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Today we celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. For this momentous occasion we used some of the icons from our Shakespeare Project – our actual, huge celebratory work – as a guessing game. Do you know which play each icon stands for? If not, you may find the answers in last week‘s post. Or you may read the plays again, of course, which is probably the most appropriate kind of celebration.

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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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We are working on a huge project that we will share next week – and I’d like to say we’re finishing it but no, it’s just “working” for now – so in the meantime please enjoy this random illustration of bears from our archive. Because bears. And cuddling.

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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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European Poet of Freedom is a poetry festival that takes place every two years in Gdańsk. It celebrates, as you might figure, European poets whose work focuses on, well, freedom and social concerns. We had the pleasure of designing the identity for this year’s event and various promo materials.

The festival has been using a rather nice logo, a black and yellow illustration of a broody poet looking at birds. Because it has become quite recognizable and because it offers fun elements to play with we opted to base the identity around the logo but to give its elements more life and dimension by using them as fragments of a paper composition.

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We inserted the poet and the birds into a cityscape suggestive of European cities, particularly Gdańsk with its characteristic tenant houses in the old town.

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The main image that we then adapted for various materials looked like in the poster above. We made the illustration more abstract and theatrical by adding threads for the birds and a frame that turns the whole scene into a picture. We wanted to create tension between symbols for freedom and for limitation. Initially we designed everything in black, yellow and white but added extra colors for the main promo materials, like the poster. We did keep the original color scheme for those materials that had a limited number of colors because of budget or production limitations, as in case of tote bags.

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The most complicated element of the identity is a brochure with the program of the festival. The interior had to be black and white so we didn’t use photos of paper compositions. Instead we only suggested them with similar shapes and typographic solutions.

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By the way, the festival took place this weekend and this year’s winner is Ana Blandiana from Romania so our congratulations to her.

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We had the pleasure of designing a simple identity for a project of Integralia Foundation called doradza.my (which translates something like we.advise). The foundation aims to make it easier for disabled people to re-join the job market and this particular project does it by offering educational online meetings. The logo combines a speech bubble with a wi-fi symbol. Once the identity was ready, we designed some materials based on it, the most exciting of which is a notebook.

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Because the identity uses purple and red the notebook is printed only with these two Pantone colors. Inside in addition to writing space the owner will find information about searching for a job, helpful hints and statistics.

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As you might perhaps know we greatly enjoy designing infographics, graphs and such elements so this was quite a lot of fun but this project also meant that we got to focus more on production values than is often possible. Small color details of the notebook, together with the smooth, cream paper, make for an elegant, inviting feel. The bookmark, rubber band and thread are all red to offset the purple cover.

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And the cover has red hotstamping, making for a minimalist look. By the way, we are fans of hotstamping but actually rarely have a chance to work with it.

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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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