A Designer in Europe

A Designer in Europe - A Look at the Process

Through this project, I got some great experience in layout/book design and working with large files in InDesign. The final project folder size was 1.85 GB, and contained 679 files, 51 sub-folders. This doesn't include my entire photo album from the trip. Of all the photos used in book, only 3 were stock photos. I did use free mockup files for extending my brands. From start to finish, the project took about 5 months…

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A Designer in Europe - Plovdiv

Plovdiv is the sight of one of the oldest cities. Period. It is known as "the city of seven hills." Most of the old town is built upon three hills in the center of the modern city. The longest pedestrian walkway in Europe is located to one side of the hill. On top of one of the hills are houses with the unique Bulgarian architecture. This is where our hostel is, and where we will first set out from. Let's enjoy Plovdiv!

The most exciting sight on the drive down from Veliko Tarnovo was the Roma villiage outside of Stara Zagorka. We got the camera out in time to capture only the free-roaming horses.

The first thing you notice about the old town portion of Plovdiv is the cobbled street. In some sections it's more like a glacial moraine. There are some rough, jagged rocks on this road. Later on our tour of the city, the tour host told us that during prom every one in the class walks up the hill to watch the sunrise. They only get so far in their high heels before their dates have to carry them the rest of the way up.

Always nice to be greeted with signage and a fresh cup of coffee. Extra little details go a long way to make a positive experience. 

We peek our head into a courtyard in the old town and a young man welcomes us in and explains that the building used to be an old Dervish monestary and is now a restaurant and event space. He gave us a full tour!

This is the room where the Dervish would whirl.

Part of the reaturant is built right into the hill, and uses the old roman foundation.

This bronze helmet is now a lamp, setting the ambiance for a romantic dinner for two.

The seal of the city of Plovdiv.

This device used to slow cook coffee for 8 hours, welcoming visitors of the Dervish.

An example of the Bulgarian architecture and a clever way to expand your interior without paying more property tax.

Old roman theatre put back together in Plovdiv.

The Bulgarian monestary mortar style on this building has something else going for it.

A clever salesman, Georgi, tricks us into getting a tour of the old city. We knew we'd have to give him some money. While it was slightly off-putting at the time, the more we saw him in the next few days with other poor saps, the more we came to like him. He even gave us directions a few various times.

A spiky poster for an opera performance.

The main pedestrian street in Plovdiv. I would say it was crowded but now we have been on Iskital Street in Istanbul.

A traditional Bulgarian bagpipe player giving Lisa the cold shoulder.

Traditional instruments entertain all ages.

An old roman stadium slightly uncovered under the main pedestrian street. Multi-million dollar efforts have failed to produce a viable way to unearth the entire structure.

An old roman forum. It was gated off, or I would have made some proclaimations. 

This is me trying to order what everyone else is ordering during the lunch rush. It involves just nodding your head, handing over a large enough bill that you don't have to worry about knowing what it costs and standing your ground. Then you get a delicious surprise kebab.

Lisa upping her fashion window game. This was a documentation regarding the amount of belted puffy coats we were seeing. (Not documented was the women's construction boot craze in Serbia.

Lots of random legends about this guy. Seems like he was a very likable public creep. Sometimes you can be annoyed with things, but then miss them when they are gone.

Plovdiv was very proud to get named as the cultural capital of Europe for 2019. They were once a cultural epicenter and they want to be that again.

There is a section of the city known as 'the trap.' It used to be a bazaar, but that burned, so they built buildings there. I can't remember exactly when the state came to own a lot of the buildings here but now they are renting out storefronts, free of charge, to artists, in the hopes of revitalizing the area. These flags went up for a specific event years ago. The people liked them and so they have been there ever since.

Endless apartment blocks on the outskirts of many European cities. They are still foreign to see. Maybe a Chicago or New York resident wouldn't think as much of it.

Plovdiv youth hanging out on a nice day.

We visited the regional ethnographic museum located in one of the old town mansions. The building itself was part of the exhibit.

A very friendly artist had a small shop near the top of the hill in the old town. We liked his attitude and purchased one of his masks. 

Atlas Obscura clued me in to another abandoned communist monument. It is like a treasure hunt to go find them. This one had a futuristic pagan feel to it.

Near the abandoned monument was a man-made lake for rowing practice and competition. Everyone was out on the nice day, walking around. Lisa was disappointed there were no boats to see. Well Lisa, I bet we will get some boat time in Istanbul. Into the unknown we go!

A Designer in Europe - Veliko Tarnovo

Wow! Veliko Tarnovo is a city in the north center of Bulgaria  built onto the hills surrounding a meandering river. We had 4 days to soak it all in.

First we wait at a spot with free wifi while we try to get in touch with our host.

The waiting was worth it. We have stayed in some amazing places, but the view from this balcony is pretty special.

A view of the old fortress and the road that leads to it.

In the center of the river bend is a large monument dedicated to the reign of the Bulgarian Kings and a great patriotic symbol of Bulgarian independence. There is also an art museum there, but we rang the bell twice and nobody was home.

Some of the buildings had these graphic iconic facades, it helped give the city some mystical feel.

We knew the weather would be great one day, so we planned a full day outside exploring the old fortress and then hiking up to the monastary town of Arbanasi. The morning fog and lingering wood smoke helped with the medieval ambiance.

I could totally see myself as an archer posted up in my turret waiting for barbarian hordes to attack.

The view of the city from the fortress.

The church at the top of Tsarevets Fortress had one of the most modern, abstract and most hip vibes I have ever seen. We were not expecting this style here.

We would see examples of this again in Istanbul. Don't let good, blasphemous rocks go to waste!

Now that is a draw bridge. I'm glad I didn't notice that as we walked across it earlier.

Time to hike up to Arbanasi. A look back at the fotress we walked from. We are approaching our warmest tempuratures of the trip as we route-find in the hills surrounding Veliko Tarnovo armed with an outdated map in cyrillic.

After a gorgeous hike up what turned out to be quite a mountain, we arrive in Arbanasi. A pizza place with a terrace awaits our arrival. It turns out that the only thing open in the entire town is this pizza place. Good thing we took advantage of it when we did. What a view. The layers are like a perfectly cooked burek.

While the monestaries with their frescos remained hidden to us, the quiet streets and unique architecture was pleasant to walk through. 

Examples of traditional Martenitsas placed on trees. Read more about them here.

We hiked back to the city with a new stray dog companion. We are missing our dog Blue, so hiking with this dog was bittersweet. We decided it was best not to give it a name. It followed the entire way back to the city.

After the hike, the day wasn't finished with us yet. Here is a spectacular sunset to remember the day, it said.

I just want to draw stacks of buildings now.

A visit to the monument.

It is larger than it appears from the city, and it has a modern style about it too.

Freedom chillin' out in the sun.

We visited a private museum and art gallery. Getting prepared to dive into roman and greek history soon.

By the end of our trip we will have an album full of stray dogs and cats (and one curious turtle).

This woman is making kataifi in the traditional way. Kataifi is used to make pastries and baklava.

A Designer in Europe - Sofia

We thought that Sofia might be more like Sarajevo, but we couldn't have been more wrong. From the moment we arrived in Sofia we could tell we were in a large city with a neoclassical style that we hadn't really felt since Prague and Paris. But more on that in a bit. Let's start with our entry into Bulgaria.


It had been my idea to break up long bus travel with few-night stays in cities mid-route to our next known location. I can't say that it exactly worked out. Although we got to see some unique places off the tourist route and had some unique moments. One such moment was when we were on our way out the door of our apartment in Nis, Serbia heading for Sofia, Bulgaria. We had formed an unspoken bond with our host, who didn't speak english and would put his wife on the phone when we had a question In one instance he walked us all the way to a restaurant that he was trying to recommend. So we are leaving the apartment and the host is waving goodbye but gets an idea in his head and says Rakia, a word we know. So we shrug our shoulders and say yes. He runs inside to get three shot glasses and pours them full of a homemade apple Rakia. Then he says, "Like the Russians," and shoots it. So do we, and I say, "that was very good." He says, "even better after three!" We laugh it off but that wasn't a joke. We barely stomach the next two shots and try to laugh it off as we finally wave goodbye to our host (who poured his last shot very light because he had to keep working). To be continued.

The liquor goes right to our heads and we have a pleasant walk to the bus station, remarking how comfortable you can feel in a city compared to when you first arrive and your defenses are up.

But things went downhill from there. We had a slow 5 hour bus trip into Sofia, with no bathroom breaks. I went to some dark places in my mind.

We arrived into a deserted bus station in Sofia. Like a cruel joke, the first three bathrooms we found were out of order, but finally we found 'relief' and were able to now explore our new surroundings, Sofia! We enter into the sparkly new subway en route to our apartment.

Our first morning in Sofia. The city is a mix of neoclassical and brutalist design. There are communist monuments throughout Bulgaria, all in some state of decay.

Approachinig the National Palace of Culture (or HDK). It's part theater, congress center, park and mix of cafes.


Inside the Palace of Culture.

This A is out for a walk.


An old traffic police post converted into a bee themed hangout spot. The rest of these were either abandoned or occupied with traffic police.

Great logotype for a bookstore spelling Elephant. Take a look at the logo on their website for a clearer image.

Lisa took pictures of all street art, including the electrical boxes in every city.

Quite the monument to the people, now a skate park.


A mix of that Eastern Bloc feel and some extra added capitalism sprinkled on top.


We took a cultural walking tour of Sofia and got to spend the day with two local girls who answered all our questions, and helped us with our Cyrillic. 

Bulgaria will not let you forget that they are the biggest producer of rose products. During our tour we got to taste some rose tea and rose jelly. It's a mix of delicate beauty and the feeling that you just ate some cosmetics.


A statue of holy wisdom (Sofia). She was shining bright the first night, when we came out of the subway. 

Street art! 


An old church that still holds services, sits tucked away from the modern life in this courtyard.

Throughout Europe there is history under our feet. But from here until the end of our trip we encounter scenes like this, where they are digging for some new city project and they unearth ancient ruins that demand attention.

A Designer in Europe - Belgrade

Our arrival into Belgrade was a run on our senses, due to passing into Cyrillic territory, but It was also comforting to be back in a European capital after a while on the coast and through BiH.

On the drive into Serbia, it was as if the landscape was teasing us with new and unknown sights, heightening the feeling of getting out of our comfort zone.

Once again, we find ourselves going all out on the first night in town. There was live music at a traditional dinner, and at a bar we stumbled into afterwards. We didn't know it at the time, but we saw live music every night we were in Belgrade. We weren't even trying. The nightlife Belgrade is known for is not an exageration. 

A gallery right by our apartment was displaying the illustration work of Portuguese artist Joao Vaz de Carvalho.

At the Zepter Museum we saw sculptures from Djordjije Crnčević, whose work we also saw in the scuplture garden in Porto Rose, Slovenia.

Lisa regrets not taking more photos of fashion storefronts. 

An entire street in an old part of Belgrade had a mural of a cityscape on it. The work made the otherwise bland wall, very lively and created quite the illusion while walking.

When there is a sign pointing you to the moon, you know you are going the right way.

The Supermarket is a concept store and cafe in a trendy Belgrade neighborhood. It was the epitome of Euro-hipster-chic. We just had to buy a few chachkis here.

Art Nouveau facades on the pedestrian street in Belgrade remind us that we are on a European capital city on the Danube.

Time to storm the castle!

The Church of Saint Sava is impressive in size and shape. It was quite a unique experience to see a mega structure like this still under construction.

We visited the Nikola Tesla Museum to pay respects to one of the greatest scientists and inventors of our time. I wish his urn was dsplayed with more gravitas.

Most food shops in Europe can be considered art galleries too.

We finish off our time in Belgrade at The Mikser House, where Israeli swing band, The Hazelnuts happens to be performing.

A Designer in Europe - Bosnia and Herzegovina

From the moment we arrived in BiH, we could feel some tension in the air. This is a beautiful place that is still trying to recover from the war in the '90s. We talked with many people that want a better life for themselves but don't see hope in their government and in some cases, their community. 

his is the first building we saw coming off the bus in Mostar. It's a crazy disorganized, multi-building, almost blending in to the rocky mountains it sits on.

Robot is like a Walmart, decidedly less cool than the Tron-like images conjuring in my mind when I first saw the logo.

or whatever reason, there was no attempt (yet) to cover or demolish the decaying buildings left over from the war. But interesting art and graffiti lay at the bottom of most of these buildings.

The juxtaposition of a modern commercial building and an old bullet-riddled building.

Near the famous Mostar Bridge, there was an exhibition of photos from the war. The photojournalist owns War Photo Limited, a company that puts on similar exhibitions around the world. Very powerful work.

here there are black dogs, there will be companies and logos made about them.

This building is part of the International School in Mostar, where King Jung Un studied.

rain terminals have given way to bus terminals. I don't mind traveling by bus, but I wish the ceremony surrounding travel was felt more in bus terminals. Most stations have had a strictly commuter-like vibe, without all the roaring-20s hope and grandeur found in train stations.

When we arrived in Sarajevo, we could still feel a little of the tension and recovery taking place, but it was very small in comparison to Mostar (or later, Tusla).

There have been faces on the facades of buildings throughout Europe, but these geometric, mustached guards are unique.

Photos of the reflection on the river in Sarajevo. I think these would make great additions to the rug exhibit we saw in Split, Croatia.

I got to see some graphic design at the Academy of Fine Arts gallery. Design 101 is pretty universal in it's aesthetic.

We really enjoyed these mixed media prints, and later found a gallery on the other side of Sarajevo with more of this artists work.

A fun, modern loop bridge stands in contrast to the other river bridges, and leads to the Academy of Fine Arts.

rave stones are very much part of the landscape in Sarajevo. A constant reminder of the war.

One of the most striking things I saw in Sarajevo was from our hike up to the abandoned '84 Olympics bobsleigh track. It was sobering to see something that celebrated the coming together of nations, and 10 years later functioned as a sniper tower.

he Sarajevo Brewery has a circus-like factory building. I read somewhere that if Willy Wonka had a brewery, this would be it.

Inside the Sarajevo Brewery pub for post-hike drinks.

In the contemporary art gallery we walked into an exhibit which was critiqued by 1st and 2nd graders. It was fun to contemplate their choices.

In one of the lively squares in Sarajevo, there was always a game of mega-chess being played. Snow or shine.

'The Sarajevo Rose' is a filled-in patch in the concrete from mortar fire. A constant reminder of the war.

Burek can be found throughout southeastern Europe, but the coal-fired version found in Sarajevo's old city is arguably the best.

n any other place, a row of shops selling cheap wares would seem kitchy, but the streets of the old city felt like they have been this way for hundreds of years.

The logo for a theater that put on productions throughout the siege of Sarajevo, and continues to put on plays today. Inside they were setting up for The Little Mermaid puppet theater.

We stayed for a few nights in Tusla on our way to Belgrade, but we could tell we were there in the wrong season. Most things were shut down and there was a thickness to the air that made it difficult to breathe. 

Close to Tusla, there is a NATO base that employed thousands of young men from Tusla. These men worked as translators and other jobs in BiH and again in Iraq and Afganistan. It seemed like whatever business we walked into there was a guy eager to talk about his connections to America, and why we would even be in Tusla in the first place.

A Designer in Europe - Croatia

After a scenic train ride from Slovenia, we arrive in Split, Croatia. I am still in Adriatic relaxation mode and again was not on point to record all the fun designs I was seeing. Lisa helped out when I was ready to snap a few extra photos for me here, while I was content to let it all pass by.

I have a personal connection to dragons now that I have sketched them for my Krakow logo. All of central Europe seems to have some old legend featuring a dragon. So when I see a beer with a dragon on it, I will purchase and drink it.

It wasn't until i got on a ferry that I was able to get a sense of my surroundings. The landscape of the city hides the mountains well.

Lisa is always looking up and catching extra details, is there a lesson here for me?

Split was unique because of how the modern life sprouts from the ancient roman ruins.

This statue was giving quite the pose. 

For some reason we always go all out with our first dinner. We ended up at an Uje Olive Bar which was great because we got to sample different regional olives, olive oils, wine, meats, cheeses. It was a royal feast, with the old city walls as our backdrop.

Split makes for some adventurous and colorful eating. This is an octopus salad. It's novelty wore off about half way through but my stomach cooperated through til the end. 

Black cuddlefish risotto. A shiny black can be so colorful. Maybe we should have opted for a lighter lunch in the end, but it was fun to try.

When in roman ruins... The scrap metal accessories take this street art to the next level.

One of the galleries had an exhibition which seemed to be a collaboration between artists and a rug manufacturer. That's a new one! Below are some of the rugs. 

After a few days in Split, we ferried over to Hvar Island to meet friends. A view from your room like this, assures you that life is good.

A friend had been working with a tour company all summer and had great knowledge of the island and the inside scoop on where to go. Traveling has been at it's best when the sights, smells, and sounds are simply the backdrop for being with friends old and new.

We were treated to a fresh fish feast cooked in an outdoor kitchen.

We tried to repay the meal by helping the chef's family pick olives. I'm not sure if we were a help or a hinderance but it was an amazing experience. 

The second day on Hvar Island we rented scooters and spent the day with the wind in our har and the sun on our faces.

While these photos aren't design related, they do serve as my Hvar logo inspiration.

I completely trust my haircut when the barber and the shop look like this.

Our last day in Split we rented a car and drove to Krka National Park. The place is just a massive, gradual waterfall made of smaller waterfalls. 

One of the power stations in the park was covered in stickers from all over Europe. I don't know how these vandels are so well prepared. 

If there is an island in the middle of a lake in Europe, there will be a monastary built on it. 

We ended up with a great view of 'the necklaces' waterfall due to a failed attempt to gain access to a cave in the hill side. One door is locked but the view opened up for us. 

A Designer in Europe - Piran

I have to admit, when I arrived on the Adriatic coast, the last thing on my mind was searching for design inspiration. It was a time for relaxation. The photos that follow are just what I was able to loosely associate with design after the fact. Ahh! Sea life.

The outer wall protecting Piran. Great shape repetition. 

Bad translation is always an easy laugh.

This stand was unfortunatly closed.

What about Europe makes people want to take pictures of laundry?

This is a construction fence wrapping a wall to create a painted pattern.

What a sunny blue door!

e walked along the sea from town to town and came across an interactive light and sound art installation, in an abandoned warehouse. 

A little tough to explain, but I will try. A drum with water on top was situated in the center of a room. A camera was filming the water on the drum and projecting the image onto a spherical mirror. Surrounding the drum were vertical lines of light sensors. Music would play on the drum and create ripples on the water, which would trip the light sensors, which would create different sounds. We were given flashlights to affect the sensors or the mirror as we saw fit. I felt like a conductor with a bit of a Star Wars vibe. I only wish there were more sensors and people to help create a musical collaboration.

The boat in the distance inspired me to create an identity for Piran based on musical notes (boats) and wavy water music sheets. There is a monument to composer Giuseppe Tartini in the main square after all.

A mermaid statue protects fisherman out at sea (I assume).

The fishing boats all had buoys with black plastic bags attached to them. It made all the boats look like pirate ships.

Even though it was freezing and foggy, the sunset put on a great show. Those colors!

Im always looking to work type into my work. I like the concept of the tentacles making the letters, but I wish they went further with it. That octopus had six more legs to work with!

I love when graffiti is more than just tags. This might as well have been an art gallery with different artists representing. 

A Designer in Europe - Ljubljana

It's nice to get above a city when you first arrive. 

We arrived late at night, so the first thing in the morning we went grocery shopping in the open air market. Community planning through the city complete with columns from architect, Jože Plečnik, to give it some real foundation.

This was the first of many times now that I have seen chestnuts for sale by street vendors. It puts a great smell in the air and adds ambiance to the autumn market. 

Like a moth to light we were drawn to our first gallery of an art-filled Ljubljana visit. This was an Exhibit at the City Art Gallery about challanging the art institutions in Eastern Bloc countries. Link Art was very tied to 'The State,' unlike in the US.

Culture Shutdown (link) was a response to the news that many BiH cultural institutions would have to shut their doors due to lack of funding. Many institutions around the world taped off one of their works as a protest.

In 2005, Ivan Moudov staged a the fake opening of a contemporary art museum aimed at drawing attention to the fact that their wasn't one. (youtube link)

Artist/Cartoonist Dan Perjovschi simple, brilliant illustrations. (link)

We heard music near our apartment and walked over to the river to see The Balkan Boys playing a free promotional concert. What a joy to discover. 

Staircase up 'The Skyscraper' in Ljubljana

The Biennial of Graphic Arts was going on while we were in town. There was a large poster exhibition about the environment in the park. Is this city calling my name? (link)

Fake(?) logo for Genetic Farm. I thought it was brilliant. On one of the posters in the park for the Biennial.

Ljubljana twilight was beautiful. 


One of those posters that usually gets voted up on Behance. This is for the Opera, whose logo is shining in the upper left corner.

One of the only pieces that caught our attention in the main exhibition of the Biennial was this hourglass illusion. It was pitch black except for this. 


Metelkova is an autonomous  collective in Ljubljana (link) Lots of music at night. Other than the building facades, I wish there was more to see during the day.

It looks like there is more work from Dan Perjovschi, on the facade of the Metelkova Museum of Contemporary Art 

A friend's extended family that lives in Ljubljana was kind enough to show us what happens on All Saints Day. The entire country seems to be visiting the graves of loved ones and placing flowers and candles. 

More work from Jože Plečnik at the cemetary (link)

There is a spot on the grounds of the cemetary where ashes can be spread. There is also a memorial to the homeless here. I have never seen anything like it before.

We were lucky to get shown the business of a Slovenian bee keeper. We got to see his hives and sample lots of unique honey and honey brandy. 

Is the design of the Biennial graphic related to the Slovenian bee hive colors?

One cool thing about the Biennial was the incorperation of the design system in a few storefront windows. The colors of the Biennial mix in with merchandise in this clothing store. A really cool way to get the community involved with the event.