Last week heat waves defeated us but this week we finally managed to see the exhibition held in the Museum of Gdynia, showing the work of one of the greatest Polish designers, Karol Śliwka.
Śliwka worked for decades in the period of communist regime in Poland when the conditions for graphic design were completely different than they are now (long story). He almost single-handedly introduced logo modernism here and dominated the visual landscape. He created posters, packaging and, most of all, logos, following strict, intellectual rules according to which a mark needs to be the synthesis of ideas that represent a company or an institution in a beautifully geometricized form. What is more, unlike some other modernists’ of the period, Śliwka’s logos are rarely pure geometric experiments: they retain human heart, a sense of humor and joy, despite their minimalist form.
The exhibition shows him as a versatile designer, good with illustration, classically trained but particularly focused on his biggest love, logos (which he actually learned to design by himself, as he studied different disciplines). We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and encourage you to visit the exhibition, should you be in Gdynia soon(ish).
Below you can see the logo for Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Warszawy (The Society of Friends of Warsaw), which is probably our favorite of all Śliwka’s logos, simply because it had no right to work – and it does so well. The letters form the shape of a mermaid with a sword and a shield, the symbol of Warsaw.
A neon made from Śliwka’s signature.
On the wall you can see some of Śliwka’s posters, which he usually designed in a similar way to the logos.
Book and brochure covers.
Peace building and in the background a brilliant logo for the Institute of Mother and Child (a medical institution). It’s Lubalin-level brilliance, and we don’t say that lightly.
Packaging for sweets.
These are quite brilliant in the simple decisions made here.
A screen from a short, interesting movie about Śliwka in which, our friend Patryk Hardziej shows to him pages devoted to his work in Taschen’s Logo Modernism. Patryk is one of the creators of the exhibition and a great champion of Śliwka’s work, and he’s been working on popularizing it for a couple of years now.
Last week we took J to an exhibition in Sopot that shows three Japanese poster designers. He didn’t seem much awed by those masters but we were, and so we’re sharing with you some highlights. (Note: the gallery didn’t allow for photos in the exhibition so all the images are internet-derived.)
We were definitely most impressed by Ikko Tanaka, who started his long career in Tokyo and worked for many institutions and corporations. We knew some of his work, mostly the posters based on illustrations of faces, but seeing many posters displayed together allowed us to admire the style he developed. He combined modernist love for geometricization with a sensitivity to the Japanese tradition of woodcut and illustration. He also managed to make these posters very decorative with the choice of color and with a really good sense of how to use simplification to create attractive forms.
Tanaka’s famous face posters: on the left the most well-known one. These show his mastery of simple forms and colors.
Tanaka’s geometricized natural forms form the possibly most accessible part of his work.
The second designer, Yusaku Kamekura, is probably the most revered one, and slightly older than the other two. He also combined Western inspirations with Japanese tradition but in a less consistent way: he used different techniques, geometric, painterly, even photographic. He’s most famous work is probably that related to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
There is something very decorative and ornamental about many of Kamekura’s posters.
And the third one, Shigeo Fukuda, differs a bit. He didn’t seem that inspired by either modernism nor Japanese traditional art but instead sought surrealist metaphors and visual illusions. While we like his ideas, the style speaks to us the least, reminding us of some later Polish poster designers we don’t necessarily enjoy as much.
Fukuda returned many times to the same motifs, like the folded piece of paper…
…or the most charming one, an Escherian dachshund.
In addition to the very interesting poster exhibition, the gallery also held two more typically art exhibitions: one of Polish painting (mostly from 19th and early 20th century) and one of contemporary art inspired by a Polish modernist sculptor, Katarzyna Kobro. These excited our son more, particularly the projector used for one of the modern exhibits.
A most impressive painting by Weiss, showing school girls on a walk in Kraków. We were awed by the subtle color palette and the photographic composition, particularly that not all of Weiss’s work is equally exiciting.
Speaking of dachshunds (?), a charming pastel sketch by one of our favorites, Stanisław Wyspiański.
A variation on a medieval illumination turned into a fairy tale by Zbigniew Waliszewski (“The Hunt”).
From the modern art exhibition something right up our valley, a typographic installation by Aurelia Mandziuk-Zajączkowska. Letterforms inspired by Polish modernism.
And this is Kobro’s work, a nude.
We took the end of the last week off to spend it in a total mess of the renovations we’re having. It was mildly entertaining but not great for working on posts.
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.
A nice exhibition idea.
What Do We Travel by? (from a selection of one-off books)
Map-inspired lists of attractions for various Polish cities by Ładne Halo.
The Palace of Culture in 3D from Architekturki by Robert Czajka.
J just couldn’t get enough of this fox cutout, carrying it around the whole exhibition.
A selection of books to read and enjoy.
Paper animals, also by Robert Czajka.
Children enjoying an animation based on Iwona Chmielewska’s illustrations.
An illustrated labyrinth.
Sorry for the short hiatus, guys, but not only did Carrie wipe us out a little – we’re also working on our new studio website and it’s a huge enterprise. We’ll share the progress as we go on, especially the new project photos.
In the meantime we wanted to show you a resurrection of sorts of one of our minimalist Disney posters: the cover for a Belgian lifestyle magazine Knack Weekend. We were asked for the Pinocchio design for the cover because it fit the theme of the issue, about the lies people tell, and we were happy to cooperate. Pinocchio gained a new background and some international exposure.
The original Pinocchio poster.
The whole series (buyable here)
And a little different find: we discovered that our Freud cover from the Words Matter series made it to the academia: it is carefully analyzed in a thesis on randomness in typography by Anders Larsson, which you can find here (we’re on pages 28-31 but read the whole thesis).
This week marks the 20th anniversary of Sex and the City, one of the cult TV shows of the late 90s / early 2000s, which changed the way people talked about sex and female friendship on TV. As you might have noticed, we like celebrating shows that were important to us with posters and so we have designed a poster for the occasion. Since one of the more characteristic things about the show (and one which has aged a little better than others) was always fashion, particularly Carrie Bradshaw’s crazy outfits, we have focused the poster on Carrie’s classic (and less classic) looks, 69 of them.
We did a whole lot of research (both re-watching the show and looking at many, many lists of “best outfits on SATC”) and sketched more than 90 looks that seemed important, then trimming the list down a little (it was still a lot of dresses to draw). We generally focused on those clothes which were somehow connected with the storylines and so, to my chagrin, did not include almost any of my personal favorites: the lunch outfits, but instead recreated various combinations she wore when breaking up and reconnecting with her significant boyfriends and experiencing .
If you like the poster, you may buy it from Society6 or bza.co.
And if you like the behind-the-scenes images, here’s what the research notes look like (we’re not those designers who make beautiful, print-ready sketches).