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We’re happy to share that the book From the City Hall to the Museum about the beginnings of the Museum of Gdańsk that we had the pleasure of designing (in the very stressful beginnings of the pandemic, too) was awarded distinction in the Most Beautiful Books of the Year competition, a yearly event organized by the Polish Association of Book Publishers to honor good design and print in book publishing.

You can see more of the book here.

The book we have a pleasure of sharing today is a first one in a series. We quite enjoy designing series because in addition to the challenge of shaping a new book, you have to think of other issues: will this really cool solution actually work in the next volume, especially if it happens to cover a rather different subject matter? And, a crucial question, how to make the series consistent but not too repetitive?

Anyways, this series, published by Zajezdnia History Center, consists of history books that gather academic essays on specific issues, mostly from the second half of the 20th century and relating to particular geographic locations. The first book talks about the countryside in the western and northern Poland after 1945: the difficulties it went through under the communist regime and how the economy and lifestyle of people changed.

The design of the book is a nod to modernist design which appeared in Poland in a somewhat different form than in Western Europe but was still a very strong visual language. The ornaments in the book, partly crop illustrations, partly geometric patterns (which you’re fully justified to read as fields), appear on the cover and at the beginnings of essays (and they were fun to create). The illustrative material included with the essays is mostly a bit dry and so goes well with the modernist style and the geometric typography. Part of the cover design is printed in green foil.

The next books in the series will retain the typography and the style but with different color schemes and, obviously, different ornamental themes.

Beginning of an essay about attempts to design a typical country dwelling.
Beginning of one of two big sections.
This 1945 poster tells people arriving to Lower Silesia not to waste time pointlessly wandering the town.
Yes, the produce is real.

We haven’t done one of these forever! But we read this incredibly fun book this month and wanted to share the joy.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

What is it? A sort-of-but-not-really YA novel about a magic school that wants to kill its students. It is a treat for anyone who was ever terrified at the idea of Hogwarts.

Why we love it? This is not a life-changing thinkpiece. It is, however, an incredibly entertaining, engrossing story written in a strong, recognizable narrative voice that immediately makes you know the protagonist, El. You feel all sorts of feelings for her and stan for her not-quite-love relationship. It doesn’t overdo the action scenes and will make you laugh, we’re pretty sure. We did laugh, a lot.

It’s this season again! The season to talk about seasons. Last year we showed you the amazing book by Blexbolex, this year a different one, but just as much of a treat: My Four Seasons by one of the most recognizable and recognized Polish illustrators, Dawid Ryski.

The book can serve as a season primer, telling a story of a five-person family (the fifth person being the dog) and how they experience all the seasons of the year. It’s told through simple yet lavish illustrations in Dawid Ryski’s characteristic style, which includes masterful simplification that does not eliminate detail and beautiful color palettes. We especially appreciate the ability to make all the seasons seem appealing because, let’s face it, they’re not all created equal. Don’t even try to convince us they are. But at least they all fuel gorgeous illustrations!

As you can see, there are so many things to love about this book: how all the environments, while different, are consistent when it comes to colors and the level of details, how there’s something fun to do in every season and the sweet, idyllic picture of a family life.

In 2018 Poland, together with many other countries, celebrated a 100 years of independence. This occasioned many interesting projects and we had the pleasure of being involved in one of them. Zajezdnia History Center organized an oral history project in which interviewers talked to around a hundred people whose age neared a hundred (and so the age of independent Poland). The results were published in a book called Contemporaries of Polish Independence that we designed.

The interviewees talked about their life and how it was affected by the turbulent hundred years of the Polish century: from the 1920s and 1930s, through WW2 and the communist regime up to the actual independence and democracy. The book is divided into chronological chapters and illustrated with private photographs, some of them quite amazing.

Even though we were tempted to emphasize parts of the text, the editors wanted all the interviews treated equally not to single anybody out and so we simplified the original typographic project. We added purple to national Polish colors (red and white) so that the overall result is more interesting. The cover includes portraits of all the people from the book, while the hotstamped empty circles suggest all the other centenarians who also witnessed the last hundred years in Poland.

Table of contents.
This might be the best photo in the entire book. But the competition is strong.
What did we say about amazing photos? This gem reminds us of a famous photographer Tadeusz Rolke’s work but it comes from a private photo album.

We spent so much time taking photos of some of the last year’s books we designed that we didn’t manage to edit the photos for today! So instead of a full project presentation that is, obviously, coming, please enjoy for now previews of two books in their unretouched glory. And don’t forget to have a glorious week!

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!