Tag Archives: modernism


This year marks 100 years of the establishment of the Bauhaus school of design and we (along with the rest of the world) are celebrating the occasion with a poster.

Bauhaus is one of the most recognizable names and most important institutions in the history of design and particularly modernist design which – as you may know or not – is very much what we love. So working on the poster was pure (math-tinted) pleasure.

We drew several iconic Bauhaus designs isometrically (celebrating Bauhaus artists’ – and ours – fondness for isometry) and arranged them into a number 100.

You can buy the poster on the Bazaar or Society6.


Our version of the logo for the centennial.


This detail includes Wassily Chair by Marcel Breuer, Marianne Brandt’s tea infuser and pot by Wolfgang Rossger & Friedrich Marby.


This detail includes furniture from Gropius’ office and nesting tables by Josef Albers.



This might be our favorite piece of Bauhaus design: chessboard by Josef Hartwig.


Happy Bauhaus 100!

Last week we took J to an exhibition in Sopot that shows three Japanese poster designers. He didn’t seem much awed by those masters but we were, and so we’re sharing with you some highlights. (Note: the gallery didn’t allow for photos in the exhibition so all the images are internet-derived.)


We were definitely most impressed by Ikko Tanaka, who started his long career in Tokyo and worked for many institutions and corporations. We knew some of his work, mostly the posters based on illustrations of  faces, but seeing many posters displayed together allowed us to admire the style he developed. He combined modernist love for geometricization with a sensitivity to the Japanese tradition of woodcut and illustration. He also managed to make these posters very decorative with the choice of color and with a really good sense of how to use simplification to create attractive forms.

Tanaka’s famous face posters: on the left the most well-known one. These show his mastery of simple forms and colors.


Tanaka’s geometricized natural forms form the possibly most accessible part of his work.


The second designer, Yusaku Kamekura, is probably the most revered one, and slightly older than the other two. He also combined Western inspirations with Japanese tradition but in a less consistent way: he used different techniques, geometric, painterly, even photographic. He’s most famous work is probably that related to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.


There is something very decorative and ornamental about many of Kamekura’s posters.


And the third one, Shigeo Fukuda, differs a bit. He didn’t seem that inspired by either modernism nor Japanese traditional art but instead sought surrealist metaphors and visual illusions. While we like his ideas, the style speaks to us the least, reminding us of some later Polish poster designers we don’t necessarily enjoy as much.

Fukuda returned many times to the same motifs, like the folded piece of paper…


…or the most charming one, an Escherian dachshund.


In addition to the very interesting poster exhibition, the gallery also held two more typically art exhibitions: one of Polish painting (mostly from 19th and early 20th century) and one of contemporary art inspired by a Polish modernist sculptor, Katarzyna Kobro. These excited our son more, particularly the projector used for one of the modern exhibits.

A most impressive painting by Weiss, showing school girls on a walk in Kraków. We were awed by the subtle color palette and the photographic composition, particularly that not all of Weiss’s work is equally exiciting.


Speaking of dachshunds (?), a charming pastel sketch by one of our favorites, Stanisław Wyspiański.


A variation on a medieval illumination turned into a fairy tale by Zbigniew Waliszewski (“The Hunt”).


From the modern art exhibition something right up our valley, a typographic installation by Aurelia Mandziuk-Zajączkowska. Letterforms inspired by Polish modernism.


And this is Kobro’s work, a nude.



TD 63–73 is a book published by Unit Editions who totally specialize in design porn. It tells the story of the golden age of Total Design, a Dutch firm that personifies the greatness of Dutch modernist design. The first edition of the book sold out but we bought a reprinted copy and today we want to share it with you.

We find many of these designs not only inspiring but also quite modern-looking. Their way of thinking about logo design, for instance, while characteristic of past decades, is close to ours (and many others’): its geometric logic is something to aspire to.


A classic typographic calendar:


Quite appropriately the book is impressively published with embossing and hotstamping on the cover and the slipcase.


Many of those design decisions still shape our visual landscape.


re-shop-friendsThis week’s Society6 promo is even better than usually: in addition to free shipping there’s also 5$ off everything. Follow this link if you’re interested in buying some of our awesome stuff. And now onto the proper post.

outbox-foto-15Once we started working on the photos of Escape Out of the Box book we made so many that we decided to split the post into two. Last week we talked about the concept of the book and our layout decisions and today we want to focus more on illustrations. Both layout and illustrations refer to modernism as the dominant style of Gdynia’s architecture (well, at least the interesting parts of it). The best way we could think of to reference modernism was to draw inspiration from Isotype infographics, whose huge fans we are. We started by working out a way of drawing a human figure and the rest came from there. Below is an illustration of various people involved in building a house. It was, in fact, the first illustration that we created.

outbox-foto-21 redesign-outbox-15 outbox-foto-30(Also, possibly you can see us geeking out a little in this illustration of modes of transportation.)

outbox-foto-23 outbox-foto-10outbox-foto-32The Infobox building that the book describes gave us plenty of material to work with. Above the concept of scale is explained with a drawing of a kind of recliner they have in front of the building. Music bands play in the restaurant terrace.

outbox-foto-24We found the technical character of the illustrations quite useful because many of them, in addition to being decorative, served an explanatory function. Above our instruction of making a frotage drawing.

outbox-foto-25 outbox-foto-06 outbox-foto-29To draw portraits we needed to expand the style but we had fun doing that. To the left is a portrait of writer, Stefan Żeromski. Above, Vitruvius.

outbox-foto-05 outbox-foto-09

There is, in fact, a kind of periscope in Infobox, which you can use to look at Gdynia from above. It’s surprisingly fun.

outbox-foto-27This is the fox from The Little Prince.

outbox-foto-31And a tree-hugger, to go with one of the most difficult illustrations we made: a view of the building with the yard in front of it. It explains the use of various materials in the construction. It’s rather hard to draw materials in a linear, vector convention, believe you me.


redesign-outbox-01It only took us forever but we finally finished with the photos and can tell you more about the exciting book project we did, celebrating a building called Infobox that was added to the landscape of Gdynia not so long ago. This is what the building looks like (promotional materials of the city):


It was created to revitalize an unkempt square in the very center of Gdynia, built in harmony with and even onto the existing structures. It made the area attractive for all the citizens, rather than just those that drank beer in crummy bars that used to be there. The building’s architecture, while controversial, is quite striking. It consists of several linked structures, the most characteristic being the one on the right, as if built of glass boxes. It also references the modernist tradition of Gdynia’s architecture. The building houses some city offices, a nice cafe/restaurant and is a convenient place of meetings and rest. The people working there also organize events promoting the city and the publication of this book was one of such.

The idea to use this building as a tool to teach children about architectural concepts came from the local foundation Architektura+ and its lovely leader Anna Wróbel-Johnson, who’s the author of the text and who invited us to design and illustrate the book. If you know anything about us, you know it was pretty much the perfect assignment. Not only is it an interesting book by itself, but also we got a lot of freedom to design it and, as a huge, grid-shaped cherry on the top, it allowed us to play with our beloved modernist tradition.

redesign-outbox-02redesign-outbox-03The book is aimed at older children and through the example of Infobox it introduces children to such ideas as function, composition, perspective etc. It promotes learning through doing by offering a selection of fun activities to be performed, many of which require visiting Infobox and observing it closely.

The book is spiral-bound, which is definitely one of our favorite types of binding. The thick carton cover has a die-cut hole in the shape of an isometric outline of a box, which shows a box-constrained lettering underneath. And voila, once you open the cover, the letters get “out of the box,” to illustrate the unconventional thinking that the book promotes.

The shapes you can see in the photo above are elements of a paper model of the building that Architektura+ created and which accompanied the publication. Children could cut it out and create the model (and I’m sure they managed it better than we did).

redesign-outbox-04The book is color-coordinated: each chapter has its lead color, as shown on the contents page above. Obviously, the motif of a box organizes much of the design. In homage to modernist design, we also used strict grid and a modernist, sans serif typeface (one of our favorites, too).

redesign-outbox-05redesign-outbox-06Each chapter starts with a colored page, introducing the concept of the chapter with an illustration and a quote. Above: Genius Loci, or the spirit of a place and Function (with icons depicting various things you can do in Infobox; in addition to the obvious, you may build Lego models there).

redesign-outbox-07  redesign-outbox-10An additional bonus of this assignment was a chance to illustrate it in a modernist style. However, we will tell you much more about it next week when we focus specifically on the illustrative part of the job (we didn’t want this post to go on forever).

redesign-outbox-08The chapter on materials ends with a tracing paper insert that can be used for making a frotage illustration.

redesign-outbox-11 redesign-outbox-12The subject of the book required illustrating architecture, which we are always happy to do. In the spreads above you can see two well-known buildings of Gdynia.

redesign-outbox-13 redesign-outbox-14 redesign-outbox-15Yep, it’s a modernist, Vitruvian woman. Tune in next week for the rest of the images.

re-model_city-02This year the Museum of Gdynia celebrated the Night of the Museums with a presentation of the city’s special brand of modernism. We had the pleasure of designing and illustrating an activity card for the participants. It gave us the rare joy of drawing buildings and playing with modernism-inspired typography. We showed you sketches when we were working on them but today we have the final product to share.

re-model_city-05The card is double-sided and folds into a map-like shape, with an actual map on the back. Each part presents one characteristic building and suggests tasks to work on, such as drawing, comparing facades or filling in a crossword puzzle.

re-model_city-06As you may imagine, we had a lot of fun with the buildings, and just as much with the illustrations of people in their old-fashioned outfits (Gdynia was built at the beginning of the 20th century and is rather proud of its relatively fresh legacy).

re-model_city-03 re-model_city-04These days Gdynia has a nicely modernized train station (it used to be pretty horrific a few years ago) and during renovations they discovered quite charming mosaics, which look something like this:


Obviously, this was another part that we quite enjoyed illustrating.

re-model_city-07 re-model_city-01And the fun model of the building made of laser-engraved wooden board is courtesy of Architektura+ foundation, who were responsible for many aspects of the whole event.