Manuka Studio is a joint effort between two graduates from the Fine Arts Academy’s Graphic Design department. They create commercial designs – from board games to publications, which often contain vibrant colours and a hint of humour.
The studio was established by two designers: Marta Malesińska and Natalia Baranowska. They both graduated from the Warsaw Fine Arts Academy. Malesińska, in addition, went to St. Joost Academy in Breda, the Netherlands, as well as interned under Michel Buvet in Paris. Both designers declare that in their work they find the contact with other people to be the most important factor, both with their clients and with the product's intended users. As they explain it:
What makes designing so exciting for us are meeting with different people, their ideas, way of thinking and looking at the world. Our most important projects were born as a result of long, often turbulent conversations with our clients, seeking inspiration together. Each meeting is extremely satisfying.
Their Warsaw Reads poster made its way into the 3rd edition of Print Control, a publication compiling the best of contemporary Polish graphic design. One of the most successful projects of this designer due has to be The Queue, a board game prepared for the Institute of National Remembrance. This 2011 project is an inventive way of commemorating the times of the Polish People’s Republic and its empty shelves. The people in the queue are tasked with buying specific products. However, the twist is, they are not available everywhere, and they appear scarcely in different places. The game was quite a hit, with various foreign editions made – German, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, French, and Romanian. All over the world, the game was equally praised for the idea and for the design. Manuka Studio decided to package the product in simple, grey paper, making the whole resemble an old-fashioned parcel. Inside, a plain, grey board and a set of cards is hidden. The cards are decorated with bright, eye-catching colours, with illustrations of freakishly small bodies with disproportionally huge heads. The add-on to The Queue, called The Line, adds some extra playing cards.
One of their latest projects, Planet Nomino is another board game, this time addressed to a younger audience. There, the designers let their imagination loose, creating a series of fantastic beasts – PropellSpin, Bakiel, or Whirrer. All these disfigured monsters are imagined in pastel colours.
Vivid, vibrant colours are kind of a staple for publications designed by Manuka Studio. Aktor (trans. The Actor), a book that came with the play of the same name directed by Michał Zadara, is based upon an eye-catching yellow, which, in a more toned-down interpretation appears also in a book Haiku Wybrane (trans. Selected Haikus). On the other hand, in the series Ekonomia Społeczna (trans. Social Economics) they opted for blue and purple.
This flamboyant use of colour is equally visible in their designs for websites. The one for the Identity. Move! project is based on toned-down blue, red, and beige. The visual identity and website that the studio prepared for Polski Theatre in Bydgoszcz aims at clarity of message and the message itself, rather that aesthetic effects, resulting in a minimalistic design in black and white. They are also certainly not afraid to experiment with their works. For MediaLab, a series of multimedia workshops, during which IT specialists, designers and artists co-operated, Malesińska and Baranowska chose to write code with a predefined colour palette and a series of commands. The code became a basis for creating endless combinations which were later used by the duo to design covers and gadgets.
Author: Agata Morka, April 2017, transl. by AS
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