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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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Yesterday we visited our local design festival, Gdynia Design Days, on our way home, and we saw a couple of small exhibitions. We felt it lacked something as engaging for us personally as last year’s exhibitions of illustration for children (here) but several things drew our attention.

This year’s identity of the festival is again by Patryk Hardziej. Here are a few elements of the signage.

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This student diploma project by Paulina Kozicka attracted our attention because, first of all, illustrated animals, but also it looks like an interesting educational tool. It’s meant to teach children to read and while we didn’t exactly understand how (we wish there were some instructions exhibited), our son, who loves letters, got immediately drawn to playing with the elements. Also, bonus points for the lion’s mouth as one of the game spaces.

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The elements of the game are made of wood, increasing the tactile value of the diploma.

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This is a small exhibition which we found the most interesting, eco-freaks that we are. It shows various ways in which trash can be recycled into everyday products. Some of them we found decidedly not aesthetically pleasing (but an interesting trend nonetheless) but others seemed very promising. Paradoxically the best part was the obvious one, showing results of the well-known recycling of glass and paper (below glass made from glass, which is nothing strange but still right).

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And this exhibition focused on climate changes and products you can buy that are a bit more eco-friendly. We liked that the products were buyable on the market but if an exhibition wants to talk about countering climate change maybe it should show more ways to act than just buying stuff. Like composting, composting is awesome.

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An exhibition about cross-over between space exploration and design. It felt almost mystical (also because we weren’t sure what some of the presented things did).

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Last week we shared with you a book by Anouck Boisrobert and Louis Rigaud about the ocean. But the first time we encountered a book by these artists was In the Forest, their beautiful and sad story about deforestation (and, luckily, re-forestation). It uses very ingenious techniques of paper engineering to talk in simple ways about the destruction of forests, still ending on a hopeful note. While the ocean book is probably more cheerful, this one, we feel, works more strongly.

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(Also, as a not-irrelevant side note, consider not buying products with palm oil, if you feel the need to do something.)

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Today let us share a beautiful book called Under the Ocean by Anouck Boisrobert and Louis Rigaud.

The book is a mastery of paper book engineering, with each spread unfolding in two steps: first to show the situation on the surface of the ocean, where the boat Oceano is traveling. Then, with more impressive sculptural effects, we’re shown what’s underneath it. The 3D extravaganza is paired with beautiful, subtle illustration whose strength lies in just enough detail combined with subtle painterly effects and sensitivity.

It takes you on a journey through the richness of the ocean and while not as directly focused on the ecological message as their previous book about a forest (we’ll show you that one, too), it still manages to convey the beauty and the vulnerability of our oceans.

The cover of the Polish edition.

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The boat is starting its journey.

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Whales (the minimalist spread offsets nicely more busy spreads around it.)

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Seals in the Arctic.

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This is probably not exactly like seeing the coral reef but what a beautiful approximation.

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This week we went for a short work-related trip and caught an exhibition of posters by a Japanese designer Kazumasa Nagai. Nagai, born in 1929, has had a long career full of awards and official positions. In the 1960s and 70s he produced mostly commercial work, steeped in Japanese visual tradition and playing with geometric compositions with a strong op-art value. In the 80s he focused more on posters illustrating animals, with a strong ecological message and he’s been creating them since. His work is created by hand, usually silk-printed and much closer to fine art than to pure design in everyday understanding. We saw a collection of about 100 posters that give a good idea of the artist’s style.

The exhibition was held in an old building in the Old Town so there’s an interesting interplay between the posters and the architecture, particularly the woodwork.

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A lovely poster for the conference on the future of the oceans, combining allusions to traditional Japanese woodcut with a photograph.

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Save me please, I’m here and Design Life series.

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A close-up of one of our favorites that shows a beautiful combination of fine-arts sensitivity with design principles.

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An unexpected poster for a Rouault exhibition.

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From Save Nature series.

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Very Japanese posters with golden color (the photo doesn’t really do them justice).

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A close-up where you can see the silk print texture of paint.

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And our favorite pair of posters, with a strong use of typography combined with  delicate patterns.

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(We only had a very bad camera with us so the photos are of a rather impressionistic variety but you can see Nagai’s work online if this seems interesting to you.)

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Coming back from a meeting a few weeks ago we stopped by a nice bookshop full of artsy treasures and, of course, we impulse-bought a children’s book we want to share with you today. It’s by William Grill and it’s called The Wolves of Currumpaw. Fair warning: it’s not exactly a happy book, more of a cautionary tale, as it tells the story of a wolf hunter and how his biggest catch made him turn into a preservation activist (I guess this is the happy part in the end; but first there’s wolf-killing and we honestly found it hard to read).

The loveliest part of the book is the illustration style: how it cites Native American art but also makes it very approachable and child-friendly. The use of crayons for the drawings makes them softer, almost like a blanket, and we feel this softening is quite welcome, considering the subject matter.

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(The wolf starring in the photos is our son’s, from a series of plush toys that help support  WWF.)

An example of the lovely sense of space the book creates.

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The illustrator creates masterful variations between spreads. Some are panoramic views of the landscape, some resemble infographics while others are dynamic action scenes. The color palette is lively and hushed at the same time.

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And this one is somewhere in between an infographic and an action scene.

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(The wolf is called “Oww.”)

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The two wolves eternally happy in the wolf heaven.

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We were quite touched by the book because, well, we love wolves. The issue of  preservation of our local ones is very dear to us and we try to support it as much as we can. (And if you feel similarly, you may always consider donating to WWF or another similar organization. Just saying.)