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re-innercity-00A while ago we had a pleasure of designing a PhD publication analyzing the development of old districts in Gdańsk. This is a very technical study, full of maps, graphs and subject interviews – in other words, precisely the kind of challenge we enjoy designing.

We chose to work with a serif typeface, because it was less obvious than a sans-serif and because we felt it would make the technical subject matter more reader-friendly. Because of the budget constraints only some pages are full color. In a book so full of various kinds of data layout needs to  help organize it clearly. We used a broadened left margin for navigational purposes where all the chapter, figure, footer numbers etc. are aligned. Sometimes it took a bit of typesetting magic but in the end we feel it worked well.

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(Cover photo by the author.)

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As the format is relatively small, sometimes it took some ingenuity to fit all the data onto pages.

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Designing maps: a special kind of fun.

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re-cowgirls-02Every now and then we get a little… bluesy, shall I say, because we don’t get nearly enough books to design. Quite a while ago in one of such moods, we designed and set a whole novel: Tom Robbins’ extravagant Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.

Even though it’s a single copy printed for us so I guess you could call it a unique book, we wanted it to be rather practical and entirely readable. It didn’t have to, however, pander to any publishing standards, and so the cover is only a cream sleeve with a few holes punched through to show the red cover from underneath.

re-cowgirls-01The title appears on the spine and on the title page. We went with our love for Futura and paired it with a more scripty, old-school typeface for all the display purposes but the text is set traditionally, in a serif typeface.

re-cowgirls-09 re-cowgirls-10 re-cowgirls-08 re-cowgirls-07Each new part of the novel starts with a motto that we printed on fold-in pages with black circles suggesting both punch holes and bullet holes.

re-cowgirls-04 re-cowgirls-05Obviously the circles on the external side of the part intro align with the ones inside to create a more realistic impression of holes.

re-cowgirls-06And finally, for the climactic shoot-out scene, we did something we wouldn’t be able to do with a novel meant for mass publishing and punched holes in the page:

re-cowgirls-03And frankly, we suggest you read the book if you haven’t already. If its tone doesn’t put you off from the start, you’ll probably enjoy it quite a lot.

Did you miss us? We’re back from our awesome trip to Paris, where we loved absolutely everything (even the crazy rain and swarms of tourists and that waiter that laughed at my French). One of the things we loved the most, though, were Parisian librairies (or bookstores, if we’re not being pretentious). We visited tens of them and bought so many books that we seriously worried about excess baggage. Here’s a few of our purchases, limited to those more Paris-related.

We fell in love with these two books of watercolors by Fabrice Morieau, Paris Sketchbook and Gardens of Paris: they are better than any photo album at capturing that charm of Paris (which we didn’t find overhyped at all).

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A view of Paris with our beloved Notre-Dame in the distance.

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La Defence, which we visited towards the end and that’s why it probably made an even greater impression after ten days of 19th century tenant houses all around. We wouldn’t like to live there, but with a good weather and for a short time that modernism certainly works.

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Parisian parks are very orderly. We’re used to a little wilder ones.

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The Louvre is definitely one of our favorite places in Paris.

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But Notre-Dame is probably the favorite one.

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We lived in a charming little apartment nearby fashionable Canal St-Martin (though, I think, in the less fashionable part of the area), just next door to a great boulangerie.

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Surprisingly enough, the Père Lachaise Cemetery was one of the most charming places we visited during the whole stay.

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Parisians are obsessed with greenery: parks, garden, window pots, you name it, it’s all there and it looks amazing.

paris-livres-02 paris-livres-03 paris-livres-04These series of books illustrated by Sarah McMenemy presents Paris in general, the Louvre and Versailles as small pop-ups with all the important monuments. Even before we found the watercolor albums, we bought these as a personal souvenir of all the wonders of the city.

paris-livres-17 paris-livres-18 paris-livres-19We actually did not climb the Eiffel Tour (again), seeing the insane lines beneath it. It’s shaping up to be our thing, apparently, because we did a similar thing last time (then it was wind that deterred us).

paris-livres-20 paris-livres-21 paris-livres-22The Mesopotamian and Assyrian art in the Louvre is actually one of the most fascinating things to see there.

paris-livres-23 paris-livres-24 paris-livres-25We spent a lovely Sunday in Versailles, with all the fountains, hedges and tourists.

This was a spontaneous purchase because the sheer practicality of the idea surprised us so much: this book is a list of free, allegedly tested toilets around Paris. We didn’t need to try out the suggestions but the books seems knowledgeable and actually well-designed, complete with the appropriate yellow Pantone.

paris-livres-26 paris-livres-27Paris is full of brilliant, small artsy books. They are like student diplomas, only published. Miss Lisa by Delphine Perret (who is probably not a student, but we don’t really know) is a story of Mona Lisa, who gets bored, leaves the painting and starts a new life. We bought it both for humor and illustrations.

paris-livres-35 paris-livres-36 paris-livres-37What is the one thing Mona Lisa always wanted to do? Sell shoes, of course.

We spent most time in children sections of bookstores because of all the fascinating printing techniques employed for the books and here are two examples (not so much Parisian but at least French). Ma Petite Savane by Xavier Deneux is like those books for two-year-olds printed on cardboard so you can’t tear out pages. But these pages have raised and lowered parts on two pages of a spread, which combine intelligently.

paris-livres-28 paris-livres-29Zebra’s stripes – trees.

paris-livres-30Finally, Après l’été by Lucie Félix tells a charming story of a girl’s orchard in autumn, employing intelligently designed die-cuts. Great part about both this and the previous book is how the fancy techniques tell the story, not just increase production costs.

paris-livres-31paris-livres-32paris-livres-33 paris-livres-34 Of course, there was much more to our stay in Paris than just books (I mean, there were croissants for one thing) but the books were amazing.

Fourteen Books to Love Here at re:design we heart many things – LEGO blocks, huskies, bacon, The Good Wife, Christmas Eve and I could really go on – but books are definitely in our top three. And now that Valentine’s Day is upon us again we profess our love for literature with a series of (literally) heart-centered covers.

Memoirs of a GeishaHeart is a fun shape to work with and surprisingly versatile. Each cover uses the shape as the center of the composition around which a symbolic illustration and typography are arranged. The books range from pulp romances through venerable classics to postmodernist experiments but all feature some version of the eternal love theme.

LolitaLolita by Vladimir Nabokov, an ambitious and rather pervy, if read literally, take on love.

Bridget Jones DiaryBridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding, a decidedly unambitious take.

The Vagina MonologuesThe Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler (a more physiological interpretation of the theme).

The Hunchback of Notre-DameFatalistic view of love and life in The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo.

Quo VadisQuo Vadis by Henryk Sienkiewicz.

In Search of Lost TimeIn Search of Lost Time or in love with the past, by Marcel Proust.

Cinder House RulesCider House Rules by John Irving.

Ireland: a NovelIreland by Frank Delaney.

A Good YearA Good Year by Peter Mayle.

Homer's DaughterHomer’s Daughter by Robert Graves.

NanaNana by Emile Zola, a socially critical anti-love story.

One Hundred Years of SolitudeOne Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

The GamblerAnother classic, The Gambler by Dostoyevsky.

Memoirs of a GeishaMemoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden, love in Japan.

Title page of LolitaTitle page for Lolita, with the logo for the series.

Books to LoveSeries of spines. For typography we chose a combination of Scala and Stag. We picked a limited color palette of reds and grays with some greens and yellows.

re:design loves booksThe logo of the series, consisting – predictably – of 14 hearts.

And we wish all of you a happy Valentine’s Day (either spent with your beloved person or with your beloved book).

in-her-garden-redesign-poster_01Today we have finally gotten down to cleaning up all the post-Christmas decorations (which we know is late-ish but we just love having Christmas lights around) and decided to do some creative recycling of the dried up holly leaves littering our room because we found them quite pretty and intriguing. What precisely we decided to do is another typographic poster to include in the Theatre of Literature series.

Unlike with the previous posters, we didn’t have a selected novel title to use and couldn’t think of one so we actually resorted to Google once we came up with the ideas that this book should include. We wanted something about old age and nature, nostalgic and on the serious side, and found a seemingly perfect match. In Her Garden by Jon Godden is a 1981 novel about an elderly widow who falls in love with her young gardener and dies under suspicious circumstances, a cross between a psychological and a gothic story – at least according to the Internet sources as we’ve yet to read it. (Again, this is not how we normally work but since the perishable material was ready, we seized the opportunity.)

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We built simple, cursive-like letters from the leaves so that the leaves’ curves reinforce those of the letters. We used the rest of the leaves to make an ornament, the kind whose structure can be found on a wallpaper in an old house. We picked a somber color that does not contrast strongly with the design to create a rather melancholy atmosphere.

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in-her-garden-redesign-poster_05With the Christmas decorations gone, at least we have the satisfaction of having turned a part of the chore into more enjoyable work.

The Magus poster by re:designWith this poster we returned to working with paper. The Magus by renown John Fowles tells a mutlilayered story that we don’t feel competent to describe in detail. So be content with this: a guy visits a Greek island where an older man tries to manipulate him in a sort of experiment, while two twins try to seduce him. Yes, we realize it’s a simplification, just read the book.

The Magus poster by re:designIn the poster we focused on the magus  who with his God-complex tries to influence and direct other people’s lives. Letters become puppets with the invisible puppeteer holding the strings off-frame. Lighting gives it a very theater-like atmosphere, the motif of theater and acting prominent in the book. It also creates natural shadows and the double letters remind of the twins in the novel, among other things.

The Magus poster by re:designFor letters we chose Priori by Emigre, for its twist on classic serif letters and its somewhat occult flavor. For Greek atmosphere we picked white on blue, the blue dark enough to add some nocturnal element.

The Magus poster in the worksWe first cut out the papers letters and fixed them with white threads. Then, the more complicated part came in which we had to fix the letters to a horizontal plane (made of cardboard) above, so that they hung loose and stayed legible. Finally, all we had to do was experiment with lighting until the shadows looked right. All in all, this proved more complicated than cutting carrots.

The Magus poster in the worksThe behind-the-scenes part didn’t look too elegant, admittedly:

The Magus poster in the worksBut it’s always satisfactory to overcome the obstacles that come from physical design work. It’s a different feeling to the purely conceptual obstacles you encounter when working solely on the computer.

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The Magus poster detail

Truth be told, today’s poster started a long time ago as a concept entitled “It would be fun to make letters of carrots.” Carrot letters remained on our minds – not constantly, though – until we found a way to incorporate them into the Theatre of Literature series in a perhaps somewhat abstract but not completely random way: to illustrate Anne of Green Gables.

Probably nobody needs this classic story described. We focused on the one most characteristic feature of beloved Anne, her orange-red hair that earned her Carrots nickname from teasing but oh-so-charming Gilbert.

More indirectly we found carrots a good match because they bring to mind a certain simplicity of rustic life that is present in L. M. Montgomery novels. We made letters out of carrot slices, having bought a particularly big  specimen for the purpose. We contrasted orange letters with the green background because of the strong contrast but also because of the greenery of Montgomery’s countryside setting. (Also, this way form and meaning go hand in hand, as we prefer them to do.)

We didn’t design the letters ahead, just experimented while carving into the slices. A carrot proved, as we hoped, a very graceful material, submitting easily to our ideas.

And because we enjoyed working with carrots so much, we did not stop with one poster but designed a whole Carrot Alphabet for future use and reference and for the challenge the other letters presented. Of course, it’s possible to do some of the letters differently but in general we’re pleased with them.

Alias Grace is one of wonderful novels by a Canadian author Margaret Atwood. It tells a story of a servant convicted of murder. It’s one of those Victorian-obsessed novels, like The French Lieutenant’s Woman and The Crimson Petal and the White, and it’s up there with the best of ‘em story-wise while Atwood is arguably a better writer. All I’m saying is, read it.

Quilt is a dominating motif of the novel, both as a part of the story and a composition principle and I always regretted no cover author (to my knowledge) used it but hey, at least we could in our new poster. With my mom’s extensive collection of patterned fabrics we built the quilt-like composition out of almost 150 pieces.

A part of an interesting challenge of this poster was to design letters built of rectangular triangles and then separate them from the background of other triangles and squares. As quilt rookies we researched quilt making on the web and had our misconception corrected: initially we planned to separate the letter elements by color (like red) but it turned out pro quilters use difference in lightness. So that’s what we did, with light colors forming the title and dark, mostly navy blue and brown with red thrown here and there as a reminder of the murder, making up the background.

Originally we planned to sew the pieces together and we might still do that but for now arranging them properly turned out challenging enough.

We loved how this project let us focus on our design interests – such as grid-based letters, color, topic-form relation – but also broaden our comfort zone a little with new materials. We could have done it with paper and I daresay it’d still work but fabric pieces are so much better.

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