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Last week died Bohdan Butenko, one of the great Polish illustrators. His work was truly unique. It was one of the staples of our childhood reading experience because he created and illustrated so many books (allegedly over 200). The Polish People’s Republic was not a great time in Polish history in many ways but the talented illustrators who worked then certainly made it a little brighter, Butenko being one of the most joyful of them.

His style is very easy to spot, with several characteristic features:

  1. Simplicity. The simplicity is often deceptive because frequently finding the kind of shortcut he was so good at is the hardest thing to do. But his drawings are certainly recognizable by the scarcity of details. (It is also tempting to try to copy this if you’re the kind of kid who spends their days with crayons and pencils.)
  2. Bold lines. His drawings were always executed in thick, black lines which enclosed the forms.
  3. Flat colors. He often created in black and white but when he used colors, he did it confidently.
  4. Humor. One of the most endearing qualities of his work, he always tried to make the subject matter funny and lighthearted.
  5. Text interpretation. Rather than drawing literally what the text said, Butenko usually added a little story to it in his illustration, often making it funnier.
  6. Hand-written words. He had a nice way with letters, too. He often used comic book balloons and combinations of various lettering styles (always pretty simple, though).
  7. Good sense for layout. He wasn’t the kind of illustrator who leaves the picture for someone else to fit into the text. Instead, he often designed the whole arrangement of the elements on the page, usually drawing inspiration from comic books. Some of our favorite of his books include layout design which sort of comicsifies the text. (Not a word, I know.)

We have photographed Butenko books from our collection to illustrates the points above but mainly to share his work with you and maybe to inspire you to dig further.

This is our childhood fave, Butenko’s interpretation of classic children’s poems by Jan Brzechwa. He takes the already fun poems and makes them so much more exciting, particularly by turning them into a sort of comic but also by his visual interpretation of some of the stories.

Title page. (The cover went missing many years back.)

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“How to Talk to a Dog”

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“Ram” and “A Hole in the Bridge”

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Sometimes Butenko illustrated for adults, too, This is his version of Philip Zimbardo’s classic on shyness, with the humorous illustrations making the theme much lighter. A hand-written cover is also a Butenko thing.

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“Get a very becoming haircut…”

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A children’s book about two cars dancing together. Pretty much a comic. (A favorite from my brother’s childhood, he was always into cars.)

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A book on geometry for children, notice how Butenko handles the page layouts.

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An interpretation of Kipling’s story about the domestication of a cat. This is a little bizarre but very interesting in its combination of the slightly somber, old-fashioned fairy tale with Butenko’s visual wit and energy. Also, the pagination is awesome.

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This is an example of his work for small children, telling stories without words through one of the classic characters he invented.

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And one more Brzechwa poem, this time laid out into an entire cardboard book.

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This is his work for older children, with black and white illustrations, a sort of action adventure tale.

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“…international bandits…”

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Do you have a favorite Butenko book? Or a favorite childhood illustrator?

 

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Yesterday we went for a walk in the woods, fooled by beautiful autumn weather. When we were entering the woods, a few drops of rain fell but we looked up and only saw an innocent little cloud so we decided to carry on. Of course, when we were in the middle of our walk, the rain started pouring and we got soaked through. Still, a fun walk. (Also, we were occupied with parenting duties all through the weekend hence this shortened post.)

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Those of you who’ve been with us for a while will have seen this project but we’re reposting both for the new guests and because of the special occasion: the 25th anniversary of the first emission of Friends, which remains just about the most popular TV show in TV history (we go by impression, not data, here).

For us the show was certainly an important one (well, for one of us; the other one only watched it much later). We celebrated 20 years of Friends with a poster in which we designed an icon for each episode: that was a lot of icon-designing and a lot of Friends-watching and both of those things were so much fun.

poster_friends_wizIf you like the poster, it’s available for sale here.

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And for those who only like a particular season or would like all the seasons separately so that they can cover the entire wall with bigger Friends icons, we also made 10 posters for 10 seasons.

friends-20-redesign-season01Season 1: The One Where They Get a Monkey, a Fussball Table and Rachel (buy here).

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Season 2: The One Where Joey Moves Out and Back In (buy here).

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Season 3: The One with All the Drama with Ross and Rachel (buy here).

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Season 4: The One That Ends in London (buy here).

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Season 5: The One with Monica and Chandler’s Secret (buy here).

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Season 6: The One Where Monica and Chandler Get Engaged (buy here).

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Season 7: The One Where Monica and Chandler Get Married (buy here).

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Season 8: The One with Rachel’s Pregnancy (buy here).

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Season 9: The One Largely about Babies (buy here).

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Season 10: The Last One Where They All Become Adults (Except for Joey) (buy here; all posters can also be bought here).

Original post with a bit more of our Friends story and sentiments here. (And yes, we’re Monica and Chandler fans.)

And on an unrelated note: did you know there’s a Friends Lego set? You probably did. It seems quite fun.

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Sorry for the short hiatus but we’ve had a few deadlines and we took a super short vacation: we spent a weekend in Warsaw. While there, we visited the Type Directors Club exhibition in the Polish-Japanese Academy. The show was really small (it’s held in a lecture room) but we found a few interesting typographic designs that we wanted to share.

Below: Menil Collection Identity by Kristen Chon.

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Complexity and Simplicity by HDU23 from Mainland China. This was lavishly printed with silver on black, which the photo doesn’t show but which really made the poster (this and the strong, clear composition).

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Complexity and Simplicity HDU23 Mainland China

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Pango by Osborne Shiwan. We always like the combination of type and stylish sports photography.

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Julliard School identity (fictional) by Karlo Fuertes Francisco. Type that (almost) sounds.

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This poster by Srishti Jain from Savannah College of Art and Design immediately drew attention.

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And finally some strong-as-always type posters by Paula Scher for Shakespeare in the Park. This only seems to get better with time.

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If you in the area, drop by the exhibition and see for yourselves; it’s a short but interesting stop.

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A few months ago we finished a book  for the Malbork Castle Museum.

The Malbork Castle is a world-famous heritage place, a 13th century castle built by the Teutonic Order (Malbork was then called Marienburg if that tells you more). It is a truly impressive historic monument well-worth visiting. The book is a scientific study of life in the castle at the time when the Teutonic Order lived there. It talks not only of politics and economy but also of minutiae of everyday functioning of this huge establishment.

The book’s design had to be sober not to distract from the academic content. Mainly, we had to make the information aesthetic and legible. We chose to use a golden-brown spot color for all the special texts in the book and for archival photographs which are printed in gold and black. The cover contains a golden-brown photo of the castle and the title is hotstamped in silver.

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We will share more photos of the book later but for now they’re not properly edited so check back soon.