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Happy summer, everyone! To celebrate the turning of the seasons today we’re sharing the book that deals exactly with that: seasons, how they change and what natural and cultural phenomena go with each one of them.

The book is another masterwork by Blexbolex, a French illustrator whose splendid Romance we already shared with you. His work betrays fine arts origins as almost every page would make a wonderful print. The author captures the poetry and magic of changing seasons, not so much with a plot, as in Romance, as with smart, often funny juxtapositions (and masterful drawing). On top of all this goodness there are also impressive printing solutions, using spot colors and great awareness of the possibilities of print which helps achive the richness of the illustrations. Highly recommended!

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The Poor, the Sick, the Orphaned. Hospitals of Gdańsk from the Middle Ages till Modern Times is a book we designed for the Museum of Gdańsk. It describes the phenomenon of Gdańsk’s early hospitals, which date back to the Middle Ages and which started as religious charity ventures for people that had nowhere else to go. In fact, the first hospitals had surprisingly little to do with what we think of as hospitals today. The book accompanied an exhibition that we also designed and that was prepared by the historians of medicine.

The title of the book is printed on the cover with red shiny foil and throughout the book we used the original etchings and paintings that illustrated the history of Gdańsk’s hospitals in the exhibition so that it’s part collection of historical essays and part catalogue.

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In an exciting first, this month we want to recommend a book. You might have heard of it already because it’s definitely not a new book, but we’d still like to add our personal praise to whatever you already know.

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

What is it? A 1992 Pulitzer winner, it retells the story of King Lear, placing his quarreling family in rural Iowa. Basically, it’s Shakespeare among Iowan farmers, with all the passions, feuds and dark psychological insights. It also has a powerful ecological undertone, which is hard to ignore.

Why we love it? Smiley takes the spotlight away from the traditional protagonists of King Lear and instead focuses on the original villains who lose their villainy in the process (there is a villain, just not who Shakespeare envisioned). The narrator is the oldest daughter and her relationship with her younger sister (they’re named appropriately Ginny and Rose) creates the core of the story. The characters are drawn with insight and compassion and the reinterpretation of the classic feels very timely. A great read for any fan of a retelling (which we certainly are).

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The book Miasta skoszarowane (Cities as Military Barracks) by Jan Daniluk was published by the Museum of Gdańsk. This doctoral thesis describes the life in the cities of Gdańsk and Sopot during the Second World War when the German army stationed there and how this affected people’s life. A large part of the book focuses on the daily life under those difficult circumstances.

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Because of the subject matter we chose a strong visual language with some disconcerting elements. Everything is printed in black and vivid red, some elements are framed with thick broken frames symbolizing the oppresion of the period and many typographic elements are broken. We are grateful to the author (and quite impressed by him!) for his openness and trust in our ideas which led to an unusual historic book (and, of course, to the publisher for agreeing to all of this).

The cover with an archival photo. The broken frame is printed with black foil.

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The beginning of chapter three: a title spread and first pages.

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Every now and then we like to share with you work of one of the favorite illustrators of our childhood, Jerzy Flisak. After books on manners we continue with one teaching youngsters How to Study. The book itself is an interesting study of the customs of a bygone era (it’s a couple of decades old) – personally we love this aspect of the old advice books, how they record the history of manners. But from the graphic point of view the illustrations are the most exciting part.

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Flisak was great at balancing: concision with detail, realism with humor. This is perhaps what we’ve always found the most charming part of his work. This book is full of lovely examples. (Note: the colors are added by us, originally the illustrations were printed in black.)

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How are you doing, guys? We’re fine, except when we stumble upon social media – so we basically don’t do it anymore (seriously, if you want to contact us, send us an email, not a Facebook message). We’re sitting at home, of course, but it’s nothing unusual for us (we barely notice, except we’ve moved our gaming night online). We wanted to give you some fun activities to do during house arrest but regular work got in the way so instead we searched our bookshelf for a book with something fun to do when sitting at home and voila! Let’s Bake by Clara Lindström and Annakarin Nyberg, illustrated by Katy Kimbell and Li Söderberg.

This cute book presents a number of recipes for simple sweets that can be made at home with children. The results are photographed but the ingredients and instructions are charmingly illustrated, which helps keep the kids interested and involved. Truth be told, we bought the book for its visual aspect and haven’t tried any of the recipes yet but maybe now’s a good opportunity.

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Hang in there, people, this too shall pass. Do something fun inside!

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As promised last week, we are sharing with you one of our favorite designs of the last year: the book for the Castle Museum in Malbork, Sapientia Aedificavit Sibi Domum.

The book tells a story of the State of the Teutonic Order in Prussia in over a dozen scientific articles, both in Polish and in English. It accompanied a large exhibition organized by the Museum last year (exhibition design, elements of which we used for the book design, was created by Maciej Bychowski).

The book’s limited color scheme of black, white and silver is derived from the imagery of the Order, including the famous white coats with black crosses on the back that inspired our design of the dust jacket. When the dust jacket is unfolded, it doubles as a two-sided poster. On the silver cover the title is hotstamped in brighter silver and the exhibition logo is printed with spot varnish (only visible after removing the dust jacket). Inside we also used silver extensively, including in the photos and for title pages of the chapters. The proportions of the page are golden ratio. We allowed the elegant, classic typography to be the main design element in most of the pages.

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Dust jacket unfolded into a poster.

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Contents page.

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Title page for a Polish version of an article with two bookmarks visible.

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The beginning of an article.

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Silver photo on black.

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Title page of an English version of an article (silver on white).

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We loved working on this book and hope it shows in the design.

 

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We did flake a little at the beginning of the year (sorry!) but December exhausted us completely. We’re back! We’re back with another lovely book, this time by Isabella Bunnel. The book is called Disappearing Acts and it shows endagered animals of different habitats in lovely, painted search-and-find spreads.

Each spread has a unique color scheme, a richness of details and patterns and a sad message: among the variety of well-painted animals from a different terrain, the reader is asked to find some which are literally disappearing.

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Further pages describe the animals and explain the reasons for their endangered status (spoiler alert: it’s mostly environmental damage and loss of habitats).

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The activity part is easy – our four-year-old found all the animals fast – but the lovely, detailed illustrations still invite careful study. The book is educational, too, with an important message. It manages to match the kind of activity to the theme well (the animals are difficult to find because they are fewer and fewer – makes sense). And, most of all, the painting style is so charming and confident.

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