We are currently doing an Advent Calendar on our Instagram – a tradition we started last year. We really enjoyed the challange of coming up with a new illustration or photograph each day to get us into the Christmas mood. However – full disclosure – this year is mostly our son, J, who’s doing the illustrating. If this feels at all like something you’d enjoy following, please feel invited. And happy pre-Christmas season to everyone!

Earlier this year we were awarded Communication Arts award for the design of Reports of the Society for the Reconstruction and Beautification of the Malbork Castle (this title is so long, huh?). Here‘s the project we shared earlier.

We finally received our very cool trophy and, even cooler, the design annual including the Reports and so many other wonderful designs. I might have shared this story or not but when I joined art class in my high school (which was a bit out of character for me and, as it turned out, life-transforming), the classroom had a collection of old Communication Arts annuals that I loved flipping through. They felt almost exotic and certainly exciting, the things you can do with simple drawing. It feels like a rather unique achievement to see our design in this publication.

The book by Jan Tymiński was published by the Naval Museum in Gdynia and describes the marine administration in the 1920s and 1930s in Gdynia’s port. We’ll be sharing more and more detailed photos of the book – and then we’ll tell you more about it – but for now please enjoy the sneak peek (editing these photos takes more time than it might seem).

First of all, we heartily apologize for the unseemly hiatus. In addition to the usual deadlines and organizational problems, this time included a hospital stay and recovery and this really messed up our schedule. Anyway, we’re back now and today we wanted to show you one of the books from our bookshelf that is frequently reached for by both us and our kids.

It is a full collection of little rhymed theater plays written by one of the best and funniest Polish writers for kids, Jan Brzechwa. Not only are these plays great reading, they were also incredibly illustrated by Magda Kozieł-Nowak and while scores of illustrators have tackled Brzechwa’s iconic poems, her illustrations have quickly become one of our favorites.

The best of these little plays retell famous fairy tales: Puss in Boots, Cinderella, Red Riding Hood and others, in humorous and modernized versions. Kozieł-Nowak’s illustrations capture the whimsical storytelling and fill its world with hand-painted characters full of life and personality. She has a great touch for watercolors (or maybe gouache? or poster paint? looks water-based) and adapting illustrations to page layouts. And while the style of the book is consistent, each play has little visual features that differentiate it from the other ones. We feel this book deserves more recognition for all the fun it provides.

Cover page.
The prince from Princess and the Pea. Look at how the paint and the paper texture are used. Also, the little dog.
You have to love this wolf from Little Red Riding Hood.
Puss in Boots must be our favorite with the use of those swirly lines reminding us of French 18th century fashion. That, and this hair, of course. Such intelligent illustrations.

We’re happy to share that the book From the City Hall to the Museum about the beginnings of the Museum of Gdańsk that we had the pleasure of designing (in the very stressful beginnings of the pandemic, too) was awarded distinction in the Most Beautiful Books of the Year competition, a yearly event organized by the Polish Association of Book Publishers to honor good design and print in book publishing.

You can see more of the book here.

We caught up a little late but we utterly loved

WandaVision

What is it? Marvel’s first TV show that directly extends the MCU into TV. It focuses on Wanda Maximoff in the aftermath of the fight with Thanos and of Vision’s death.

Why we love it? It is bold, surprising, a successful experiment with the medium. While tying smoothly in with the rest of the MCU, it does a unique thing, employing the format of a TV show as well as possible, so that it’s not just a movie spread into nine episodes: the episodic nature of the show influences the storytelling. This might sound dry but the show is fun! Also, Elizabeth Olsen is masterful.

Visually speaking, this is also a triumph. For a large part of the show it plays with the tradition of American sitcoms (in a way which eventually makes sense) and you can see the creators having fun with all the nods to the old shows.

The book we have a pleasure of sharing today is a first one in a series. We quite enjoy designing series because in addition to the challenge of shaping a new book, you have to think of other issues: will this really cool solution actually work in the next volume, especially if it happens to cover a rather different subject matter? And, a crucial question, how to make the series consistent but not too repetitive?

Anyways, this series, published by Zajezdnia History Center, consists of history books that gather academic essays on specific issues, mostly from the second half of the 20th century and relating to particular geographic locations. The first book talks about the countryside in the western and northern Poland after 1945: the difficulties it went through under the communist regime and how the economy and lifestyle of people changed.

The design of the book is a nod to modernist design which appeared in Poland in a somewhat different form than in Western Europe but was still a very strong visual language. The ornaments in the book, partly crop illustrations, partly geometric patterns (which you’re fully justified to read as fields), appear on the cover and at the beginnings of essays (and they were fun to create). The illustrative material included with the essays is mostly a bit dry and so goes well with the modernist style and the geometric typography. Part of the cover design is printed in green foil.

The next books in the series will retain the typography and the style but with different color schemes and, obviously, different ornamental themes.

Beginning of an essay about attempts to design a typical country dwelling.
Beginning of one of two big sections.
This 1945 poster tells people arriving to Lower Silesia not to waste time pointlessly wandering the town.
Yes, the produce is real.