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23rd April marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare. Two years ago, for the 450th anniversary of his baptism, we have started what has become our Shakespeare Project, whose results we are sharing with you today.

The logo of the project with symbols for genres of Shakespeare’s work

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We were looking into published series of Shakespeare’s plays and how they were designed because we were wondering about buying a nice collection for our library but we didn’t find anything we’d particularly covet. There are a few collections but not exactly what we had in mind. So instead we decided to design a series ourselves.

At first, however, we (re)read all the plays (and sonnets), looking for symbols or motifs that could stand for the entire play. With some of them it was very simple: it’s quite easy to match a skull to Hamlet or a donkey’s head to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. With others, though, we had to dig deeper and rely on less obvious associations. In the end we compiled a list of possible symbols for each play (many for some, fewer for others).

A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse! and some other symbols used on the covers

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redesign-shakespeare_project-04The idea was to pick one symbol for each play and use it in a sort of ornament but when we started working, we realized that we wanted to broaden this concept a little: not only did we add additional, smaller icons which are also inspired by the stories, but also for each cover one big icon is changed, illustrating in an almost gif-animation-like style the plot of the play. For instance, the ship on Pericles sinks and the crown of weeds on King Lear falls apart.

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We kept the covers fairly simple and used bright, pure colors to make them more striking – a different combination of three colors for each cover.

We also designed the interior of the books, using one special color in addition to black to mark characters, footnotes and such.

Cover and interior for The Merchant of Venice
Othello: interior and a fragment of cover
The beginning of Two Gentlemen of Verona

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Comedies

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Tragedies and poetry

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Tetralogies of history dramas

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In addition to 38 books we also used the icon designs in a poster which summarizes the project. It presents all the plays divided into genres, together with their dates of composition (after Encyclopaedia Britannica). There are two color versions of the poster, light and dark, depending on how you imagine your Shakespeare because we liked both versions and didn’t want to choose.

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If you are a huge Shakespeare fan or would just like to remember what plays he wrote, you might buy the poster on bza (light/dark) or society6 (light/dark). Additionally, this time we are also selling wall tapestries and throw blankets with this design because it’s just such a cool option.

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This was a challenging but satisfying project. Not only did we refresh (and complete) our knowledge of Shakespeare’s work (and it’s always great when you learn something while working) but also we had to work with a deadline and we managed and so can celebrate the Shakespeare holiday. And obviously, it’s always fun to complete a large project on something you like.

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Yesterday we went to Ikea to search for some unexciting stuff for our bathroom and it took us so long that we didn’t have time to go to the cafeteria. But we were hungry so we dropped by the food store to buy cookies. And boy, was it a great decision.

A few years ago we found online a gorgeous cooking book Ikea published as promo material with cookie recipes and the most beautiful minimalistic photos of food we’d ever seen. You might have seen this one: with all the ingredients arranged in geometric patterns. We ogled the photos and admired the idea but were sure the book was not available as such outside of Sweden. Well, as you have sure figured out by now, this is exactly the book we spotted among Swedish jams and cookies, and quite cheap at that. We pretty much squealed with delight (and I clearly saw two guys looking at us like “ew, crazy people”). Even though we didn’t exactly buy what we’d gone for, the trip was an unquestionable success.

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The book has thirty recipes, each illustrated with the spread with ingredients and one with the finished product. All photos are great but the ones with ingredients are particularly memorable. It had virtually zero impact on our decision to buy the book but the recipes actually look quite inviting too.

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(And yes, we bought the mice starring in the photos for our baby, who’s not big enough for cake or cookies yet.)

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If you’ve been following us for a while you might have noticed that we are huge fans of Marianna Oklejak, an illustrator whose style mixes freshness of children’s drawings and adult humor. Every now and then we share her work and time has come to show you our newest acquisition (well, we got it for Christmas but it still counts as new).

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This is a special book in that Oklejak is for a change not illustrating someone else’s work but doing that whole illustrator-as-author thing. And she’s great at it! She draws inspiration from Polish folk art and reinterprets its motifs.

Polish folk art is quite rich and can be visually exciting. Every region had its motifs, color schemes and ornaments, as well as unique techniques of decorating things. This tradition withered to a large extent when people got more interested in the “modern”, industrial design. Folk art got relegated to decorating tourist souvenirs and became viewed as embarrassing. But it’s been having a sort of renaissance now that many designers, particularly interior designers and such, began to draw inspiration from the traditional motifs in a modern way (which also gets trashy sometimes, but often it works amazingly).

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Oklejak’s book uses folk motifs as elements of her fun compositions but adds an educational element. The spread above simply shows various types of local headgear (and only the one with peacock feathers is at all recognizable these days).

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This awesome spread uses stripes from traditional skirts as elements of a landscape full of fields (which is also a typical Polish landscape so that works great).

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Two different folk dance spreads! Do they play Polish folk? (Hopefully not, it’s not great.)

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Traditional lace tablecloths as autumn clouds.

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And paper doilies as snowflakes.

We’re happy that the book has already won an Ibby award because in addition to the fairly obvious educational value it has so much more: a sort of quirky atmosphere that manages to combine tradition with a more modern feel and to celebrate local identity.

 

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Eli, no! is a delightful little book by Katie Kirk. We found it a long time ago online when it was still waiting to be published and waited impatiently for the book that we could buy. It’s a story of a dog named Eli and all the things he does that make his owners scream the title of the book and it will ring quite true to any dog owners out there.

The book is illustrated in a simple vector style with bold colors and unobtrusive typography, which results in a fun, modern look. But its greatest appeal lies in how each spread reflects an observation of some typical dog behavior – and how well these are translated into the book medium.

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(Is this the Louvre in the background? That would be quite awesome. But it’s certainly an awesome squirrel.)

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The next two are possibly my favorite spreads, one with food, one with letters:

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And a heartwarming conclusion (spoiler, I guess):

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At the end of last year we designed the second volume of recipes from the cooking show Atelier of Taste, a brainchild of Jola Słoma and Mirek Trymbulak (here‘s volume one, by the way; it’s been a while since then). Jola and Mirek are fashion designers and chefs, now cooking only vegan and gluten-free meals, and the have gathered new 108 recipes to share with their viewers.

We couldn’t be happier with the assignment: not only are cookbooks always a fantastic thing to design but also we could go (a little bit) wild with special features and so the book has die-cuts and metallic spot colors.

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The spot color we used for the title page visible through the hole in the cover and for chapter title pages is one of those rarer metallic Pantones of a lovely magenta hue. We chose it because the identity of the show uses purple (and orange; we used mostly orange in the previous book) – and also because it’s quite striking. Since magenta is also used extensively on the show’s set, it appears in most photos and so the whole book gains a unified (purple) look. (All the photos used in the book are from the show’s archive.)

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Playing with special print methods is always fun but, of course, the real challenge in designing a cookbook – and so many other books – is the organization of information. Incidentally, it’s also one of our favorite things ever (because we’re loads of fun to hang out with).

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In addition to the list of ingredients and instructions, each recipe has a short introduction from the authors, time required for preparations, number of resulting portions and nutritional value. We used icons for these sections and, more excitingly, we also designed an icon for each type of dish, such as salad, cake, drink etc. (a total of 19 icons, not all of them quite easy to come up with). We used them by the page numbers and on chapter title pages (and on the contents pages, as shown below).

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Chapter intros consist of two spreads, one with a mosaic of photos and another, purple one with a short introduction. Thanks to the use of the same circular die-cut as on the cover, the two spreads are combined.

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We often say that this or that project was so much fun – and it’s true because we love a lot of things about our job – but few projects are as much fun as this one: a book, with special printing techniques and a whole lot of information to organize (and yes, spiral binding).

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Just in time for Christmas and at a cost of just a few sleepless nights we helped Słoma&Trymbulak publish a new vegan and gluten-free cookbook (or, you know, the recipes are vegan and gluten-free anyway). It was an intense process but we’re happy with the result: we got to play with some cool options, like die-cut holes and metallic magenta.

Many, many more images coming up once we’ve edited them.

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.

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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.

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