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This year for the long weekend we have at the beginning of May Experyment Science Center offers attractions that explain the work of oceanographers who study the Baltic Sea. We had the pleasure of designing a poster for the event.

The poster was directed at both children and adults and so we had to find a style that would appeal to both. Since most of the events deal with the study of the underwater life forms, we chose to illustrate various Baltic Sea inhabitants as being lighted by the light of a scientific submarine (obviously yellow, because references). It was quite fun to choose from various fish and other organisms and to illustrate them in a unified, geometric style.

A horizontal version of the poster for use online.

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Turbot.

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Porpoise (like wolves, it’s also in need of protection, by the way) and a flounder.

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Good old cod.

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Eel and brittle star.

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Hope this makes you want to visit a seaside for the beginning-of-May weekend (if you celebrate it, of course).

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Coming back from a meeting a few weeks ago we stopped by a nice bookshop full of artsy treasures and, of course, we impulse-bought a children’s book we want to share with you today. It’s by William Grill and it’s called The Wolves of Currumpaw. Fair warning: it’s not exactly a happy book, more of a cautionary tale, as it tells the story of a wolf hunter and how his biggest catch made him turn into a preservation activist (I guess this is the happy part in the end; but first there’s wolf-killing and we honestly found it hard to read).

The loveliest part of the book is the illustration style: how it cites Native American art but also makes it very approachable and child-friendly. The use of crayons for the drawings makes them softer, almost like a blanket, and we feel this softening is quite welcome, considering the subject matter.

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(The wolf starring in the photos is our son’s, from a series of plush toys that help support  WWF.)

An example of the lovely sense of space the book creates.

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The illustrator creates masterful variations between spreads. Some are panoramic views of the landscape, some resemble infographics while others are dynamic action scenes. The color palette is lively and hushed at the same time.

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And this one is somewhere in between an infographic and an action scene.

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(The wolf is called “Oww.”)

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The two wolves eternally happy in the wolf heaven.

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We were quite touched by the book because, well, we love wolves. The issue of  preservation of our local ones is very dear to us and we try to support it as much as we can. (And if you feel similarly, you may always consider donating to WWF or another similar organization. Just saying.)

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Last year the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk held a large exhibition entitled Fête funèbre. The participating artists presented their reflections on the subject of death. We were invited to design the catalog for the exhibition, which we were very happy to do. Gloomy subject notwithstanding, as we might have mentioned already, catalogs are the best things to design, barring none.

The catalog includes profiles of all the artists with the presentation of their work and also two academic articles on the representations of death in the history of art, all of the texts both in Polish and in English. So the layout needed to be flexible enough to include all these elements. As it was also the first stage of our work on the guidelines for future publications, it needed to be quite orderly and consequent.

We wanted to reflect the somber tone of the exhibition but without making the whole thing depressing, so we chose to use a lot of black offset by a (quite lovely, really) warm-silver metallic color and red accents. This limited color palette created a good background for the presentation of the varied works. We used the symbol of the dagger, traditionally used in biographic notes to mark the time of death, and thick frames that are also sometimes used to mark the names of the deceased. We also chose somewhat decorative serif typography for the titles.

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The dust cover turned out quite lovely, thanks to printing techniques that the photo does not do justice. What looks here like dull beige is actually the same metallic color, combined with matte silver hot-stamping on the texts and the frame.

Silver hot-stamping, but not the shiny kind.

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The cover under the dust jacket uses reversed colors and no text. The flowers have also lost their heads.

Title page, with the dagger ornament on the left.

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Close-up of the ornament, in red and silver – probably the most lively bit of the design (the pun was truly not intended but, oh well).

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Close-up of the names of the participating artists (the frame used in its traditional function).

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The exhibition was held in the unusual architecture of the Academy’s exhibition space and most photos that were used were taken on the spot, which gives the whole catalog a unique feeling.

Most photographs by Bartosz Żukowski.

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Paintings by Beata Ewa Białecka.

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More sculptures by Mariusz Białecki.

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How could we resist the use of red thread? We never do.

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The two languages are set side by side in two columns, Polish in black and English in silver.

A spread from one of the scientific articles.

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Despite the inherent melancholy of the subject matter, the catalog was true joy to work on (and to see the final result when we got our copies).

If you know as at all, you know we love tangible type, book covers and paper. Our “Inspiration” archive is full of such finds and today we decided to share a few lovely works which combine all these things: prepare to be amazed by book cover designs where the title is made of paper.

We will start with ours – and everyone else’s – favorite, the brilliant Peter Mendelsund and his covers for Ben Marcus. The covers use deceptively simple typography on slips of paper interwoven with almost as simple ornaments. The ornaments directly refer the parts of the titles (flames, sea) and boast lovely, subtle color palettes. It’s always particularly impressive when something looks almost too easy to bother with and yet is masterful.

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This cover designed by Gabriele Wilson also uses the traditionally printed words which are surrounded by a seemingly random, but really quite sophisticated composition of shredded paper strips. Together they create an atmosphere of mystery and maybe even danger but mixed with the kind of ennui in administrative offices (I’ve no idea what the book is about, just interpreting the cover image).

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One of the common – and usually quite successful and guaranteed to make us happy – tricks is writing made of paper which peels off, revealing something underneath it. However, in this design by Zoe Norvell, the three-dimensionality of the text doesn’t focus attention on the layer underneath. Instead it allows for its entanglement with the threads, playing on the title.

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And in this cover by Tori Elliot the cut-out of letters and shapes plays a more traditional function. It creates the clash between the simple white outer layer and the green illustration underneath, suggesting the lushness of jungle but also how it is not evident at first sight.

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This design by Sinem Erkas uses memo notes to refer to the theme of memory and as material for the creation of semi-spacial letters. Even though the letters are very simple in shape, they prove that the designer possesses a lovely sense of form.

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And here are sticker bookmarks used in an delightful – and impressive – composition by Jon Gray. Not only is this design a smart comment on the complexity of the novel, it is also very pleasing esthetically.

Finally, three covers by one of our favorite cover designers ever, an extremely prolific David Drummond. Mr. Drummond is the master of an ingenious idea realized often with minimalist methods, and quite frequently employing paper.

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Paper/page topography.

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Paper lettering.

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Remember we said it would be both minimalist and ingenious?

Obviously, this is only a small selection because paper might be the most versatile material designers get to work with and it allows for all sorts of solutions. Personally, we tend to be most charmed by simple-yet-brilliant ideas executed with a mix of efficiency and lightness, as evidenced above.

Also, traditionally we’re informing you about a 20%+free shipping promo on our Society6 stuff – you’re most welcome to visit our store.

 

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Every now and then, not too often, we share with you a boardgame from our probably-too-large collection. We pick them entirely for designery reasons, not for how much fun the game brings us (for instance our all time favorite game, Mousquetaires du Roy, has typography that burns your eyes out). This time it’s a game Skull that R got for his birthday last week from our friends.

It’s seemingly a simple bidding game whose only components are six sets of token (no board, so I guess it’s more of a token-game?), each set including three flower tokens and one skull token. The illustrations are quite lovely, unified but different across the sets so that each skull relates (vaguely or not) to a different culture. There is a lot of careful ornamentation, detail and a tasteful use of color.

The box.

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Contents the box.

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Viking (?) set, immediately picked by a Vikings fan in our group (hi, Z).

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A Mexican set, possibly the prettiest in the game.

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The backs with their ornaments. See what I mean about the color?

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All the flowers in the game, as behooves the springtime that’s arrived.

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I’m still not sure we played the game right the one time we managed to try it so far but it sure is one of the better designed among the ones we own.

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Last week we showed you a lovely Animalium book and promised that there are two. As you might already know or at least expect, the other one deals with the exciting world of plants and is called Botanicum. Having already enjoyed the one about animals, we were delighted to get the second part for last Christmas.

Just like the one about animals, Botanicum presents various families and groups of plants with gorgeous illustrations reminiscent of old encyclopedias. It’s both decorative and inspiring scientific interest.

Introduction.

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Elaeis guineensis (says Google Translate).

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Palms and cycads. (We love the little ideas, e.g. how one-color illustrations begin to form an ornamental pattern while in full color they are informative.)

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Rain forests.

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Trees. The pattern again and also this typeface works really well in this design.

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Fruit trees.

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