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So yes, we’re still swamped but it’s high time for a proper post. This time we wanted to share one of our relatively recent book acquisitions, a picture book Here is the Baby by Polly Kanevsky, illustrated by Taeeyun Yoo.

The book tells a very simple story of a baby boy on his day with his family (and especially his dad) as he goes through the routine of meals, a walk, a bath, play and sleep. The very simplicity of the text underscores the actual experience of taking care of a baby, while giving it a touching, sweet quality (we saw online some people didn’t like the text but we find it both honest and poetic with the rhythm and no rhymes).

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The illustrations have a classic, deceptively simple character but manage to gorgeously capture the everyday warmth of family life. They almost shine with domestic light. If there’s one expression to describe the book heart-warming would be the closest. And yep, we probably wouldn’t have cared for it all that much before we had our own baby but now we not only admire the illustrations but find so much truth in the mood of this book. (Though, admittedly, it does not cover teething. Ugh, teething.)

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The illustrations are somewhat old-school, reminding us of really old children books we used to have in childhood.

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We have to admit though that this book might be more interesting to parents than babies. Our son always picks Walk this World over anything.

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(And as an unrelated sidenote, there are promotions all week long over on Society6, where you can buy our posters and some other gadgets.)

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Today we’re sharing a classic from our library, Saul Bass’s Henri’s Walk to Paris. You probably know Saul Bass from either his logo designs, movie posters or his iconic title sequences he created with his wife, Elaine. Those sequences remain a lasting legacy and have been revered, pastiched and parodied. As can be expected, we’re huge fans of  Bass and of his bon mot “Design is thinking made visual.” It sure should be.

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The book we’re showing today is a slightly less known work: Bass’s only children’s book. Bass’s illustration style, well-known from his posters, is quite recognizable with its vivid, flat colors and cutout shapes. This style is also quite remarkable for how it seems to anticipate the prevalent style of today’s vector illustrations with their, you guessed it, flat colors and geometric shapes.

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But Henri’s Walk is truly a designer’s work, rather than just an illustrator’s (lovely as the illustrations are). It makes a smart use of page layout and typography in a way which is intriguing and playful (see e.g. the ingenious ideas on how not to show the characters’ faces to make the story more general). Both images and the text itself tells a story that delights and makes you wonder. And, of course, the colors are simply gorgeous.

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Henri’s little house in his little town. The town of Reboul seems lovely.

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The park with five trees and one squirrel.

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Most of the people of Reboul plus one cow.

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Every now and then our son goes through book phases when he gets very excited about looking through picture books. We’ve got a ton of those books but not all of them are great to look at. And so to celebrate J’s birthday we filled one of the not-so-pretty books with custom illustrations showing J and some of his toys.

It was a fairly quick side project but it was a lot of fun and it got a semi-appreciative audience because J was quite excited to recognize the toys he’s playing with in the pictures.

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From sketch to page. (A form of J’s name is a homophone with the Polish word for a hedgehog and so we have all sorts of toy hedgehogs at home.)

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An underwater page with various bath toys.

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Nothing is more fun than IKEA rats.

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Fun in the playground.

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We spent Sunday afternoon in the zoo, where our son was excited to see kangaroos and crocodiles and other animals he’d only seen in his books (or, he was actually excited to see so many other children and mildly interested in all those animals). To keep the theme, today we’re sharing a children’s book To Be Like a Tiger illustrated by Emilia Dziubak.

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The book is told by a tiger who explains all the good things he does for various animals in the jungle: how he sneaks up on them to give them gifts or ask them to dance. It’s fun and light but, most of all, it’s quite delightful visually. The tiger is friendly and playful and the jungle truly luscious, with gorgeous colors and rich mixed-media details.

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For the second half of holidays we present a travel-related illustration project. Podróżowniki is a series of award-winning children books that introduce popular travel destinations through a mix of information and activities for kids. The books were designed by Podpunkt studio and we illustrated two of them: the guide to Croatia and to the Tatra and Pieniny Mountains in Poland.

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Since the series was illustrated by several different illustrators, to keep a unified look we needed to follow guidelines: the illustrations are hand-drawn, a little sketchy and black-and-white (the bits of color that do appear were added later during typesetting).

The map of Croatia, with tourist destinations and basic information.

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Animal names in Croatian.

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The inner flaps of the covers have additional materials: a memo game with a selection of illustrations and a board game where you recreate your travels with pawns.

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Sayings from the mountains and a calendar of local holidays (some of which include dancing).

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A reminder not to scare animals in the wild.

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Match ghosts with their dwellings (and other local attractions).

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The things you eat in the mountains.

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Hot therms to relax in (illustrations with a lot of details are the best fun to draw).

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Marten, as the source of Croatian money.

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Janosik, a folk hero.

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I know we often say this, but this project was so much fun to work on! While research-heavy and fairly time-consuming, it was one of the most exciting (and relaxing at the same time) things we did in a while because when you draw actually using your hands, it’s a different kind of energy than the usual, computer-based work..

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TD 63–73 is a book published by Unit Editions who totally specialize in design porn. It tells the story of the golden age of Total Design, a Dutch firm that personifies the greatness of Dutch modernist design. The first edition of the book sold out but we bought a reprinted copy and today we want to share it with you.

We find many of these designs not only inspiring but also quite modern-looking. Their way of thinking about logo design, for instance, while characteristic of past decades, is close to ours (and many others’): its geometric logic is something to aspire to.

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A classic typographic calendar:

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Quite appropriately the book is impressively published with embossing and hotstamping on the cover and the slipcase.

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Many of those design decisions still shape our visual landscape.

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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.