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Our Bookshelf

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On Saturday we took a day off and made a family trip to the local zoo in Gdańsk. The weather was just right and we had a great time. In the souvenir stand we found an interesting book that we’re sharing with you today: Planeta zoo (The Zoo Planet), which tells a bit of a history of zoological gardens and introduces various animals from Gdańsk’s zoo. The book tells interesting stories about the animals living in the zoo and will make our next trip so much more informed for our son, who will know the names of some of the animals. It is illustrated by Grażyna Rigall, whose watercolor illustrations have quite a lot of character and include funny little details.

We particularly like the zoo’s effort to publish a customized souvenir, which is thoughtful, informative and well-executed. Too often local tourist attractions don’t use the material they have to self-promote: their own exhibits and buildings. We would expect similar publications in each museum and fun spot. So many creative people could be hired for that and so many lovely objects could be made as a result.

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It is this time of year again: the time of sharing the Christmas gifts we got. Probably the most impressive one is this book we kind of bought for ourselves: Vaughan Oliver: Archive. We supported the book on Kickstarter and then waited for it to get published – it managed to come a while before Christmas.

The book contains a number of materials designed or used for design by Vaughan Oliver, a design legend. It is impressively printed on Munken paper (always a plus), with a silkscreen-printed slipcase using a specially commissioned shade of orange-red. Overall, it is one of those books which work almost more by impressions than by content but remind you why print isn’t really dead whatever some people might say.

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As our focus drifts now a little to babies (and as we did some huge bookshelf cleaning recently), we remembered one of the first artsy books that our son liked: ABC by Bruno Munari. Bruno Munari was quite a fascinating Italian artist and children’s books were just a small part of his wide artistic and scientific explorations – but it’s the one we’re most familiar with. ABC is a classic letters primer, which uses very elegant, high-contrast typography and lovely, slightly old-fashioned illustrations. While this might not be a book in which you find new tiny details during each re-reading, its very simplicity appeals to children and its high aesthetic level develops their sensitivity.

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This is one gorgeous onion.

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Last time we talked about the huge Wyspiański exhibition we saw in Kraków and how impressed we were by the number of exhibits. But because of a mess of circumstances we didn’t get to spend as much time on the exhibition as we wanted to so we were glad to find a large, reliable catalog, presenting all the objects with descriptions.

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(We don’t necessarily agree with all the design choices made for the catalog but we don’t know how it was created and under what circumstances. We’re mostly just happy to have such a huge, nicely printed book full of Wyspiański’s work.)

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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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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.