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Gdynia Design Days is a local design festival happening in our city and this year it includes two small exhibitions of illustrated books for children, which, as you know, is totally our thing. We took our son and went to see the works by some of the most popular Polish illustrators of today. Even though we already knew most of the presented works, we still enjoyed seeing them together and the way the exhibitions were arranged and J had a real blast, making a mess: moving stuff around and ruining the careful arrangements. Luckily, nobody minded because, well, that’s what you expect from children in a gallery. If they don’t touch anything, they’re probably not having fun. (Sidenote: we wouldn’t let him touch stuff in the Louvre, don’t worry.)

A series of books illustrated by Joanna Bartosik.

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A nice exhibition idea.

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What Do We Travel by? (from a selection of one-off books)

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Hedgehog.

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Map-inspired lists of attractions for various Polish cities by Ładne Halo.

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The Palace of Culture in 3D from Architekturki by Robert Czajka.

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J just couldn’t get enough of this fox cutout, carrying it around the whole exhibition.

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A selection of books to read and enjoy.

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Paper animals, also by Robert Czajka.

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Wolves.

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Children enjoying an animation based on Iwona Chmielewska’s illustrations.

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An illustrated labyrinth.

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As we hoped, the ongoing cleaning of our basement has turned out more illustrated classics. Today we continue with our adoration of Jerzy Flisak. This book we found is titled, more or less, To Be Someone and with Someone and seems to be a guide for 13-year-olds or so on how to be better people and how to work better in a social group. While the book is not necessarily the most exciting read for us, the illustrations certainly make us smile.

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Chapter title page.

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And now for something a little different. While we usually show you modern books for their beautiful illustrations and design, sometimes we want to spend time on gorgeous classics (the more so now that we’ve embarked on the humongous job of cleaning up the basement with all the books stored there).

We’re starting with a book not from our collection but borrowed from our friends, Z&A, specifically so that we can document the illustrations. The book is called Everyday Politeness and is a 1970s collection of advice on good manners and polite behavior. Each chapter is illustrated by Jerzy Flisak, a master of Polish design and illustration. While history of Polish design abounds in great talent, Flisak has always held a special place in our heart. He is the one illustrator we remember by name from beloved childhood books and, in a way, he’s one of the people who made us more interested in drawing.

Flisak used clear, light line in his mostly black and white illustrations and his works prove a great sense of humor.

Title page (messy typography is typical for the period).

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Chapter on dancing.

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The beginning of the chapter “On Holidays.”

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Chapter on smoking (the sentiment here is close to our hearts).

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Chapter on romance.

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“In the Theater”

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“Celebrations”

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That basement we mentioned is full of other Flisak-illustrated books so if you like what you see, be sure to stay tuned for other old-school gems.

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Today we would like to share one of our favorite design books, a monograph on Marian Bantjes: one of our absolute design idols. The Canadian designer specializes in typography, ornamentation and has a recognizable-but-not-repetitive style that really speaks to our sensitivities. This large-scale books showcases her work and is just such a beauty to look at, a true sensual pleasure. As if that wasn’t enough, the works are annotated with witty, honest stories about how they came – or didn’t come – to be.

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Bantjes has a wonderful sensitivity for non-traditionally understood calligraphy which she combines with more geometric letterforms.

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She has also a true talent (and patience) for filigree ornaments, partly Arabic, partly historic but overall modernized.

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And, of course, her work on tangible typography is one of the most impressive out there and inspired our own search many times. Here, for instance, sugar lettering.

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We’re not sure if this book is still in stock (probably?) but if you like to look at gorgeously designed letters, this is definitely the coffee table book for you.

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In addition to children’s books, we also love beautiful books about design. This one, for instance, shows the work of Jurriaan Schrofer, a somewhat lesser known Dutch designer (1926–1990). He created modernist typographic designs, experimented with letters and grid, designed typefaces, even tried tangible type. His work has a very distinctive style, which you will love if modernist typography works for you.

The book by Unit Editions showcases Schrofer’s designs, giving basic information about them. Visually, it’s an interesting edition with a vivid orange color used in the middle, black thread for binding and, most strikingly, the open spine (we’re of two minds about open-spined books because, while eye-catching, they are much less durable).

The cover with just the designer’s name arranged of the letters he used illustrates his style particularly well.

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Recently we visited a local museum and in the gift shop we found a little gem illustrated by a friend from work, Joanna Czaplewska. The book tells the story of the most famous painting you can see in our area, The Last Judgment by Hans Memling (here, if it’s not famous enough). In simple illustrations it shows how the painting was created and how it ended up in Gdańsk. The book is remarkable not only for its historical detail but also a subdued, painterly color palette.

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Last week we shared with you a book by Anouck Boisrobert and Louis Rigaud about the ocean. But the first time we encountered a book by these artists was In the Forest, their beautiful and sad story about deforestation (and, luckily, re-forestation). It uses very ingenious techniques of paper engineering to talk in simple ways about the destruction of forests, still ending on a hopeful note. While the ocean book is probably more cheerful, this one, we feel, works more strongly.

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(Also, as a not-irrelevant side note, consider not buying products with palm oil, if you feel the need to do something.)