The project ABC DDR PRL and its product, the work book, were realized in a cooperation of three institutions: Stowarzyszenie Otwarte! – a non-governmental organization on informal education, the Instytutu Edukacji Artystycznej Akademii Pedagogiki Specjalnej im. Marii Grzegorzewskiej (Institute of Art Education at the Maria Grzegorzewska Academy for Special Pedagogy) in Warsaw and the Institut für Kunstpädagogik (Department for Art Education) of the University of Leipzig.

The students worked together in German-Polish pairs and created one double page together. The joint work was supervised by the teachers and graphic designers Monika Masłoń, Andreas Wendt, Lena Schrieb, and Anna Wójcik. The aim of the project was the integration of the participants – the students of the artistic-pedagogical institutes from Germany and Poland.

The project was realized in October 2016 during a two week workshop in Leipzig and Warsaw.


The design aesthetics of the GDR and the Polish People’s Republic were the starting point for our work book. The design of the time served as a reference frame. We wanted to get to know its language, analyze its characteristics and use it as an inspiration.

The first part included a research on the artistic work created at this time. Each workshop participant prepared a short presentation on a specific topic – industrial design, product design, typography, poster design, illustration, photography, architecture, toys, book design, graphic drawing, fashion and textile, cartoons and fairy tales.

Thereby we were introduced to the historical design from our neighboring country and found out differences as well as similarities between the two. The examples of design, architecture, and commercial graphic art from the GDR and Polish People’s Republic functioned as the starting point for the discussion on questions on the essence of design and necessary steps to take during the work on a visual message.

Based on the examples shown in the presentations we compiled a list of visual activities during design processes (for example: to arrange, to group, to combine, to scale or to multiply). We then developed different exercises. The created structures and schemes were first tested by students of a Leipzig primary school (3. Grundschule, Leipzig). Meeting our target audience played an essential part in verifying the level of difficulty and questioning how much fun the kids had to solve the exercises. The student’s valuable work and wonderful feedback helped us to develop the exercise ideas further.

The second part of the project took place in Warsaw. There we worked on the graphic style of the pages, the precise instructions in German and Polish as well as the order of the exercises. Furthermore, we were looking for a solution to integrate characteristic design elements from the GDR and the Polish People’s Republic into the structure of the exercises. Therefore, you can find some typical buildings from this time and even examples of the industrial design from both countries in the book. We designed the pages in black and white so that they can be brought to life with colors by the kids. All illustrations were realized to create a consistent appearance by using a foil technique and acrylic paint. Furthermore, this technique made it possible to edit little parts of the drawing before digitalization. The finalized double pages were shown to students of the Cyprian Kamil Norwid primary school in Warsaw. Their participation helped us to correct last mistakes and revise the instructions. Once again the student‘s and teacher‘s feedback were extremely productive. Additionally, our own observations during the school lessons helped to add the finishing touch.

The ambitious project, to develop, create, and finalize a book in only two weeks was only possible with the outstanding engagement of all participants. The time we spent together in the mornings, breaks and evenings also had a great impact on all participants. As we worked in both cities, Leipzig and Warsaw, we visited each other in our hometowns and stayed at each other’s homes. Therefore, we did not only have the possibility to create a book together, we also spent time with our project partners in their hometowns, discovered new places and learned something more about ourselves.

Monika Masłoń, Andreas Wendt