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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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Every now and then our son goes through book phases when he gets very excited about looking through picture books. We’ve got a ton of those books but not all of them are great to look at. And so to celebrate J’s birthday we filled one of the not-so-pretty books with custom illustrations showing J and some of his toys.

It was a fairly quick side project but it was a lot of fun and it got a semi-appreciative audience because J was quite excited to recognize the toys he’s playing with in the pictures.

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From sketch to page. (A form of J’s name is a homophone with the Polish word for a hedgehog and so we have all sorts of toy hedgehogs at home.)

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An underwater page with various bath toys.

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Nothing is more fun than IKEA rats.

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Fun in the playground.

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Taking advantage of probably one of the last sunny, warm weekends of the year we went on another spontateous family trip to the zoo. It was quite a lovely afternoon and we enjoyed the sight of the animals – so much so that we decided to share with you some of the memories as illustrations of animals (rather than working on the originally planned post; nothing beats pictures of animals anyways, as is universally acknowledged).

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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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We are working on a huge project that we will share next week – and I’d like to say we’re finishing it but no, it’s just “working” for now – so in the meantime please enjoy this random illustration of bears from our archive. Because bears. And cuddling.

re-ants-02The challenge and thrill of working with real-world materials when designing is how they surprise you. Today we’re sharing a story of a project which turned out completely different than we had planned because of our complete and utter lack of entomological (formicological?) knowledge. The next installment of Words Matter: The Ants.

When we found out about this book by Wilson and Hölldobler, possibly the only scientific study to ever get the Pulitzer Prize, we knew we wanted to include this. Not only is the subject matter irresistible but also we like to use the nearby woods as a source of design inspiration. However, when we thought about it, we somehow assumed ants act like flies: tempted with honey they will swarm to it and create a composition of ants. In fact, here’s a wikipedia picture of how we imagined the result:

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It clearly is possible. However, that’s not how things worked out in our experience. It was a hot summer day (first question: too hot? wrong season?) and after creating the honey typography at home we first tried to lure small ants that live in our garden to come onto it.

re-ants-05But even though some ants came and went, you could never call it swarming. In fact, it looked rather unimpressive. So we moved on to the original plan: we decided to use the bigger forest ants. First, we went for a scouting excursion (and it was so hot!) and failing to find a single anthill at least we found a secluded path full of large ants. We waited a little till it got cooler because we started to suspect that it was too hot even for ants to think about eating and we carried the tile with the writing two kilometers into the woods (and it’s quite a task to do that without ruining the lettering, let us tell you).

These ants looked great. They were big and pretty and numerous. Only, they couldn’t have cared less about the honey. Forget the swarms, not a single one came close. We had some theories: maybe they were soldier ants that didn’t gather food? Maybe this was not a food-gathering season? Maybe this kind of ants didn’t eat honey? Well, none of that helped. Finally, we got desperate and we moved ants to the honey and photographed them before they ran away. Ants are very, very fast.

re-ants-07Also: don’t worry. No ants were hurt in the process. That was our assumption from the very beginning and we’re happy that at least this part worked out.

So yes, The Ants cover turned out to be more of honey typography than ant typography, which is not necessarily wrong but it illustrates how important research is in this kind of bio-design. We like how the result is more minimalistic than we had planned. But if we wanted to repeat this idea, we would start this time by consulting a formicologist.

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