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It’s been (too long) a while since we last shared with you the love for our design idols. Today we want to focus on someone who we’ve been reminded of in a gift shop of Les Arts Décoratifs, where we saw a huge Dior exhibition: Mats Gustafson. His huge impressive book of illustrations for Dior was sold there and it was so pretty (but also large and expensive so we couldn’t buy it, not yet anyway – take a look on Amazon, if you’re interested). But we knew his work before (one of us anyway, the one who loves fashion illustration and thinks no one does it better than Gustafson).

Gustafson is a Swedish illustrator living in New York, with a background in stage design, who introduced into fashion illustration different media: watercolors, cutouts, color papers and uses them in such a unique, beautiful way that his work is instantly recognizable. Fashion illustration generally tends towards pretty but Gustafson makes it sublime, with his minimalist, painterly sensitivity (based on solid skill in drawing). Gushing time over, now look at the pictures (from the artist’s official representative’s site where you can see his newer work now – these works below are from our archives) and fall in love.

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We find patterns a particularly good test of how a style is working for fashion illustration. Test passed.

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Incredible use of paper.

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And a deer. For his personal projects he seems to like drawing animals. And what do you know, he’s great at it.

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This year the Graphics Department of the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdańsk is celebrating its tenth anniversary with, among other things, an exhibition of works by teachers and graduates. As this is a place we both hail from, our work was also exhibited and yesterday we attended the opening (hence the delay, sorry!). The exhibition was curated by the estimable Anita Wasik and designed by the talented Dorota Terlecka.

We chose to show our Shakespeare Project, which has not had as much exposition as some of our other projects but remains one of the things we’re most proud of, so we are happy to see it out there.

That’s our entire corner. Each artist got to design the large banner and whatever they wanted in front of it (within budget constrictions, of course). We showed a selection of Shakespeares with the identity of the project.

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Hanging those lines was soooo swear-inducing, I tell you. But hey, I did it.

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Of course, our stuff is a great reason to see the exhibition, should you be in the area, but there are other designers, and personal friends, showing their projects, too. Here are some random impressions but there are tons more.

Lettering by Eugenia Tynna.

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Posters by Tomasz Bogusławski.

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T-shirts by Patrycja Podkościelny.

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Bugs by Agata Borkowska.

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Hedgehog pants by Agata Królak. Pants. With hedgehogs!

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Patryk Hardziej.

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A board game by Anna Gawron and Dariusz Ogrodowczyk.

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If you know as at all, you know we love tangible type, book covers and paper. Our “Inspiration” archive is full of such finds and today we decided to share a few lovely works which combine all these things: prepare to be amazed by book cover designs where the title is made of paper.

We will start with ours – and everyone else’s – favorite, the brilliant Peter Mendelsund and his covers for Ben Marcus. The covers use deceptively simple typography on slips of paper interwoven with almost as simple ornaments. The ornaments directly refer the parts of the titles (flames, sea) and boast lovely, subtle color palettes. It’s always particularly impressive when something looks almost too easy to bother with and yet is masterful.

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This cover designed by Gabriele Wilson also uses the traditionally printed words which are surrounded by a seemingly random, but really quite sophisticated composition of shredded paper strips. Together they create an atmosphere of mystery and maybe even danger but mixed with the kind of ennui in administrative offices (I’ve no idea what the book is about, just interpreting the cover image).

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One of the common – and usually quite successful and guaranteed to make us happy – tricks is writing made of paper which peels off, revealing something underneath it. However, in this design by Zoe Norvell, the three-dimensionality of the text doesn’t focus attention on the layer underneath. Instead it allows for its entanglement with the threads, playing on the title.

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And in this cover by Tori Elliot the cut-out of letters and shapes plays a more traditional function. It creates the clash between the simple white outer layer and the green illustration underneath, suggesting the lushness of jungle but also how it is not evident at first sight.

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This design by Sinem Erkas uses memo notes to refer to the theme of memory and as material for the creation of semi-spacial letters. Even though the letters are very simple in shape, they prove that the designer possesses a lovely sense of form.

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And here are sticker bookmarks used in an delightful – and impressive – composition by Jon Gray. Not only is this design a smart comment on the complexity of the novel, it is also very pleasing esthetically.

Finally, three covers by one of our favorite cover designers ever, an extremely prolific David Drummond. Mr. Drummond is the master of an ingenious idea realized often with minimalist methods, and quite frequently employing paper.

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Paper/page topography.

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Paper lettering.

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Remember we said it would be both minimalist and ingenious?

Obviously, this is only a small selection because paper might be the most versatile material designers get to work with and it allows for all sorts of solutions. Personally, we tend to be most charmed by simple-yet-brilliant ideas executed with a mix of efficiency and lightness, as evidenced above.

Also, traditionally we’re informing you about a 20%+free shipping promo on our Society6 stuff – you’re most welcome to visit our store.

 

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As you may or may not remember, we are big fans of the illustrator Emilia Dziubak and her detailed, colored style, which plays with flat design but goes far beyond it. But her book that we’re sharing with you today, Rok w lesie (A Year in the Woods) is even more than we would have any right to expect. It combines pretty much everything that we love in children’s illustration: details, narration, humor and forest animals.

Each spread of the book shows the same woodland scene with the same animals doing things appropriate for every month. You can see not only the changes in the weather and plants but, most importantly, the different activities in which animals are involved. A huge level of detail means that one can return to the book many, many times, each time finding something new and delightful. The things animals do combine the educational aspect with a lot of good humor. And being very much woods-loving people who try to go for a walk there at least every two days, we find the depiction of the woods charming.

Except for the names of the months, most of the book is wordless, which makes it accessible to younger children (ones who will be able to follow the details, though). The last spread has a list of various animals with a character quirk for each so that one can look for those in the book. It’s actually quite fun to browse through the book multiple times, each time focusing on just one animal and their story.

Book cover.

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Spread for January, more appropriate now that we’ve got some snow.

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April and December

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The introduction to individual animals.

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And now for some highlights from the lady fox’s story of love and family:

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Featuring the cutest baby foxes.

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And the badger’s story of eating and sleeping.

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Today we’re sharing a classic from our library, Saul Bass’s Henri’s Walk to Paris. You probably know Saul Bass from either his logo designs, movie posters or his iconic title sequences he created with his wife, Elaine. Those sequences remain a lasting legacy and have been revered, pastiched and parodied. As can be expected, we’re huge fans of  Bass and of his bon mot “Design is thinking made visual.” It sure should be.

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The book we’re showing today is a slightly less known work: Bass’s only children’s book. Bass’s illustration style, well-known from his posters, is quite recognizable with its vivid, flat colors and cutout shapes. This style is also quite remarkable for how it seems to anticipate the prevalent style of today’s vector illustrations with their, you guessed it, flat colors and geometric shapes.

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But Henri’s Walk is truly a designer’s work, rather than just an illustrator’s (lovely as the illustrations are). It makes a smart use of page layout and typography in a way which is intriguing and playful (see e.g. the ingenious ideas on how not to show the characters’ faces to make the story more general). Both images and the text itself tells a story that delights and makes you wonder. And, of course, the colors are simply gorgeous.

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Henri’s little house in his little town. The town of Reboul seems lovely.

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The park with five trees and one squirrel.

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Most of the people of Reboul plus one cow.

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We spent Sunday afternoon in the zoo, where our son was excited to see kangaroos and crocodiles and other animals he’d only seen in his books (or, he was actually excited to see so many other children and mildly interested in all those animals). To keep the theme, today we’re sharing a children’s book To Be Like a Tiger illustrated by Emilia Dziubak.

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The book is told by a tiger who explains all the good things he does for various animals in the jungle: how he sneaks up on them to give them gifts or ask them to dance. It’s fun and light but, most of all, it’s quite delightful visually. The tiger is friendly and playful and the jungle truly luscious, with gorgeous colors and rich mixed-media details.

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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.

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A classic typographic calendar:

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

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Many of those design decisions still shape our visual landscape.

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