Tag Archives: books

re-shop-friendsThis week’s Society6 promo is even better than usually: in addition to free shipping there’s also 5$ off everything. Follow this link if you’re interested in buying some of our awesome stuff. And now onto the proper post.

outbox-foto-15Once we started working on the photos of Escape Out of the Box book we made so many that we decided to split the post into two. Last week we talked about the concept of the book and our layout decisions and today we want to focus more on illustrations. Both layout and illustrations refer to modernism as the dominant style of Gdynia’s architecture (well, at least the interesting parts of it). The best way we could think of to reference modernism was to draw inspiration from Isotype infographics, whose huge fans we are. We started by working out a way of drawing a human figure and the rest came from there. Below is an illustration of various people involved in building a house. It was, in fact, the first illustration that we created.

outbox-foto-21 redesign-outbox-15 outbox-foto-30(Also, possibly you can see us geeking out a little in this illustration of modes of transportation.)

outbox-foto-23 outbox-foto-10outbox-foto-32The Infobox building that the book describes gave us plenty of material to work with. Above the concept of scale is explained with a drawing of a kind of recliner they have in front of the building. Music bands play in the restaurant terrace.

outbox-foto-24We found the technical character of the illustrations quite useful because many of them, in addition to being decorative, served an explanatory function. Above our instruction of making a frotage drawing.

outbox-foto-25 outbox-foto-06 outbox-foto-29To draw portraits we needed to expand the style but we had fun doing that. To the left is a portrait of writer, Stefan Żeromski. Above, Vitruvius.

outbox-foto-05 outbox-foto-09

There is, in fact, a kind of periscope in Infobox, which you can use to look at Gdynia from above. It’s surprisingly fun.

outbox-foto-27This is the fox from The Little Prince.

outbox-foto-31And a tree-hugger, to go with one of the most difficult illustrations we made: a view of the building with the yard in front of it. It explains the use of various materials in the construction. It’s rather hard to draw materials in a linear, vector convention, believe you me.


redesign-outbox-01It only took us forever but we finally finished with the photos and can tell you more about the exciting book project we did, celebrating a building called Infobox that was added to the landscape of Gdynia not so long ago. This is what the building looks like (promotional materials of the city):


It was created to revitalize an unkempt square in the very center of Gdynia, built in harmony with and even onto the existing structures. It made the area attractive for all the citizens, rather than just those that drank beer in crummy bars that used to be there. The building’s architecture, while controversial, is quite striking. It consists of several linked structures, the most characteristic being the one on the right, as if built of glass boxes. It also references the modernist tradition of Gdynia’s architecture. The building houses some city offices, a nice cafe/restaurant and is a convenient place of meetings and rest. The people working there also organize events promoting the city and the publication of this book was one of such.

The idea to use this building as a tool to teach children about architectural concepts came from the local foundation Architektura+ and its lovely leader Anna Wróbel-Johnson, who’s the author of the text and who invited us to design and illustrate the book. If you know anything about us, you know it was pretty much the perfect assignment. Not only is it an interesting book by itself, but also we got a lot of freedom to design it and, as a huge, grid-shaped cherry on the top, it allowed us to play with our beloved modernist tradition.

redesign-outbox-02redesign-outbox-03The book is aimed at older children and through the example of Infobox it introduces children to such ideas as function, composition, perspective etc. It promotes learning through doing by offering a selection of fun activities to be performed, many of which require visiting Infobox and observing it closely.

The book is spiral-bound, which is definitely one of our favorite types of binding. The thick carton cover has a die-cut hole in the shape of an isometric outline of a box, which shows a box-constrained lettering underneath. And voila, once you open the cover, the letters get “out of the box,” to illustrate the unconventional thinking that the book promotes.

The shapes you can see in the photo above are elements of a paper model of the building that Architektura+ created and which accompanied the publication. Children could cut it out and create the model (and I’m sure they managed it better than we did).

redesign-outbox-04The book is color-coordinated: each chapter has its lead color, as shown on the contents page above. Obviously, the motif of a box organizes much of the design. In homage to modernist design, we also used strict grid and a modernist, sans serif typeface (one of our favorites, too).

redesign-outbox-05redesign-outbox-06Each chapter starts with a colored page, introducing the concept of the chapter with an illustration and a quote. Above: Genius Loci, or the spirit of a place and Function (with icons depicting various things you can do in Infobox; in addition to the obvious, you may build Lego models there).

redesign-outbox-07  redesign-outbox-10An additional bonus of this assignment was a chance to illustrate it in a modernist style. However, we will tell you much more about it next week when we focus specifically on the illustrative part of the job (we didn’t want this post to go on forever).

redesign-outbox-08The chapter on materials ends with a tracing paper insert that can be used for making a frotage illustration.

redesign-outbox-11 redesign-outbox-12The subject of the book required illustrating architecture, which we are always happy to do. In the spreads above you can see two well-known buildings of Gdynia.

redesign-outbox-13 redesign-outbox-14 redesign-outbox-15Yep, it’s a modernist, Vitruvian woman. Tune in next week for the rest of the images.


We’re still working on these images of the book we promised last week and we will finish them some beautiful day but for now we’ll just keep proving we’re getting there, one image at a time. This one is from a title spread for chapter XII, Proportions and Scale and the page on the left shows Supergirl over Gdynia. Just because. We’ll tell you more once we’re ready with the full post.


Parenting and other kinds of duties slowed us down this week and instead of the full post we can only show you what it will be about: a pretty awesome book we had the pleasure of designing last year. It’s about modernist architecture, we got to illustrate it and cut a hole in the cover (we didn’t cut it personally but you get the idea). We’ll share the rest as soon as the baby learns to sleep some more.

Before we get into it, it’s another week of free shipping on Society6 if you follow this link. Enjoy.


And so we have reached the final cover in the Words Matter series. We left this one for the very end because it went through many phases and we wanted to show you a bit of the process that led to the creation of the final version. So, get ready for quite a photo essay this time.

As we have already explained with a few previous projects, we love making use of the fact that we live close by woods and using this in our designs. We’d also had a positive experience with branch typography before and so we wanted to repeat this when working on the cover for Walden, Henry David Thoreau’s classic about leaving society and living independently in a remote, woodsy location. Branches seemed like a perfect material for this theme and so one day we went out and picked enough to arrange the typography.

Walden 1.0 seemed like it would be a simple and straightforward idea, repeating our previous design: we arranged the name as a huge composition in our mostly unused room with the help of tape, blu tack and some Ikea furniture. It looked messy but it worked the way we’d planned.

redesign-walden-04It was spring then so the leaves were fairly fresh and small. In the end we shot the whole name and the photos turned out nice, clean and sufficiently legible. But during editing we realized that it will simply not work because we arranged the letters so horizontally. The cover would have small lettering and a lot of unnecessary background above and/or below it. We realized we would need to re-shoot the whole thing, arranging the letters differently.

redesign-walden-05By the time we returned to this idea, leaves got much bigger. We also began to think that arranging the letters vertically in several lines one above the other might be a tad difficult. So, another idea was born.

Walden 2.0 didn’t work out in the end either but I still think it was a good theory. This time we decided to arrange a flat composition where the letters would have a leafy border around. Not only should it (in theory) look very good but also refer to similar nineteenth century compositions and so make a nice period reference. What didn’t work this time was simply our lack of skills and/or patience.

redesign-walden-09 redesign-walden-06 redesign-walden-10We once read Marian Bantjes’ story of a plant poster: how she started from arranging the actual plants and gave it up because it looked like “a pile of shit” (true quote, I pulled out Pretty Pictures – which I adore – to confirm it) so she ended up working with computer scans. We only realized the truth of this story once we started arranging the border.

redesign-walden-07It looked nothing like we imagined, just a mess of things. Again, we still believe this could be done but it would need some florist experience (and probably a different background color) – the border would require much more patience, attention and, most of all, flower-arranging skills than we could spare. Also, somewhere by that time we realized there was not enough woods for us in this image and we finally hit on the semi-final idea for this cover: the lettering needed to happen in the woods, not in our apartment!

Walden 3.0. We did not dare to arrange the letters literally in the woods. We could simply see the moment when everything is almost ready and a cheerful puppy walked by an oblivious owner runs straight into the middle of the composition. Instead we decided to make the lettering portable with the help of a cardboard frame.

redesign-walden-13We built the frame from an Amazon box with a construction of wire to attach letters to. We fixed the letters with silver tape, blu tack, paper tape and simply everything that would make it more sturdy. It was not a pretty job – but in the end we loved the messiness of it. Even though we originally wanted to remove the scaffolding digitally, it made it to the final cover because they made the whole thing look so much more real and unusual. They also added the symbolic meaning of human influence on the natural world.

redesign-walden-11redesign-walden-12Still unsure of whether the shooting in the woods will pan out, we took some backup inside photos and they turned out alright. This is a completely unretouched version of one of them but it has potential to become a decent cover.

redesign-walden-15redesign-walden-14However, by then we were intent on trying out the idea of using the actual woods as background and so we went out again to create Walden 3.1, which was to become the final version of the cover. Of course, this session couldn’t have been too simple either. Once we got to the right spot, we realized we forgot the camera card. Classic us. (Also, it was alternatively very hot and rainy.) Then, we needed to decide where to place the frame so that there would be good contrast between lettering and the background. It took many, many attempts and a few moments of utter discouragement.

redesign-walden-17But finally we took a few photos that we could use. This was obviously not the end of the story (long as it already must seem to you). In fact, Walden was by far the most complicated and time-consuming cover when it came to retouching it. Even the back cover, which is twigs on the ground, took forever, because it’s actually composed from a couple of different photos. But we really enjoyed working on this cover, despite all the small frustrations on the way, and it’s too bad one can’t combine designing with outdoorsy activities more often.

redesign-walden-03redesign-walden-02Oh, as a side note: when we brought our pile of… well, plants to the house to arrange the border this fellow traveled along:

redesign-walden-08It was too lovely a coincidence to ignore so we did place him on the cover (even though as far as we know, nobody noticed yet).


redesign-roman_decline-01One of our first attempts at tangible type was a poster for I, Claudius, where we used the idea of Roman letters shattered into pieces. However, back then we used paper for only a metaphorical illustration of the broken monuments/memories/etc. When revisiting this idea for the Words Matter cover of Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire – a classic historical study on why the Roman Empire weakened and fell – we wanted to try a more challenging approach: we wanted to use material that would be a more direct illustration of crumbling stone.

Of course, using actual stone might be cool but there were two problems with that. One, it would have to be machine-cut and the project was about manual creation of typography. Two, we probably couldn’t really afford it. However, we found an alternative which proved so, so much fun to work with: clay.

Back in art school we had some experience with clay during a sculpting class. It was a most discouraging experience and the worst part wasn’t even the rumor that the clay we had to use had worms in it (could it really? I don’t know). So we were at best wary of working with clay again but it turned out the kind they sell in arts supply store is very clean and very easy to work with.

redesign-roman_decline-09redesign-roman_decline-11 Once we had the letters ready, we dried them and arranged into the whole composition as designed before. We chose an orange background to loosely evoke ancient art and for its associations with burning but also for the energy it added to the design.

redesign-roman_decline-08 redesign-roman_decline-06 redesign-roman_decline-07 redesign-roman_decline-04Finally, another fun part came. We had to break the letters into smaller pieces. Luckily, they were brittle enough (not something you could expect from actual stone) and you had to simply tap them here and there.

redesign-roman_decline-03This is another cover based on a simple idea and quite minimalistic means so, as you can probably guess, we really like it. It’s always satisfying when the simple solutions pan out and the message comes across easily. Of course, we enjoy a convoluted, poetic solution every now and then but directness often makes for good communication.

redesign-roman_decline-05 redesign-roman_decline-02

redesign-deuxieme_sexe-01Some of the previous tangible type projects we worked on before Words Matter, were actually meant as sketches for this large project. And so the idea of pin typography on a cushion appeared already on this blog, as you might or might not remember. While then it was only a formal experiment, this time we wanted the elements of the composition to relate meaningfully to the work they illustrate, namely The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir – another classic of feminist thought.

While approaching femininity in The Feminine Mystique (here) we focused more on its meaning as defined by a social role. For this cover, we focused more on the physical and sexual aspect of the problem. We wanted to evoke the atmosphere of an elegant bedroom, with the subtle, fleshy color of the pillow and the smooth material underneath it.

redesign-deuxieme_sexe-03The lettering is a feminine script, shaped into a triangle to suggest, together with the pillow’s color, a woman’s body. However, the lettering is not embroidered: it is formed of black-headed pins. This brings additional meanings of pain and discomfort to illustrate the difficulties of the definition of femininity.

redesign-deuxieme_sexe-09redesign-deuxieme_sexe-08Of course, it took a while (and a whole lot of pins we bought for the occasion) to create the whole lettering composition.


redesign-deuxieme_sexe-05 redesign-deuxieme_sexe-04But I think shooting it was more difficult than arranging the pins.

redesign-deuxieme_sexe-06redesign-deuxieme_sexe-02At any rate, we enjoyed working on this project. We felt it included making some less obvious decisions along the way: some alternative solutions we could’ve chosen would have probably subtly changed the meaning and these things are always interesting to explore.


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