and we appreciate this kind of thinking. Also, the trend is made to work for the subject matter not against it.

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Among a multitude of posters which were based on filling the space with many elements (and all looked so similar), this was the only one that really stood out for us because it shows that the author controls the chaos up to every little detail (which makes it anti-chaos?). Also, it has an idea, simple as it is (young=egg), and – last but not least – it’s very pretty. This one is by Yanting Chen.

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A Polish accent, a poster by Ryszard Kaja. We appreciate this one because sometimes designers who were very strong when the Polish School of Posters dominated don’t fit in so well with newer aesthetics but not so in this case. (Also, during the last biennale Kaja charmed us with his series of posters for various regions of Poland, check them out some time.)

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Currently we’re spending way too much time on material typography so obviously we picked out all the posters which also used it and pretty lovely examples these are. The first one by Philippe Apeloig, with a nice nod to modernism and an impressive control over his medium.

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Two posters (which may or may not be our favorites of the whole exhibition) by Ariene Spanier. Nice use of materials to reflect the subject matter and great ideas.

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One more Polish accent, The Cherry Orchard poster by Homework. We’ve been fans of their minimalism for quite a while now and we add this one to the list of their posters we love.

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Finally, a couple of posters that focus on ideas rather than just playing with form. A tribute to Malevich by Youri Toreev, with a nod to the black square.

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And a poster by our friend Anita Wasik for a yearly edition of a festival of street art. This one is a continuation of her previous poster for the festival, which we love dearly and which looks like this:

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However, we’ve yet to see a poster whose joy value would equal feeding squirrels in the park, which we did after we saw the posters. So, we’ll leave you with this happy picture to wish you a good week.

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As we keep working on our not-yet-to-be-shown projects, we use the opportunity to continue with the awesome books we have recently bought. We could be doing it for a year and more but we’re planning to actually return to showing our creative efforts soon. However, for today enjoy these.

In one of the previous book-related posts we showed you a catalog for Gierymski’s exhibition in Warsaw but that wasn’t all we brought from that show. The museum also published quite a charming companion publication for children. Now, we’re great fans of this kind of part-educational, part-entertaining materials accompanying exhibitions (hint, hint, we’d love to make some) and are often a little disappointed by their quality and lack of original ideas. But this one is actually what we might expect, with nice design and illustrations, tasks that make sense and even a pleasant kind of paper.

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Alice in Wonderland and the Moomin series are some of these books that you don’t even have to come across in early childhood and you will still enjoy them and then the magic just stays with you forever. They are even not so much about storylines – though we love those too – as about the atmosphere. So finding a combination of both in Tate’s bookstore in the form of Alice illustrated by Tove Jansson left us dumbfounded with delight. Apparently this was originally a Swedish edition then published by Tate in English and Jansson’s illustrating style matches wonderfully the dreamy nature of Carroll’s story. We’ve seen many versions of Alice‘s illustrations and normally we will always pick the classic version by John Tenniel, but this one is definitely worth having. Maybe because it has this nostalgic quality that books from childhood will have for adults.

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And the last book is perhaps the most stunning of all. The High Street by Alice Melvin apparently won some sort of award for best new illustrator and no wonder at all. We also found it in Tate and fell in love with it but when we read it our fascination increased even. It tells a story of a girl gone shopping through an array of old-fashioned little shops, each selling one type of products rather than everything, mall-style. In this it basks in the passing (or maybe returning? that would be awesome) glory of small shops. The illustrating style is lovely in that it combines a bit of theme-becoming old-fashioned-ness with modern clarity. This is exactly what we love, especially seeing as each illustration has a lot of details and you can look at it over and over. But the best part is that the illustrations showing shops can be folded out to reveal the inside of the shop! Now, I’m quite secure in saying that many of you must share our fascination with the inside of buildings that you only see from the outside. As children we loved this kind of drawings and we still do. So, this is a perfect little book, both in idea and execution (it even has a plot twist!), and we encourage you to buy it, should you have a chance (no, no one is paying us for all these recommendations though they may, if they want to).

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We didn’t see as much of London as we had planned but we did visit a whole lot of museum gift stores and today we’ll show you how our collections of pocket pop-up books is growing. We bought the first ones in Paris but Britain has more of them: we found five (to Paris’ three). However, sorry but the French name Petit pop-up panoramique wins with English A Three-Dimensional Expanding Guide. No challenge there.

Still, the illustrations are just as charming (by the same illustrators, mostly) and we were thrilled each time we found a new one in a bookstore. We’re easily amused people.

re-popup-02 We didn’t see a whole lot of royal palaces but we liked the book.

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We did manage to visit Trafalgar Square and Westminster Abbey (the square quite a few times because we went to the National Gallery twice and also you always seem to end up there when you start doing touristy things).

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And of course we’ve already told you about Tate Modern a few times. We enjoyed the bookstore there too.

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We didn’t hope for much from the Tower of London but we were pleasantly surprised: what an entertaining place it actually is. And the ravens were awesome.

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But our favorite was the last find, Shakespeare, which we only discovered at the Globe, where we just dropped in for a few minutes on our last day. One side shows places connected with Shakespeare’s biography but the other one shows scenes from various plays, which is very refreshing after all the architecture of the other volumes. It helps that we’re currently re-reading all of Shakespeare, probably.

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