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One of our recent(ish) works for the Museum of Gdańsk was the design of a catalog and other materials for an exhibition of silver objects borrowed from the Wawel collection. The exhibition showed a selection of objects d’art displaying the mastery of old masters from Gdańsk. The catalog presents all the objects, prefaced by critical texts by the exhibition’s curators.

We chose to use silver spot color for the catalog (because how could we not). We opted for slightly old-fashioned typography offset by a simple sans serif. In fact, only the titular typeface with its fantastic decorative elements is one of few elements of the design that are not understated. We also designed an ornament inspired by an ornament on one of the exhibits and later geometricized.

For the cover we used a detail of one of the exhibits printed with spot silver, with silver hotstamping of the title directly on it.

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The silver ornament is used in different parts of the catalog.

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A silver spoon. All the exhibits got separate spreads with a full-page photo and a lot of specialized information, in addition to the regular description.

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A spread from one of the introductory essays.

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Introduction by the Museum’s Director.

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In addition to the catalog, we also designed other materials, including informative boards that told the story of some of the exhibits: their previous owners, how they were used etc. We kept the boards consistent with both the catalog and the suggestions of the designer of the exhibition.

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This year Poland is celebrating the hundredth anniversary of independence, which it regained in 1918. The celebrations include many events in different cities and we designed an invitation for one of them, a scientific conference in Wrocław that inaugurates the celebrations there. The conference focuses on the people living in the outer regions of the reborn country and how they helped to shape it.

We designed a “100” logotype which is debossed into the cover and equally readable on the cover and on its other side, thanks to the shape of the digits. The whole invitation is kept minimalist, with silver spot color used on the outside and a text in black and red inside. The inside of the cover uses a quote by Ignacy Paderewski, a statesman and musician who serves as a patron of the conference.

Closed invitation, in silver.

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The inside of the cover, with Paderewski’s quote.

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Open invitation, with information on the conference and its program.

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January is the month when you change your calendar so we want to share the calendar we designed for the Museum of Gdańsk.

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The Museum consists of several departments, situated in some of the prettiest old buildings in Gdańsk. Each month shows a different department with a picture of the building on the one side and a detail, usually from the inside, on the other, so you can choose which picture you prefer on your wall for the given month. The dates are limited to an ornamental strip on the right so that the calendar is mostly decorative. On the last page you get information about all the departments.

The photos used in the calendar are by Dariusz Kula.

The cover uses an old etching of the city house and the Artus Court, both belonging to the museum.

The dominant color is navy blue from the new identity of the museum. We even got the binding in dark blue, which isn’t always as easy to do as it should be with some printing houses.

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Earlier this year we had the pleasure of designing an annual report for the Historical Museum of Gdańsk. The Museum had recently changed its logo and started looking for a new, unified line of publications so the report became an introduction of new guidelines. The report presents the work and the departments of the Museum and all the important events that took place there in 2016.

Since the new logo (by a Portuguese firm, DO / Design Office) is based on a simple, smart solution of simplifying the crosses from Gdańsk’s crest into a grid of pluses, we followed up on the idea and used a derived grid as the main decorative element. We chose the colors of the logo – dark blue and red – as the leading colors of the design and illustrated the text with large photographs so that the publication became a bit like an album. The Museum has several beautiful old buildings with historical interiors whose photos are naturally lovely, and to emphasize the people of the institution we also chose colorful photos of costumed educators and reenactors.

The cover is embossed with the cross pattern and some of the crosses are laser-cut so that the dark blue from the other side forms a pattern of the year 2016. These choices meant a lot of anxiety for printers (“But there will be no foil on the cover!”) but in the end it turned out great.

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Open report, flap folded.

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Flap unfolded to reveal the laser-cut year and the debossing.

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We used the pluses throughout the report as an ornament.

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Close-up of the cover in all its print glory.

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Once again we’re taking time to introduce a well-designed board game (which we hope to make a semi-regular feature, but so far it’s, I think, only the second instalment). Today it’s a Polish game, a bit of competitive fun with somewhat grim historic background.

The game is called “Queue” and it was published by the Institute of National Remembrance. What it strives to remind of is the bad economy of the 80s when there were few goods in stores and people had to spend hours in lines to buy anything. We were really young then so we don’t exactly remember the details of it but this is a part of Polish culture that shows up in movies and colloquialisms. We’re not going to go into gameplay details: suffice it to say that we find it impressive how the game manages to recreate the joy of buying the commonest thing or the frustration of having it stolen from under one’s nose. Emotions run high and it’s done with the simplest math.

But our main interest is the design of the game. In fact, it’s quite unique. Board games have a certain aesthetics which often borders on kitsch and is rarely interesting from a designer’s point of view. Not so with “Queue.” This is clearly a game that was designed, not just illustrated.

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The style is an interesting combination of somber and whimsical but with a healthy dose of humor (perhaps the most interesting thing about the game is how it comes off as charming rather than depressing, while still conveying the sense of grayness of Poland in the 80s). Illustrations use a mix of simple icons with retro photographs and jokey collages, all made more poignant with captions. The board manages to show pre-capitalist landscape with a few gray buildings that don’t have to bother to draw in clients.

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Instructions of board games, even of great ones, are often visually cringeworthy (no idea why that is) but here it’s a worthy component of the whole set (or, in fact, components, because the box contains 8 instructions in different languages). Significantly, typography works well, too.

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The cards are originally in Polish but stickers are provided to change the language.

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Yes, we did recently use the pawns for a poster.

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The game turned out to be quite a success so there was a small expansion published that was sold in this awesome gray envelope.

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redesign-roman_decline-01One of our first attempts at tangible type was a poster for I, Claudius, where we used the idea of Roman letters shattered into pieces. However, back then we used paper for only a metaphorical illustration of the broken monuments/memories/etc. When revisiting this idea for the Words Matter cover of Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire – a classic historical study on why the Roman Empire weakened and fell – we wanted to try a more challenging approach: we wanted to use material that would be a more direct illustration of crumbling stone.

Of course, using actual stone might be cool but there were two problems with that. One, it would have to be machine-cut and the project was about manual creation of typography. Two, we probably couldn’t really afford it. However, we found an alternative which proved so, so much fun to work with: clay.

Back in art school we had some experience with clay during a sculpting class. It was a most discouraging experience and the worst part wasn’t even the rumor that the clay we had to use had worms in it (could it really? I don’t know). So we were at best wary of working with clay again but it turned out the kind they sell in arts supply store is very clean and very easy to work with.

redesign-roman_decline-09redesign-roman_decline-11 Once we had the letters ready, we dried them and arranged into the whole composition as designed before. We chose an orange background to loosely evoke ancient art and for its associations with burning but also for the energy it added to the design.

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redesign-roman_decline-03This is another cover based on a simple idea and quite minimalistic means so, as you can probably guess, we really like it. It’s always satisfying when the simple solutions pan out and the message comes across easily. Of course, we enjoy a convoluted, poetic solution every now and then but directness often makes for good communication.

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solidarity-redesign-08As this week we celebrate Independence Day in Poland and this year something called 25 Years of Freedom, we thought this is a good occasion to show you a slightly older project, a book we designed for the Center of Solidarity in Gdańsk to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Solidarity. (Here’s Wikipedia about the Solidarity movement in Poland, should you feel the need to catch up on history.)

The book is a result of sociological studies about the awareness people have of the movement thirty years after its formation and of its political and historical impact. It includes a report full of quotations from various respondents and results in the form of graphs and tables (which, as you may already know, is something we generally like to design).

solidarity-redesign-02solidarity-redesign-01While inside we were limited to two colors (which in itself was quite an interesting challenge and an occasion to work with mixed inks), on the cover we decided to add silver, which gave the book a technical appearance. We used a dot grid and a technical monospace typeface to additionally emphasize the measuring aspect of the book. This grid, obviously, also organizes the layout inside.

solidarity-redesign-03The book includes a limited number of archive photographs, mostly showing the people of Solidarity or historical moments. We used them especially for chapter openings. Here Lech Wałęsa with Jerzy Popiełuszko.

solidarity-redesign-06Jacek Kuroń on the left, Tadeusz Gocłowski and Tadeusz Mazowiecki with Bronisław Geremek on the right.

solidarity-redesign-05The Pope John Paul II’s trip to Poland in 1979.

solidarity-redesign-04solidarity-redesign-09This might not be the most exciting part for many readers but it was certainly the most challenging one to design (at least once the layout was complete): all the ways to present statistical data.

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