Plus and Minus

Mun Piu Emeno 02

Play and create with this beautiful set of cards.

Bruno Munari defied category, working in painting, sculpture, design, photography, and the written word during his long and prolific career. Though he also made art that wasn’t explicitly for children, his kids’ books and games delight me the most.

With poetic and whimsical wordplay and illustrations, he captured the essence of many animals and everyday objects. His commentary on zebras in Bruno Munari’s Zoo, simply reads, “A zebra is an animal in striped pajamas."

Munari Zebra

Munari was also obsessed with games and how children learn, studying tactile learning, movement, and kinesthetics. On a recent trip to Berlin, I visited the beautiful Italian design and bookshop, Spazio Corsivo, and came across one of these games. Plus and Minus is a box set of 72 cards with unique images printed on transparencies, made with Giovanni Belgrano. The set also includes cardboard cutouts that serve as frames, and white cards that serve as canvases.

The images, containing objects from the natural world (grass, the moon, snow, rain, waves), people and animals (a man with an umbrella, a bat, birds, a person driving a truck), and the built world (a brick wall, a window, a house), can be layered to create stories and games, or beautiful collages and images that can extend in any direction.

A knotted tree branch takes on an eerie tone when you add a night sky transparency over it. Add a bat or a flock of birds and the story becomes ever more ominous. There are no real instructions, except for the cards "to be superimposed and arranged at pleasure." Much like our own Digital Toys apps, Munari created a game that offers a set of parts, for a child (or adult) to use their imagination to combine in any way they want.

Plus and Minus is available in the U.S. at Moon Picnic.