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It is white outside and summer seems far away. One way to make it feel closer is to look at books from summer holidays, which, for us, tend to be about Paris. Paris Paname by Sébastien Plassard is a charming picture book based on a simple idea of folding pages. When folded they show one scene in a typical Parisian area and when unfolded – another one, sometimes changed quite subtly. Each illustration includes the thrill of  surprise.

It reminds us of games we used to play as children, in which unfolding a piece of paper changed the illustrated story: it has the same joy and inventiveness, although a much more sophisticated color palette than we tended to employ. If you like your books with a little twist, you might enjoy this one.

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Promo image for Christian Dior exhibition.

During our last trip to Paris we chanced upon a spectacular exhibition in Musée des Arts décoratifs celebrating the life of Christian Dior and the history of his company. For people really interested in fashion this exhibition, called “Christian Dior, Couturier du rêve,” must be almost unbearably exciting and for us, who only know fashion randomly, it was still a great experience, particularly because of the incredible design of the exhibition and the scale of the event.

The entrance is arranged as an entrance to Dior’s boutique, using the impressive architecture of the museum combined with lights and movie screens. Each room is governed by a different idea – conceptual and visual – but with everything kept orderly through a consistent use of black, white and splashes of red.

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Smart use of movies makes you feel like you’re looking into the atelier.

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Early on a room called Colorama shows hundreds of things the house of Dior designs (shoes, accessories, cosmetics, models of dresses and what not, you get lost in the details) arranged by color and it makes a truly spectacular impression. Unfortunately, we don’t have any photos because that room was too crowded to take them.

Some time after that you get to our favorite room in the entire exhibition, illustrating floral inspiration. It is covered in leaves and flowers cut out of white paper, with only shadows of colors created with lights. We do have photos of that room but they don’t entirely capture its charm.

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So many paper flowers. I wish you could take some with you.

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Oh yes, there are dresses.

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The dresses are pretty, too.

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But just look at those flowers!

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Some sort of Didoni typeface was really the only way to go, typographically.

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One of the rooms is almost entirely white, covered floor to ceiling with preliminary models of dresses, sort of initial 3D sketches. This serves to underline the technical aspects of sewing, which we imagine most people don’t think about often.

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And after that comes this room, with a long row of iconic Dior designs in black and red. The room is black with lights creating a mechanical rhythm and an impression of a long period of time stretching into the future. See what we mean about careful design?

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The room with iconic designs in black and gray, shown in glass cases.

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And the last room pays tribute to ball gowns, showing them in a sort of ball room built with animated lights where pretty much everyone wants to be a classic Disney princess and wear a dress like that. We did anyway.

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And yes, the exhibition is decorated with some beautiful paintings loaned from other Parisian museums which are almost worth the visit by themselves that you’ll barely pay any attention to with all the other things on show. There are incredible fashion photographs, e.g. by Richard Avedon, fashion sketches by consequent heads of the house of Dior and many, many other things a visual person or anyone interested in fashion at all will enjoy. (You may still visit the exhibition until January.)

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(You can also read my slightly more personal account of the exhibition here.)

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With fall so completely upon us it’s nice to think back on holidays and one way to do that is to look at the books we’ve brought with us. As usual, our trip to Paris has resulted in increasing our library of touristy books about Paris. This time let us share a smart little pop-up called, well, Paris Pop Up by Dominique Ehrhard (here‘s a link, should you be interested).

It presents the biggest tourist attractions of the city as 3D models literally rising from the pages of the book as one leafs through it. Each building is situated in its proper place on a fragment of a map and prefaced by a short introduction on the previous spread. All in all, it’s a simple idea quite ingeniously executed and much prettier than most tourist guides.

The intro map with all the attractions and their relative locations.

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An introduction to the Arc de Triomphe.

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And the Arc itself.

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The Louvre.

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The Notre Dame Cathedral rising from its pages in several steps.

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Centre Pompidou (it even has an exhibition poster visible).

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We return with more books by the estimable Miroslav Šašek, this time presenting two other European cities close to our hearts.

This Is Paris was the first book Šašek created. Published in 1959, it started the entire series and its success: and no wonder because it really captures some of the magic of the city (or specifically, the Parisian magic of the 1950s).

Polish version of the book.

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Notre Dame, one of the best things in the world.

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The Louvre without the pyramid.

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This is Rome followed a few years earlier and doesn’t it look like taken straight from the shots of some of the great Italian movie directors? It always makes us think of it anyway.

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Roman lettering, among other things.

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The Colosseum page shows Šašek’s true mastery at architectural illustration, which combines lightness and precision.

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Next week we’re taking a break because we’re finally leaving for our all-too-short holiday (but there will be small illustrations, as usual). We’re back with big updates mid-September!

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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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First of all, sorry for the missed update. It was on the top of our priorities for the whole week but then something always bumped it down (and mostly it was our son who tends to bump things around on daily basis). Anyways, here we go.

We like to take holidays in May before the holiday season starts for good because it’s (slightly) less crowded and because we always tell ourselves that we’ll take another short holiday in September (and then we don’t). But, clearly, this year we’re skipping the whole holiday thing altogether so instead we will at least talk about a design issue concerning our favorite travel destination ever, which is, you guessed it, Paris.

This year the publications for tourists by The Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau have been rebranded by studio Graphéine. The rebranding comes with a new logo (so, so much better than the old one) – a minimalist typographic design which brilliantly utilizes the Eiffel tower.

It’s very clear that while it’s hard to imagine Paris’ logo without the tower it’s almost equally hard to imagine the tower done right. Graphéine designers gave it a lot of thought: you can read about it in their article about the project (we link to it at the end). We definitely feel they made all the right choices: they did not give up on the most recognizable symbol of the city but they simplified it to the point of abstraction, which way of thinking is close to our hearts. Together the letters create

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The logo is quite awesome but the additional perk of designing for a Paris-based institution is what a great photo you can take of the building signage.

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In addition to the logo the studio also designed various publications, the most impressive of which are the covers of maps and other informative materials based on simple, colorful illustrations. Some of the illustrations allude to specific nationalities (French and British mostly) though we’re not sure if it’s true for all of them.

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A jazzy cover for the informative magazine about what’s happening in Paris.

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The Japanese cover is particularly lovely and it demonstrates well what a nice color palette was chosen.

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The design of Paris Pass, which seems to introduce additional elements (and tone) to the rebranding.

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Here is the link to Graphéine’s presentation of their work with many more images. This project takes on a lovely but potentially difficult topic and deals with it in an effective and charming manner. Much as we love it, it makes us even more Paris-sick because we’d love to get our hands on material prints of all these maps and guides. Tant pis.