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In the 19th century the Malbork Castle, now a world heritage site, was in a bad shape, used for commercial purposes, its buildings in disrepair. The Society for the Restoration and Beautification of the Malbork Castle was established to gather finances and organize the necessary repairs. For 50 years the Society published its reports on how the works were going, including lists of members, financial assets and especially the progress of renovations.

Now these reports, a valuable source of information on the history of the Castle, are published in Polish by the Castle Museum in Malbork. The large book contains the translations of all the original reports, together with articles, explaining the background of the organization.

The main challenge and the main attraction of designing this book lay in combining the nods to the original reports with modern design. The originals were hardly consistent, changing visual styles every now and then, and even the logic of the internal organization, while it was our job to restore those. To reference the originals we used German typefaces from the early 20th century, table designs and ornaments are also inspired by the originals.

The idea for the cover comes from how the original reports were bound: in hand-made marbled paper. We ordered sheets of this (though, of course, the budget only allowed the use of scans in the final book) and, in fact, we had to change the pattern a few times because each time a type of paper was chosen it proved sold-out before we ordered it. The price of working with single copies, I guess. This paper is combined with canvas and the only words are printed in rose-gold foil on the canvas.

And in case anybody cares, the work on this book was great fun!

Title page of 1896 report with a custom ornament.
The tables list all the financial assets for a given time period.
Yellow details!
There’s double page numbering. This close-up shows a page number from the original report.
Title page for one of the introductory articles. Also: marbled paper.

Last year the Museum of Gdańsk was celebrating its 50th anniversary. We had the honor and pleasure of being graphically involved in these celebrations. We designed the logo of the anniversary and a book on the history of the institution. Covid restrictions meant that the celebrations were humbler than originally planned but the book makes it possible to prolong them with some solid history reading.

The logo of the anniversary uses the cross pattern from the regular logo, but interwoven with diamonds.

The book is titled “From the City Hall to the Museum”, which references the fact that one of the buildings belonging to the Museum is an old city hall of Gdańsk. Through five essays the book tells the story of the then-young Museum of Gdańsk: how it was established among the political upheaval of the 1950s Poland, how the buildings were slowly reconstructed after the war’s destruction and how the young institution was involved with the life of the city’s inhabitants. It’s quite fascinating for any history lover.

The logo for the Museum’s anniversary inspired the design. We used the diamond pattern and gold paint throughout the book. We drew another inspiration from old newspapers which constituted an important source material for the book’s authors. We used a golden diamond raster on some of the photographs to recall the raster of old newspapers and chose typographic solutions that also bring them to mind. Red color and thick frames also appear in the design for that reason.

In addition to the golden color of the frame, the cover has embossed diamond pattern. The cool photo shows workers installing a reconstructed sculpture of the king.
A title page of the first article, about the life in Gdańsk in 1960s.

Additionally, some of the pages fold out to highlight the most interesting photos, with a detail of the same photo printed in the golden raster on the cover of the folded page.

We again congratulate the Museum on the occasion and wish it 500 years more!

As Santa was generous with our book gifts this year, we are happy to share the first one: a monograph on Stockholm Design Lab, a studio from, you guessed it, Stockholm, who we’ve been admiring for a while. Their truly impressive portfolio of work includes nothing less than the identity for the Nobel Prize.

The book is also impressive in its own right: solid, hefty, generous with white space, leaving you a lot of air to admire the designs. It is not afraid to spend an entire spread on a single blown-out image and it even uses hotstamping inside the book. Yes, inside. SDL’s designs are characterized by a certain austerity, minimalism and focus on ideas that is sometimes hard to pull off in client work and that makes it all the more impressive that these designs came into existence.

A case of the beautiful golden hotstamping inside. There are more.

The proper post is in the making but in the meantime we just wanted to share the good news that two books we designed last year were shortlisted in the competition “The Most Beautiful Books of the Year” organized by the Polish Association of Book Publishers. Thanks to the jury and to the Museum of Gdańsk and the Castle Museum of Malbork for the amazing collaborations!

You can see the post about Sapientia… here and Cities… here.

Sorry for the short hiatus, guys. We’ve been discovering recently how truly horrific we can be at this whole time management thing. Seriously, they should revoke our adulthood licence. At any rate, we might not have accomplished much last month but we did re-read Pride and Prejudice. And that is precisely what we want to recommend to you today.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

What is it? As we’re fully aware that you know, it’s Jane Austen’s romantic slash social masterpiece, a proto-rom-com and a wonderfully written novel. The reason we chose it as this month’s recommendation, in lieu of something lesser known, is that reading this book again gave us so much pleasure that modern literature doesn’t always deliver.

Why we love it? As complete saps, we mostly love it for the Lizzie–Darcy romance, which is a fully justified classic. The book sparkles with humor and, sometimes quite nasty, satire, and transports you into a different, and quite enchanting world. We also love all the multiple re-tellings and reinterpretations of the story but the original is definitely the place to start and, especially in light of those later version, proves how well it ages.

We are super happy to share that Sapientia aedificavit… book that we designed for the Castle Museum of Malbork got awarded in the Communication Arts competition and our award arrived last week (just in time for my birthday, too). We are awed to see the book among so many incredible winners. Here‘s the CA site for 2020 with winners in the Books category (but check the other categories as well, great stuff there).

We are very happy to let you know that the book Gardens of Gdańsk was selected as a finalist of the competition Good Design (Dobry Wzór). The book was designed for the Museum of Gdańsk.

Dobry Wzór is a Polish design competition interesting in that designers cannot submit their work. Rather, the jurors look for interesting designs among products available commercially on the Polish market and choose nominations from among them, focusing on those producs which provide the customers with good design value. So it was a big deal to us when the book was noticed and nominated for the competition and we are overjoyed now that it’s among the finalists. The book will also be seen shown in a post-competition exhibition later in Autumn.

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This month’s re:commendation comes illustrated as we are sharing a beautiful picture book by Coralie Bickford-Smith, The Song of the Tree. Ms. Bickford-Smith is the incredibly talented designer behind our beloved Penguin Clothbound Classics, many of which decorate our bookshelves (still not as many as we would like). She uses her skill with ornaments here as well to tell a poetic story of a bird, a tree and the tree’s other inhabitants.

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This is a lovely story about growing up and opening up to one’s surroundings. And we are especially awed by the design and illustrative skill exhibited here as well as by the careful attention paid to the print production. The book is printed with three spot colors creating a vivid, yet minimalist color palette. (It is also clothbound.) Each spread is a carefully planned composition, wowing with the level of detail and reminiscent of the work of a printmaking artist. Finally, something both we and our older son enjoyed immensely, the spreads reward the reader for paying close attention: various characters of the story – the different animals inhabiting the tree – appear and reappear throughout the pages. Sometimes you need to look for them more closely, which recreates the excitement of the explorer in a wilderness (or how we imagine it, anyway). This is one of the prettiest books we’ve acquired for a long time.

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