redesign-dracula_primer-01If you think we’re done with showing you gorgeous books… well, you are wrong. We still have bunches of them left, waiting for a day when we feel like spending a part of Sunday photographing them. Yesterday was just such a Sunday and so enjoy this lovely little gem, a counting primer based on Dracula by Jennifer Adams.

It’s a part of a whole series in which classic novels are turned into books for little children (and obsessive designers) with simple yet quirky, charming illustrations. We saw them online a while ago and ogled them hungrily so when we found two (yes, one more is coming) during a book fair, we simply had to get them.

redesign-dracula_primer-06redesign-dracula_primer-05It’s quite lovely how the book turns the rather somber, gothic atmosphere of the novel into something children-friendly but not entirely devoid of the original gloom. And this is, predictably, our favorite spread. Notice the cute use of typography. And the wolves, of course.


The heroes also look very cool:

redesign-dracula_primer-04redesign-dracula_primer-03We’re not showing you all the pages but rest assured that there are more gothic elements like garlic and even coffins. Overall, highly re:commended.

redesign-goldberg-06Experyment Science Center asked us to design a poster for their winter break program for kids. The theme was ecology and it included such activities as various games, recycling workshop and building an eco Goldberg machine. we mostly remember these kinds of machines from childhood cartoons and I think there was a game once which I found quite difficult (and fairly tedious after a while; I’ve got the name on the tip of my tongue but can’t quite remember it). But this is actually a great subject matter for an illustration, more challenging than usually because you have to come up with a series of events that would at least look like a working machine. We also wanted the machine’s effect to seem ecological and that’s how we finally arrived at the diagram for the poster.



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Now, we’re (clearly) no engineers but we hope the sequence of events is clear and so is the welcome outcome.

Speaking of welcome developments, this is another week of free shipping on Society6 if you click this link so if you’re in a mood for our Friends  or Iconic Painters stuff, this is a good chance to get it and save some money.

redesign-feminine_mystique-01The next book in Words Matter series is a feminist classic, a sociological study by Betty Friedan The Feminine Mystique from 1963. The book describes a situation of housewives trapped in their role, with their opportunities limited by what Friedan famously described as “feminine mystique”.

We like working with feminist texts because there is so much iconography to use. Here, we decided to play with what one might imagine as symbols of femininity, particularly of those women constrained to their kitchen and living room. We chose a slightly more complicated but most traditionally feminine technique of embroidery, with the book’s title embroidered on a simple kitchen cloth. This was particularly appropriate in Polish where the equivalent of “cloth” can serve as a disrespectful name for a woman (not a swear word exactly, but definitely offensive). But we feel even without this additional linguistic sense, the very object of a kitchen cloth is sufficiently disregarded to put our point across.

an-il-07As embroidery is not one of our strong suits (or something we would even know how to start) we asked for the help of my mom, who’s been developing her own embroidery technique all her life and agreed to help with the project, transporting our design to an actual cloth. The pink gingham pattern we chose for the background makes the design both casual and girlish. We chose script typography, which can be associated with womanly writing but also with various kitchen- or restaurant-related designs. Finally, we added a simple ornament, which we intended to be between a typical plant ornament and something more, well, anatomical.

Once the embroidery was ready, it turned out it took many attempts to arrange the cloth properly. We wanted the impression of a cloth casually dropped somewhere, without any second thought, so that is looks like the valueless object that it is. Here are three of many more attempts we rejected (on our all-purpose Ikea table):

redesign-feminine_mystique-04Whether we actually dropped the cloth, hoping for a random natural arrangement or tried to arrange the folds ourselves, we weren’t happy with the result because the top part took too much attention. These arrangements were not terrible but still not what we had in mind, so eventually we settled on something much simpler.

redesign-feminine_mystique-03What we like about this cover is that we think we managed to reflect the subversive nature of Friedan’s title, its irony. It is also always exciting to employ a traditional technique in a meaningful way, which was actually one of a few points that we tried to make in Words Matter project.


redesign-fairy_game-02Once upon a time we showed you a sneak peek of an illustration we were working on and promised to show you the rest soon. Soon is clearly today because having received the print version we’re sharing with you a small board game for children that we designed. Our friend designs for a local children’s theater and for Children’s Day celebrations (that’s June, 1st here) they publish a small magazine for kids with activities prepared by designers.

Due to budgetary constraints, this was a pro bono job and these are always tricky in that everyone needs to come up with their own reasons to do or not do stuff for free. We actually have a whole set of conditions that we use to decide. In case you’re interested, here they go. 1) We need to have time to do the project, obviously. This is a basic condition. 2) The project needs to be interesting in graphic terms so we see it as a fun challenge or a chance to try out new ideas. 3) We need creative freedom (if you want to influence the design, that’s great but not free). 4) It can’t be a commercial project that someone is making money off of. 5) We need author’s copies. You’d be surprised how often people ask you to do stuff for free but refuse to give you even one copy of the finished work. (Of course, it helps if a friend asks but that’s not really a condition.)


This time we decided to use the opportunity to play a bit with a certain illustrative style we’d wanted to try out for a while but never had a good project for that. We also decided to treat this as a tribute to one of our favorite pastimes ever and make a very simple board game.

redesign-fairy_game-04The rules are as simple as they come. You go along the way through the woods to get to granny’s hut and every now and then you meet a fairy tale character who makes you go forward, backward or stop for a turn. We came up with a whole host of those characters. They’re all drawn by hand and colored digitally, with a new method we came up with for the project. It turned out quite time-consuming but now we know we would probably return to it some time.

redesign-fairy_game-08Then we assembled all the illustrations into one board, added the rules and the game was ready to play.

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And here are some other activities.


Jane Jacobs by re:designAs you may have noticed, we love working with Lego whenever we get a chance and so we gleefully worked them into the Words Matter series. Jane Jacobs’s book The Death and Life of Great American Cities is a classic work on urban planning, including the criticism of modernist urban thought for its lack of focus on human needs. We found Lego blocks to be a great material for this one because of their modular, grid-based character, which illustrates well modernist ideas but adds a playful element to the composition.

Obviously, building letters of Lego was fun but it didn’t go as easy as you might think. In fact, the final construction is our the second attempt. The first one looked like this:

First attemptIf you compare it to the final version, you will see that the letters were broader and lower and we didn’t feel they reflected the height of the cities well enough. While the erosion of some of the letters was visually interesting, we thought they started to resemble ruins, which was too strong an association. Finally, the round bits were too dominant, making the material too obvious. And so we disassembled the whole construction and started again to finally reach this:

The Death and Life of Great American Cities by re:designWe covered most of the letters with flat white blocks (and we did have to raid all the sets for these) so that they looked more abstract and added some extra pieces for the greater sprawl of the composition. In fact, there was one more aspect to the design, as this image will clearly show you:

redesign-cities-03We thought grayness was a very important part of the design but our Lego collection is not nearly extensive enough to include that many blocks in one color. And so it took some post-processing to reach the result we wanted. However, we did want to share the colorful version because we feel it looks fun (and gives you some idea about our process).

The Death and Life of Great American Cities by re:design


So we were going to get back to Words Matter (and we will next week) but it turns out today’s post is 200th! We wanted to celebrate this fact with special infographics and take the time to thank everyone who’s been with us on this adventure so far. It’s thanks to your involvement that we find motivation to work on the blog, even on the days when we’d rather do something else. Like sleep.

For these statistics we looked through all 199 posts so far and counted many things. Possibly the numbers might be slightly inaccurate in a few places, you’re welcome to check them. We also noticed that we haven’t yet shown you some projects we planned to show so expect a few trips down the memory lane in the future, but mostly expect a lot of new stuff and once again thanks so much for reading us.

Also, it turns out Society6 helped us with a celebratory gift: this week they offer free shipping again so you can buy our posters and other stuff cheaper if you follow this link.





The only good thing about stomach flu is this: it doesn’t last forever. It doesn’t even last very long but while it’s happening you’re ready to swear there’s nothing worse ever.

At any rate, it’s over now and so we spent a productive weekend uploading Iconic Painters posters to our Society6 store. This remains one of our favorite self-commissioned projects and we are always happy to hear from people interested in it. In addition to posters, you can now also buy stationery cards and iPhone cases. We’re planning on adding extra products because Society’s options are just too much fun not to play with (not that we’re convinced the world needs Georges de la Tour shower curtain) so if you’re interested in a particular kind of product, let us know and we’ll be happy to oblige.

Eventually, there will be also new painters coming but we can’t make promises as to the date.


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