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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.

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.

As promised last week, we are sharing the proper photos of the temporary monument built in front of the city hall in Gdynia to commemorate the shipyard workers killed in December 1970 by the communist governement.

The display combined architectural design, animation and graphic design to share information about the events that happened 50 years ago in the city streets. We were touched to see positive, interested reactions of people who happened to come by to see the display as we were taking photos of it.

This was a difficult, also emotionally difficult, topic to work on (it also included time restraints and lots of spray painting) but seeing the raised construction at night was quite powerful.

Credits: concept and architectural design by Anna Grabowska with the technical help of Tomek Sokolski, script by Maugo Domańska, animations by Esy-floresy Studio, management by Hilta/Paulina Neugebauer.

Section titles are taken from a famous, vernacular song about the events, “Janek Wiśniewski Fell.” The wall below shows the entire song. Many of the archival photos from that day, including the one used below, show a crowd of people carrying the body of the killed boy on a door. This became a powerful symbol.

This is the wall with the animation panel – it’s hard to tell in some of the photos because the animations fit so well with the rest of the design, thanks to the great work of Esy-floresy.
Above the title wall (with the Year 1970 Gdynia) there’s another, smaller animation panel (with the eye).

In addition to the construction, another commemorative design consisted of a series of black flags/banners spread over the main street of Gdynia. Some of them were entirely black while others carried first names and ages of the people killed in those events.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the tragic events that took place in some cities in Poland, including Gdynia, where we live, in December 1970. Poland was then under a communist regime and at this time people went on strikes caused by the rise of prices of basic articles. The situation escalated to shootouts in the streets, which resulted in deaths and injuries. In Gdynia most of the victims were young men going to their work in the shipyard. Here’s a Wikipedia link for a small article on the subject.

We had the priviledge of working on an installation commissioned by the city of Gdynia to commemorate the events. The installation was conceived and designed by Anna Grabowska with the technical help of Tomek Sokolski, the texts were written by Maugo Domańska, and animations done by Esy-floresy Studio with the whole thing managed by Hilta/Paulina Neugebauer (and this was really a dream team to work with).

The design we created was meant to be a little dirty, so that it doesn’t look like a typical street exhibition about historical events but that it brings to mind a street object that got written over. We used archival materials: articles and photographs. Some of them, showing crowds, are placed in such a way as to make the passerby feel a part of the demonstrations.

Today we are sharing some making-of photos (building-of, to be precise) taken last Monday, with the installation still being raised. It’s up now in front of the city hall – if you happen by Gdynia, be sure to swing by. We’ll show you the end result once we take the photos of the finished structure.

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The Poor, the Sick, the Orphaned. Hospitals of Gdańsk from the Middle Ages till Modern Times is a book we designed for the Museum of Gdańsk. It describes the phenomenon of Gdańsk’s early hospitals, which date back to the Middle Ages and which started as religious charity ventures for people that had nowhere else to go. In fact, the first hospitals had surprisingly little to do with what we think of as hospitals today. The book accompanied an exhibition that we also designed and that was prepared by the historians of medicine.

The title of the book is printed on the cover with red shiny foil and throughout the book we used the original etchings and paintings that illustrated the history of Gdańsk’s hospitals in the exhibition so that it’s part collection of historical essays and part catalogue.

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The book Miasta skoszarowane (Cities as Military Barracks) by Jan Daniluk was published by the Museum of Gdańsk. This doctoral thesis describes the life in the cities of Gdańsk and Sopot during the Second World War when the German army stationed there and how this affected people’s life. A large part of the book focuses on the daily life under those difficult circumstances.

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Because of the subject matter we chose a strong visual language with some disconcerting elements. Everything is printed in black and vivid red, some elements are framed with thick broken frames symbolizing the oppresion of the period and many typographic elements are broken. We are grateful to the author (and quite impressed by him!) for his openness and trust in our ideas which led to an unusual historic book (and, of course, to the publisher for agreeing to all of this).

The cover with an archival photo. The broken frame is printed with black foil.

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The beginning of chapter three: a title spread and first pages.

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As promised last week, we are sharing with you one of our favorite designs of the last year: the book for the Castle Museum in Malbork, Sapientia Aedificavit Sibi Domum.

The book tells a story of the State of the Teutonic Order in Prussia in over a dozen scientific articles, both in Polish and in English. It accompanied a large exhibition organized by the Museum last year (exhibition design, elements of which we used for the book design, was created by Maciej Bychowski).

The book’s limited color scheme of black, white and silver is derived from the imagery of the Order, including the famous white coats with black crosses on the back that inspired our design of the dust jacket. When the dust jacket is unfolded, it doubles as a two-sided poster. On the silver cover the title is hotstamped in brighter silver and the exhibition logo is printed with spot varnish (only visible after removing the dust jacket). Inside we also used silver extensively, including in the photos and for title pages of the chapters. The proportions of the page are golden ratio. We allowed the elegant, classic typography to be the main design element in most of the pages.

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Dust jacket unfolded into a poster.

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Contents page.

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Title page for a Polish version of an article with two bookmarks visible.

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The beginning of an article.

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Silver photo on black.

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Title page of an English version of an article (silver on white).

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We loved working on this book and hope it shows in the design.

 

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A few months ago we finished a book  for the Malbork Castle Museum.

The Malbork Castle is a world-famous heritage place, a 13th century castle built by the Teutonic Order (Malbork was then called Marienburg if that tells you more). It is a truly impressive historic monument well-worth visiting. The book is a scientific study of life in the castle at the time when the Teutonic Order lived there. It talks not only of politics and economy but also of minutiae of everyday functioning of this huge establishment.

The book’s design had to be sober not to distract from the academic content. Mainly, we had to make the information aesthetic and legible. We chose to use a golden-brown spot color for all the special texts in the book and for archival photographs which are printed in gold and black. The cover contains a golden-brown photo of the castle and the title is hotstamped in silver.

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We will share more photos of the book later but for now they’re not properly edited so check back soon.