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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.

redesign-pnp-01Last week we showed you Dracula primer but we bought one more book from this series and this one is probably even more exciting because it’s not only a charming book but also a whole playset – based on Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. So you can teach your child to count horses, villages and pounds a year but you can also make your own Lizzy and Darcy figures and act the whole story (or, you know, a different story, as long as it has Regency clothes and carriages in it). If this is not awesome, we simply don’t know what is.

redesign-pnp-02This is the cover of the book, as it lies in the lovely box which doubles as a ballroom. And here are some spreads from the book. As you can see the main elements of the plot are faithfully recreated, including the finances.

redesign-pnp-05 redesign-pnp-06 redesign-pnp-07You can, of course, buy the book without the extra elements and it’s still quite wonderful but you would be missing out on a lot of fun:

redesign-pnp-03The practical box contains also boards with cutout figures and scenery elements, which you can assemble into the elements of your own PnP story. You can make Jane run off with a valet and raise sheep, why won’t you.

redesign-pnp-04 redesign-pnp-08Not only are the illustrations cute and the very idea highly enjoyable, we actually really like the production quality: the pieces are sufficiently sturdy and should probably survive quite a couple of games (at least we imagine so).

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Here goes: we did read Fifty Shades of Grey. We tend to read bestsellers in hope that what made so many people happy will also work for us. Well, it’s sometimes true; sometimes it definitely isn’t. With Fifty Shades we got to be a hit at parties for a little while when we summarized the story to people who had not read it (“No way! You’re making it up, right?”) so there’s that. But, all in all, we don’t really get the popularity of this book.

One thing we found very puzzling was the style of the book and, among other things, how some words would keep reappearing even though they didn’t really fit. Maybe because of our recent work on Friends, we thought how a word-of-the-day toilet paper (the kind that Joey once had) would explain the use of certain words. And once we thought of it, we simply had to reverse engineer this imaginary item and share it with you.

50-words-2-rollWell, we simply had to comment on the phenomenon of Fifty Shades, using the occasion of the world première of the movie. If you count yourselves among the fans, bear with us: I’m sure you hate something we love, too. If you don’t: yep. This book might be a terrifying social experiment. Otherwise, we just don’t get it.

Also, happy Valentine’s!

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re-cowgirls-02Every now and then we get a little… bluesy, shall I say, because we don’t get nearly enough books to design. Quite a while ago in one of such moods, we designed and set a whole novel: Tom Robbins’ extravagant Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.

Even though it’s a single copy printed for us so I guess you could call it a unique book, we wanted it to be rather practical and entirely readable. It didn’t have to, however, pander to any publishing standards, and so the cover is only a cream sleeve with a few holes punched through to show the red cover from underneath.

re-cowgirls-01The title appears on the spine and on the title page. We went with our love for Futura and paired it with a more scripty, old-school typeface for all the display purposes but the text is set traditionally, in a serif typeface.

re-cowgirls-09 re-cowgirls-10 re-cowgirls-08 re-cowgirls-07Each new part of the novel starts with a motto that we printed on fold-in pages with black circles suggesting both punch holes and bullet holes.

re-cowgirls-04 re-cowgirls-05Obviously the circles on the external side of the part intro align with the ones inside to create a more realistic impression of holes.

re-cowgirls-06And finally, for the climactic shoot-out scene, we did something we wouldn’t be able to do with a novel meant for mass publishing and punched holes in the page:

re-cowgirls-03And frankly, we suggest you read the book if you haven’t already. If its tone doesn’t put you off from the start, you’ll probably enjoy it quite a lot.

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We’ve been insanely busy for the last week so today we’re only showing you a sneak peek of three illustrations that happened as a last-minute request. These are fragments of stories we made up for three well-known and well-loved figures. We’ll show you the whole pieces in near(ish) future.

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re-writers-portraitsToday’s illustration comes from a bigger, obviously book-related publication we’re working on right now. We created simple portraits of twelve writers. Some of them you certainly know, some you might not have necessarily heard of as they are more local. This proved to be an amusing challenge and we will tell you more about it once we have the whole project to share.