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As promised, today we want to share a few wonderful books we found in Paris. We spent a lot of time in museum bookstores and, as if that wasn’t enough to run out of money, we lived near a wonderful little bookstore specializing in art books and children books. I’m sure it was put there specifically to bankrupt us and it nearly did. But our collection grew again. In the post we will show you a few more French finds of our stay.

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As usual we enlarged our collection of Petit pop-up Panoramiques, which we keep showing you every time. In addition to Paris and Louvre, which we already had, this time we found the whole of France compressed into a small book of pop-ups. This one has more painterly, delicate illustrations than other books in the series, less humorous and more fashion-like, which we find refreshing. It also has so many places we’ve yet to see.

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In Musée d’Orsay’s bookstore we found a whimsical and quite charming comic Moderne Olympia, a story of Manet’s Olympia and her ambitions to become an actress. We haven’t read the whole story yet (our French might not be enough to get all the jokes, sadly) but the most lovely idea is that the story happens among famous pictures from the museum. Various scenes and characters are recreated from the paintings but, of course, in a different context. This is the kind of illustrative and intellectual fun that we always look for in art books and only sometimes manage to find.

re-paris-02 re-paris-03 re-paris-04And if one is not quite an art history expert the code at the last page is supposed to give you a list of all the paintings used in the story (we haven’t tested that yet but it’s certainly a good idea).

re-paris-10Now, I’ll admit at first sight I overlooked Romance. But once you give this book a few minutes of your time and take care to understand its concept, it’s quite breathtaking. It’s an entirely fresh experiment in storytelling, married with gorgeous illustrations and impressive technical savoir-faire (heh).

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The story expands from chapter to chapter and invites you to participate in telling it. Illustrations, words, even typography combine to add to the history, which makes it incredibly intriguing. It’s like a fairy tale that you heard million times as a child but always managed to find something new in it.

Additionally, and this is explained by the fact that the author has a silkscreen experience, it employes a neat technical trick. All the colors are special colors instead of regular CMYK and four special colors – applied with amazing understanding of how halftone works – create the whole color scheme of the book, including all the tints. This might not seem very exciting if you don’t think about the technical side of printing much but for us it was quite awe-inspiring.

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And finally our possibly favorite new acquisition, Oh! Mon chapeau. You certainly noticed the little fact that we are suckers for pop-up books but more often than not we are disappointed to find them matched with bland illustrations and lacking in creativity. None of this applies to Chapeau. It’s as creative as books get, with a wonderful understanding of what pop-ups can add to the story (for instance, it uses very well the simple fact that something can hide behind a pop-up). The illustrations (as, if fact, the whole technical part of the book) are deceptively simple but it’s rare to see simplicity matched with such charm and lightness. Many illustrators try to achieve it as it is, clearly, a trend of today but few manage in such a seemingly effortless way.

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In addition to the lovely Mondrianesque color scheme, the book has a difficult to define Parisian feel. Instant love.

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Aaand we’re back. As was obvious from the illustrations, we spent this year’s holiday in Paris (again), where we had a great time (again). We also bought a few books we will want to share with you but first, as promised before our leave, we want to share a few unique finds from Warsaw Book Fair. Because many of the books we bought tempted us with their canine heroes, we decided to make them the theme of today’s post.

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This one by Beatrice Rodriguez is called The Chicken Thief and it is created completely without words. In fact, the only way the title appears is on an additional sleeve, so that the book can remain word-free. It’s an exciting picaresque about a kidnapping and a chase, including themes of friendship and forbidden love. The level of wordless storytelling is truly impressive and the author makes great use of the panoramic size of the book, which gives illustrations their unique character and structure.

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Chien Fou is another little gem about perseverance and the rewards of hope. It’s also about a little dog that runs a lot. The illustrations are guaranteed to make you a little sad and then quite happy. Also, do notice the lovely colors and masterful page compositions.

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Attention, voila Grand loup! is a simpler books for smaller children but it makes a great use of paper flaps where small animals hide from the big wolf (unnecessarily, it will turn out in an optimistic ending). Also, even though the illustrations are clearly much simpler, they manage not to be bland and boring. We enjoyed discovering who’s hiding behind the curtain or in the closet quite a lot and I’m sure for a small kid it must be quite an adventure.

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Finally, Le Petit Loup Rouge is a book we first saw online a while ago and we didn’t even know if it was actually published. We loved it back then and we loved it even more when we saw it in all its paper glory. It’s a marvelously illustrated tale in the best tradition of surrealist fairy-telling. It also has gorgeous typography and lovely atmosphere. There’s nothing not to adore about this one.

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In case it made you wonder, most of these books happen to be in French because French literature was the theme of this year’s Fair. We bought books in English and in Polish too, they just didn’t happen to be about foxes, wolves or dogs: but we will share at least some of those at some later time. At any rate, for a moment we could’ve fooled ourselves that having already bought books in French we won’t need to buy them in Paris so maybe for once we’ll come back with not too heavy a bag but, of course, we were so, so wrong, as you will see next week.

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Sorry, but today’s post got swallowed by our trip to Warsaw Book Fair. You can see a selection of our spoils above and we’ll share more once we’ve taken better photos. It was a lot of fun but unfortunately ended in a cold and so instead of working on a post I’m choosing to go to bed. Regular updating (or, sort of regular) continues next week so have a good time until then.

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The Golden Bough by sir James George Frazer is a classic of anthropological and mythographic writing: a book in which Frazer examines early religious beliefs and how they influenced contemporary customs still to be found in folk culture (well, contemporary to him anyway). Also, unlike many such works, it has a very pretty, evocative title, which partly influenced its inclusion into the Words Matter series and resulted in one of our favorite of all these covers.

In fact, we approached the design twice: at first we wanted to use mistletoe as appearing on one of the classic editions of the book but not only is mistletoe hard to get by outside of the Christmas season but also the one we did find didn’t look all that impressive in the end. So instead we settled on oak branches with their extremely characteristic (and pretty) leaves. We picked a lot of them and then we spent some time spraying them golden.

We were quite happy with the decision to go with oak because not only is it way more striking visually (sorry, mistletoe) but its symbolic meaning is also very powerful.

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We did a die-cut lettering in a piece of golden paper, in art deco-like typography whose simplicity doesn’t distract from the whole idea and which is very elegant.

redesign-goldenbough-05And then we arranged the leaves and the letters in such a way that the leaves come out from under the writing, illustrating the staying power of myths and how they permeate our culture. It looks fairly simple, but arranging the composition took quite some time and required quite a few decisions.

As happened so often with this series we turned out very happy with the result exactly because of its simplicity.

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redesign-levistrauss-01The first volume of Lévi-Strauss’s Mythologies, Le cru et le cuit (The Raw and the Cooked) was too lovely a title for us to pass up for Words Matter project. It describes natural oppositions that affect human way of thinking and the creation of abstract notions. It is also a wonderfully inspiring title from a designer’s point of view.

We chose a fairly direct approach of illustrating the titular opposition but initially we intended to use potatoes, as we already had a good experience, working with them (as you can see here). In fact, we prepared the whole set of letters:

redesign-levistrauss-12 redesign-levistrauss-08 redesign-levistrauss-09But then we realized potatoes might not create the most exciting opposition between the raw and the cooked version. Instead we thought about beets, with their lovely color and we made a test run, frying a slice of beetroot with a letter X cut out in the middle. The result was very promising visually (if less so taste-wise) and so we sat down again to re-doing all the letters in the new material.

redesign-levistrauss-11It actually took a few trips to the local grocery store. While beets are not extremely difficult to work with (just very dirty), we couldn’t get the right sizes and amounts at first.

redesign-levistrauss-07 redesign-levistrauss-10 redesign-levistrauss-05 redesign-levistrauss-06As you can see, we didn’t go for literally “cooked” because fried beets looked so much better.

We opposed the two words not only by processing the second group of beets but also by making the first word a series of stamps and the second stencil cuts. Arranging the “cuit” part on an old-fashioned plate with garnish added the cultural aspect, so important in Lévi-Strauss’s studies.

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For the back with the WM logo we could emphasize the opposition in a different way, using two halves of the same beetroot with the shapes being negatives of each other.

redesign-levistrauss-03 redesign-levistrauss-02(Also, just a minor side note: we are now updating Mondays rather than Sundays. Sometimes we simply need to spend one day away from the screen and Sunday is usually our only chance.)

redesign-behaviorism-04The use of body in tangible typography was an important part of our PhD thesis and so we included such a design in the Words Matter series. The opportunity came with John B. Watson’s Behaviorism, a book about how human beings’ behavior is essentially programmable. We decided that the image resembling a punch card (as used to program old computers) combined with the image of human body was a perfect illustration of the concept. Placing the writing on the inside of an arm holds an additionally menacing aspect because the concept of behaviorism is also somewhat menacing when you think about it.

After studying old punch cards (which, obviously, did not use typography as such, just seemingly random patterns) we used the grid to design the title:

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And then the thing to do was to transfer the writing to an arm. The arm itself posed a slight problem because we preferred a male arm as less coded but R refused to pose (and he needed to take photos anyway). Then our friend A (hi, A) generously offered to help. We started searching for a tool that would be making the right kind of imprint and even considered going to a hardware store and asking the clerk for suggestions but we balked at the idea of explaining what exactly we needed and why (too Fifty Shades, I guess). We finally settled on a wooden chopstick, which turned out to be making just the right kind of imprint. But after a test ride it turned out the process was extremely time-consuming and rather irritating. So we decided we didn’t want to risk our friendship with A and had to settle on a female arm (which we still find less than ideal).

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The main problem was the fact that only a few letters at a time were clearly visible so it took many partial shoots to get the whole word. (And yes, the marks remained a little visible for a while, but not beyond one day, in case you wondered.)

We feel the idea is strong and very appropriate for the subject matter, with just right symbolic meaning. But the legibility is not perfect and this is probably one of the least practical covers we designed, at least in purely commercial terms.

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re-purity-1Mary Douglas’s Purity and Danger examines the cultural notions of dirt and taboo. For this installment of Words Matter we chose a relatively straightforward approach, contrasting visually the two terms from the title and equating danger with dirt.

The rendering of the word “purity” might be one of the more literally sculptural endeavors of the whole project because it is sculpted in a bar of soap. We haven’t tried anything like that since the early years of primary school but we may say now that soap is a very graceful material, easily shaped – except when you let it dry and it begins cracking and breaking. At any rate, we like how imperfect the soap sculpture is. It looks like something Boo Radley could’ve made.

re-purity-4“Danger” is simply written in brownish red liquid that slowly disintegrates. We wanted it to bring about associations with physiology, bodily harm and danger.

re-purity-5Now, this project might not have involved all the excitement of our adventures with ants but each cover presented its own challenges and here it was definitely shooting the composition in a very, very small bathroom where we found an appropriately old-fashioned bathtub. It was some job to fit a large lamp and a tripod into that space where we could hardly both fit (we definitely couldn’t with all the equipment in). But we really wanted the bathroom setting to provide additional context. First, we considered white tiles but then we decided that the mere hint of white ceramics suited the concept of purity better while the drain adds a, perhaps slightly disturbing, grounding element.

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