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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.

re-dayinlife-1

We’ve been insanely busy for the last week so today we’re only showing you a sneak peek of three illustrations that happened as a last-minute request. These are fragments of stories we made up for three well-known and well-loved figures. We’ll show you the whole pieces in near(ish) future.

re-dayinlife-2 re-dayinlife-3

re-writers-portraitsToday’s illustration comes from a bigger, obviously book-related publication we’re working on right now. We created simple portraits of twelve writers. Some of them you certainly know, some you might not have necessarily heard of as they are more local. This proved to be an amusing challenge and we will tell you more about it once we have the whole project to share.

 

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).

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.

As promised, we continue the series of literary and typographic posters. Today’s work reaches beyond paper as it let us experiment with different materials, inspired by a different subject matter. We tackled the classic stories of Isaac Asimov dealing with robots and robotics. Instead of choosing one (though if we had, it would’ve been The Caves of Steel), we decided to treat them jointly as a sort of anthology. We suppose this way, with the author’s name, the stories are easier to identify.

Isaac Asimov might well be our favorite science-fiction writer because we appreciate his lucidity and the fact that he usually managed to avoid the opaque philosophical passages other sf writers use to give their work appearances of profundity. In other words, he’s fun to read. Many of his stories and a few novels deal with the introduction of robots into human society. Asimov invented the famous (at least geek-famous and Will Smith-fans-famous) laws of robotics which determined what robots could and couldn’t do and then spent his time inventing ways for robots to overcome them. Writers.

Asimov is tricky in that he wrote about the future but his is already a classic and somewhat retro science-fiction vision so we were looking for a visual futuristic language that would include a nod to the past and again, materials proved to be an answer. We used aluminum foil which is soft and easily molded into shapes, and pressed it onto a form composed of old letterpress type, creating an imprint of the text. The silver foil stands for metals that robots are built of but the letters introduce a more human (and intentionally somewhat messy) aspect, present in Asimov’s writing. It’s the combination of the two that he found interesting.

As you might realize then we had only to flip the photo to get a legible, non-mirror version and, of course, post-process it to some extent.

But we usually look for something extra than just the letters to make the posters more fun, a sort of illustration without illustration. This time we went all-out and actually built a moveable type robot, which looked like this:

This is the lower layer of the poster, you could say, and we really enjoyed assembling it (no, it doesn’t do anything though).

Both layers of the robot’s head:

Robot head before and after applying aluminium foil

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