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You might remember our previous posts of literary primers by Jennifer Adams with art by Alison Oliver. Or if you don’t, here’s Dracula and here’s the gem of Pride and Prejudice. As we were visiting our friends, Z&A, we spotted on their bookshelf another book from the series: this time a weather primer based on Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. So, of course, we immediately borrowed it (thanks guys!) to share it with you.

This primer introduces weather-related adjectives with rather idyllic scenes from around Wuthering Heights.

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A short introduction.

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The doctor travelling through the mists.

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Sometimes “sunny” is a word you need to teach your child.

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But these days this feels like a more useful description.

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…Aaaaaand puppies.

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As you may or may not remember, we are big fans of the illustrator Emilia Dziubak and her detailed, colored style, which plays with flat design but goes far beyond it. But her book that we’re sharing with you today, Rok w lesie (A Year in the Woods) is even more than we would have any right to expect. It combines pretty much everything that we love in children’s illustration: details, narration, humor and forest animals.

Each spread of the book shows the same woodland scene with the same animals doing things appropriate for every month. You can see not only the changes in the weather and plants but, most importantly, the different activities in which animals are involved. A huge level of detail means that one can return to the book many, many times, each time finding something new and delightful. The things animals do combine the educational aspect with a lot of good humor. And being very much woods-loving people who try to go for a walk there at least every two days, we find the depiction of the woods charming.

Except for the names of the months, most of the book is wordless, which makes it accessible to younger children (ones who will be able to follow the details, though). The last spread has a list of various animals with a character quirk for each so that one can look for those in the book. It’s actually quite fun to browse through the book multiple times, each time focusing on just one animal and their story.

Book cover.

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Spread for January, more appropriate now that we’ve got some snow.

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April and December

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The introduction to individual animals.

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And now for some highlights from the lady fox’s story of love and family:

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Featuring the cutest baby foxes.

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And the badger’s story of eating and sleeping.

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So yes, we’re still swamped but it’s high time for a proper post. This time we wanted to share one of our relatively recent book acquisitions, a picture book Here is the Baby by Polly Kanevsky, illustrated by Taeeyun Yoo.

The book tells a very simple story of a baby boy on his day with his family (and especially his dad) as he goes through the routine of meals, a walk, a bath, play and sleep. The very simplicity of the text underscores the actual experience of taking care of a baby, while giving it a touching, sweet quality (we saw online some people didn’t like the text but we find it both honest and poetic with the rhythm and no rhymes).

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The illustrations have a classic, deceptively simple character but manage to gorgeously capture the everyday warmth of family life. They almost shine with domestic light. If there’s one expression to describe the book heart-warming would be the closest. And yep, we probably wouldn’t have cared for it all that much before we had our own baby but now we not only admire the illustrations but find so much truth in the mood of this book. (Though, admittedly, it does not cover teething. Ugh, teething.)

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The illustrations are somewhat old-school, reminding us of really old children books we used to have in childhood.

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We have to admit though that this book might be more interesting to parents than babies. Our son always picks Walk this World over anything.

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(And as an unrelated sidenote, there are promotions all week long over on Society6, where you can buy our posters and some other gadgets.)

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Today we’re sharing a classic from our library, Saul Bass’s Henri’s Walk to Paris. You probably know Saul Bass from either his logo designs, movie posters or his iconic title sequences he created with his wife, Elaine. Those sequences remain a lasting legacy and have been revered, pastiched and parodied. As can be expected, we’re huge fans of  Bass and of his bon mot “Design is thinking made visual.” It sure should be.

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The book we’re showing today is a slightly less known work: Bass’s only children’s book. Bass’s illustration style, well-known from his posters, is quite recognizable with its vivid, flat colors and cutout shapes. This style is also quite remarkable for how it seems to anticipate the prevalent style of today’s vector illustrations with their, you guessed it, flat colors and geometric shapes.

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But Henri’s Walk is truly a designer’s work, rather than just an illustrator’s (lovely as the illustrations are). It makes a smart use of page layout and typography in a way which is intriguing and playful (see e.g. the ingenious ideas on how not to show the characters’ faces to make the story more general). Both images and the text itself tells a story that delights and makes you wonder. And, of course, the colors are simply gorgeous.

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Henri’s little house in his little town. The town of Reboul seems lovely.

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The park with five trees and one squirrel.

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Most of the people of Reboul plus one cow.

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We spent Sunday afternoon in the zoo, where our son was excited to see kangaroos and crocodiles and other animals he’d only seen in his books (or, he was actually excited to see so many other children and mildly interested in all those animals). To keep the theme, today we’re sharing a children’s book To Be Like a Tiger illustrated by Emilia Dziubak.

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The book is told by a tiger who explains all the good things he does for various animals in the jungle: how he sneaks up on them to give them gifts or ask them to dance. It’s fun and light but, most of all, it’s quite delightful visually. The tiger is friendly and playful and the jungle truly luscious, with gorgeous colors and rich mixed-media details.

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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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