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We continue our holiday series about books for young – and less young – travelers, this time with two books from a classic series by a Czech illustrator, Miroslav Šašek. His series This Is… presents famous cities and countries of the world through lovely illustrations and short texts. The earliest books in the series, of which This Is London and This Is New York that we’re sharing today are two, were published around 1960 and they also remain some of the most popular.

To us this historical aspect adds to the fun because it show the cities as they were 60 years ago: with different cars, clothes and other details. They look like taken from a charming old movie starring Audrey Hepburn. Our version even has a page at the end which explains to children what has changed since the books were written (not sure if other language versions include that, but probably so).

Šašek developed a lovely, today slightly old-school, style for his illustrations, with strong compositions, a painter’s understanding of color and a touch of newspaper cartoon in his drawings of people. Frankly, it’s not surprising that these books are being re-published and can delight new generations of fans of travel and illustration.

This is London (in Polish).

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And This Is New York (also in Polish).

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It is the time of holiday traveling but this year we only travel with our finger on the map. So it is at least good to have a set of nice maps to do this and the one we want to share today is a book by Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielińscy, who (almost) literally drew the whole world.

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Maps is a large-format illustrated book for children (but also quite interesting for adults) and it’s full of, well, maps. Each chapter starts with a map of a continent and then shows maps of selected countries. For each country the map is covered with local animals, foods, clothes, customs and other surprises.

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The beauty of this book is in its scope and detail. You can spend quite a lot of time looking for things you missed before. Mizielińscy also design typography for their illustrations (you can even buy those fonts) so the typographic part of the book is carefully designed. All in all, if maps are your thing, you should give this book a try, at least to acknowledge the impressive effort. (Fair warning though: it is a bit eurocentric. But it still has a lot of material on the rest of the world so don’t be discouraged.)

Our version that we’re showing is in Polish but there are other translations out there: here is Amazon’s link to the English version and here is an activity book based on Maps (we don’t have this one though; but if you do, let us know if it’s good).

Great Britain. Europe is given a loving treatment but, well, we understand.

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Switzerland.

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Sweden and all the famous Swedes.

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France and examples of French fauna.

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Dutch painters.

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Japan.

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South America.

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Africa.

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Close-up on Egypt.

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Canada.

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And the US.

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With a bit of Mexico.

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And off to the cold areas.

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Which have huskies.

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Flags of the world’s countries.

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As it seems unlikely that we will be doing any more travelling this holiday season, instead we are remembering one of our previous trip, the one to London, with a charming book called, well, A Walk in London.

The book is by Salvatore Rubbino and includes spreads on all the well-known tourist attractions as viewed by a little tourist, the main character in the book.

We really like the illustration style of the book: on the one hand, it’s very light – it recalls the freshness of a child’s drawing (something many illustrators try to do). On the other hand, this is clearly not a child’s drawing: in its color scheme and page compositions it has the sophistication of an adult artist.

Title page. Thames is definitely the axis around which the book is built.

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A map, always an interesting design part of such books.

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The typography is a bit messy, which seems to be popular in children’s books these days. It doesn’t work for all books but here it adds to the liveliness of the spreads.

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We loved Tower of London! It’s such a cool place.

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And yes, there is a foldout with the panorama of the Thames bank and the multiple attractions one can find there.

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And the index (with its over-the-top typography).

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As long as we’re not doing any actual travelling, reading about it, especially in books which we can share with J, is the second best thing.

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Yes, we’re back. We came back in the middle of the mess our renovations are still causing and it was also the end of the semester, which meant grading, so yep, in short we missed an update – sorry! However, it’s time for the traditional round of “The Books We Bought While Away.” This time, though, it’s going to be a short round, guys.

Truth of the matter is, we bought exactly two books. (We saw a few other interesting things but we ended up ordering them on Amazon afterwards. We’ll share when they arrive.) The first one was the kind we always buy instead of postcards and other souvenirs: a pop-up illustrated panorama. You saw them before on our blog and here’s the Berlin edition:

Illustrations by Sarah McMenemy.

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One of the few attractions we actually managed to see (but not the most exciting one).

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We only saw Alexanderplatz through the train’s window.

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But we did get to walk through a huge part of the Tiergarten.

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And another book we bought was actually a gift for our son and it quite enchanted us. It’s a small picture book about a mouse and a hedgehog who live in a garden and grown different plants. It’s printed with water paints on eco-carton, which we condone wholeheartedly, and it’s a lot of fun.

The toys come from our home collection. J has a lot of hedgehogs because of his name and he really loves rodents so the characters in the book were already a good match.

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Our school German is virtually non-existent but it suffices to read this book.

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The paper is naturally gray so that white elements have to be printed onto it and it gives the book a pleasant, natural, a little old-fashioned feeling.

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And that’s it, not the most fruitful trip in this respect but we were spending a lot of time at the conference and the only exciting bookstore we found in the city was closed for a national holiday.

We wrote more about Typo Berlin here, should you be interested for some reason.

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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.)

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.