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Once again we’re taking time to introduce a well-designed board game (which we hope to make a semi-regular feature, but so far it’s, I think, only the second instalment). Today it’s a Polish game, a bit of competitive fun with somewhat grim historic background.

The game is called “Queue” and it was published by the Institute of National Remembrance. What it strives to remind of is the bad economy of the 80s when there were few goods in stores and people had to spend hours in lines to buy anything. We were really young then so we don’t exactly remember the details of it but this is a part of Polish culture that shows up in movies and colloquialisms. We’re not going to go into gameplay details: suffice it to say that we find it impressive how the game manages to recreate the joy of buying the commonest thing or the frustration of having it stolen from under one’s nose. Emotions run high and it’s done with the simplest math.

But our main interest is the design of the game. In fact, it’s quite unique. Board games have a certain aesthetics which often borders on kitsch and is rarely interesting from a designer’s point of view. Not so with “Queue.” This is clearly a game that was designed, not just illustrated.

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The style is an interesting combination of somber and whimsical but with a healthy dose of humor (perhaps the most interesting thing about the game is how it comes off as charming rather than depressing, while still conveying the sense of grayness of Poland in the 80s). Illustrations use a mix of simple icons with retro photographs and jokey collages, all made more poignant with captions. The board manages to show pre-capitalist landscape with a few gray buildings that don’t have to bother to draw in clients.

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Instructions of board games, even of great ones, are often visually cringeworthy (no idea why that is) but here it’s a worthy component of the whole set (or, in fact, components, because the box contains 8 instructions in different languages). Significantly, typography works well, too.

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The cards are originally in Polish but stickers are provided to change the language.

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Yes, we did recently use the pawns for a poster.

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The game turned out to be quite a success so there was a small expansion published that was sold in this awesome gray envelope.

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TD 63–73 is a book published by Unit Editions who totally specialize in design porn. It tells the story of the golden age of Total Design, a Dutch firm that personifies the greatness of Dutch modernist design. The first edition of the book sold out but we bought a reprinted copy and today we want to share it with you.

We find many of these designs not only inspiring but also quite modern-looking. Their way of thinking about logo design, for instance, while characteristic of past decades, is close to ours (and many others’): its geometric logic is something to aspire to.

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A classic typographic calendar:

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Quite appropriately the book is impressively published with embossing and hotstamping on the cover and the slipcase.

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Many of those design decisions still shape our visual landscape.

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First of all, sorry for the missed update. It was on the top of our priorities for the whole week but then something always bumped it down (and mostly it was our son who tends to bump things around on daily basis). Anyways, here we go.

We like to take holidays in May before the holiday season starts for good because it’s (slightly) less crowded and because we always tell ourselves that we’ll take another short holiday in September (and then we don’t). But, clearly, this year we’re skipping the whole holiday thing altogether so instead we will at least talk about a design issue concerning our favorite travel destination ever, which is, you guessed it, Paris.

This year the publications for tourists by The Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau have been rebranded by studio Graphéine. The rebranding comes with a new logo (so, so much better than the old one) – a minimalist typographic design which brilliantly utilizes the Eiffel tower.

It’s very clear that while it’s hard to imagine Paris’ logo without the tower it’s almost equally hard to imagine the tower done right. Graphéine designers gave it a lot of thought: you can read about it in their article about the project (we link to it at the end). We definitely feel they made all the right choices: they did not give up on the most recognizable symbol of the city but they simplified it to the point of abstraction, which way of thinking is close to our hearts. Together the letters create

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The logo is quite awesome but the additional perk of designing for a Paris-based institution is what a great photo you can take of the building signage.

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In addition to the logo the studio also designed various publications, the most impressive of which are the covers of maps and other informative materials based on simple, colorful illustrations. Some of the illustrations allude to specific nationalities (French and British mostly) though we’re not sure if it’s true for all of them.

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A jazzy cover for the informative magazine about what’s happening in Paris.

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The Japanese cover is particularly lovely and it demonstrates well what a nice color palette was chosen.

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The design of Paris Pass, which seems to introduce additional elements (and tone) to the rebranding.

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Here is the link to Graphéine’s presentation of their work with many more images. This project takes on a lovely but potentially difficult topic and deals with it in an effective and charming manner. Much as we love it, it makes us even more Paris-sick because we’d love to get our hands on material prints of all these maps and guides. Tant pis.

We have already celebrated the big Shakespeare anniversary with our design of all his covers but we have (at least) one more thing to share on this occassion. The most obvious design field connected with Shakespeare are theater posters for his plays and a while ago we started researching those to write about them for the anniversary. But in the end we decided to write only about one designer and his work because it’s so damn good. Our admiration is only slightly colored by the fact that this designer taught both of us about design (and taught us a lot).

The designer in question is professor Tomasz Bogusławski, who is a representative of the so called Polish school of posters – one of a later generation, who uses more modern techniques than his predecessors. Professor Bogusławski creates, among other things, theater posters, often just for the sake of design not for actual theater productions. The posters use photography of common or unusual objects photographed in a way which both emphasizes their materiality and gives them metaphorical or metaphysical depth.

The three Shakespeare posters below are great examples of his unique, confident style and they also reflect well the gloom and mystery of Shakespeare’s tragedies mixed with their realistic element.

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Poster for Hamlet, with bread and a fancy knife. The posters are for “Teatr Rekwizytornia” (something like “props storage room theater”, I guess, which sounds better and more punny in Polish), an imaginary theater Bogusławski made up to create his self-commissioned posters.

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The poster for King Lear uses an old (shoe?) brush and the fact that it looks like an old man with hollowed eyes and a beard. It’s a great example of something that in Polish art schools is called “poster thinking”, where you look at things and see them in several ways at once. The image combines surreal humor and terror, much like the play itself, which is all you can ask from a poster.

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And possibly the strongest, certainly most straightforward and, to us, most memorable of the trio: Titus Andronicus with a head made of raw meat and a twig suggesting Roman laurel (but also playing with the idea of dinner). Frankly, since we saw this poster we can’t conceive of any other image for this play and certainly none that would reflect its pointless brutality better.

It’s possibly too much to hope for but as Tomasz Bogusławski is definitely one of the people who most influenced our thinking about design, maybe you can see some of that inspiration in some of our works. At any rate, we’re happy to share this series of works in honor of Shakespeare’s year.

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Yesterday we went to Ikea to search for some unexciting stuff for our bathroom and it took us so long that we didn’t have time to go to the cafeteria. But we were hungry so we dropped by the food store to buy cookies. And boy, was it a great decision.

A few years ago we found online a gorgeous cooking book Ikea published as promo material with cookie recipes and the most beautiful minimalistic photos of food we’d ever seen. You might have seen this one: with all the ingredients arranged in geometric patterns. We ogled the photos and admired the idea but were sure the book was not available as such outside of Sweden. Well, as you have sure figured out by now, this is exactly the book we spotted among Swedish jams and cookies, and quite cheap at that. We pretty much squealed with delight (and I clearly saw two guys looking at us like “ew, crazy people”). Even though we didn’t exactly buy what we’d gone for, the trip was an unquestionable success.

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The book has thirty recipes, each illustrated with the spread with ingredients and one with the finished product. All photos are great but the ones with ingredients are particularly memorable. It had virtually zero impact on our decision to buy the book but the recipes actually look quite inviting too.

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(And yes, we bought the mice starring in the photos for our baby, who’s not big enough for cake or cookies yet.)

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If you’ve been following us for a while you might have noticed that we are huge fans of Marianna Oklejak, an illustrator whose style mixes freshness of children’s drawings and adult humor. Every now and then we share her work and time has come to show you our newest acquisition (well, we got it for Christmas but it still counts as new).

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This is a special book in that Oklejak is for a change not illustrating someone else’s work but doing that whole illustrator-as-author thing. And she’s great at it! She draws inspiration from Polish folk art and reinterprets its motifs.

Polish folk art is quite rich and can be visually exciting. Every region had its motifs, color schemes and ornaments, as well as unique techniques of decorating things. This tradition withered to a large extent when people got more interested in the “modern”, industrial design. Folk art got relegated to decorating tourist souvenirs and became viewed as embarrassing. But it’s been having a sort of renaissance now that many designers, particularly interior designers and such, began to draw inspiration from the traditional motifs in a modern way (which also gets trashy sometimes, but often it works amazingly).

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Oklejak’s book uses folk motifs as elements of her fun compositions but adds an educational element. The spread above simply shows various types of local headgear (and only the one with peacock feathers is at all recognizable these days).

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This awesome spread uses stripes from traditional skirts as elements of a landscape full of fields (which is also a typical Polish landscape so that works great).

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Two different folk dance spreads! Do they play Polish folk? (Hopefully not, it’s not great.)

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Traditional lace tablecloths as autumn clouds.

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And paper doilies as snowflakes.

We’re happy that the book has already won an Ibby award because in addition to the fairly obvious educational value it has so much more: a sort of quirky atmosphere that manages to combine tradition with a more modern feel and to celebrate local identity.

 

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Eli, no! is a delightful little book by Katie Kirk. We found it a long time ago online when it was still waiting to be published and waited impatiently for the book that we could buy. It’s a story of a dog named Eli and all the things he does that make his owners scream the title of the book and it will ring quite true to any dog owners out there.

The book is illustrated in a simple vector style with bold colors and unobtrusive typography, which results in a fun, modern look. But its greatest appeal lies in how each spread reflects an observation of some typical dog behavior – and how well these are translated into the book medium.

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(Is this the Louvre in the background? That would be quite awesome. But it’s certainly an awesome squirrel.)

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The next two are possibly my favorite spreads, one with food, one with letters:

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And a heartwarming conclusion (spoiler, I guess):

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