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A Story of Numbers

Daniela Olejníková on the exponential power of maths and telling its tale through illustration 

A Story of Numbers

Little Gestalten

Moving between the fantastical world of numbers, science, and expressive artistry—Daniela Olejníková has an illustrative style that was informed by her creative youth in Bratislava, Slovakia. Scientist parents and an endless supply of books influenced a whimsical style that bridges fact and fiction, which is displayed beautifully in our new Little Gestalten book.


A Story of Numbers Through Illustration

Daniela Olejníková is an illustrator and graphic designer who works across publishing and commercial projects. Olejníková won the 'Golden Apple' prize in the Biennial of Illustrations Bratislava in the year 2017. 

Tracing the evolution of numeracy from ancient civilizations through to the present day, In Great Numbers is a unique story of the groundbreaking invention of numbers and counting. "This book invites us to travel in history and all around the world to visit different times, places, and cultures, all related to numbers,” Olejníková explains. The visual language of the children's book is reflective of the period it portrays. She says "some compositions resemble paintings on Egyptian scrolls or Medieval astronomical sheets, some characters originated from illustrations from the period after the French Revolution, others from Mesopotamian times," and so on. Each double-spread is composed as a whole, but they differ from historical period to period. 


A Story of Numbers Through Illustration

All over the world, people use numbers according to the same basic rules for addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. You can play simple games with numbers that create all kinds of surprises. Try this one—it was spotted by an Indian mathematician called D. R. Kaprekar.  (Photo: In Great Numbers)

Created digitally with the use of various brushes and patterns, she says the basics originate from traditional printing techniques. "I chose a simple color palette, and all other shades were made by combining various rasters and tiny dots of these basic colors. This approach, alongside coarse grain and various glitches, could resemble old misfitted graphic prints," Olejníková reveals. A graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava, she has risen to become one of the most prominent figures in Slovakian illustration today. With an expressive storytelling approach that is both witty and insightful, she brings simple situations alive through compositions and textures that spark curiosity. Her techniques alternate between linocut, watercolor, acrylic, and serigraphy to intertwine in an uplifting fashion-a perfect complement to the history of mankind in numbers.


A Story of Numbers Through Illustration

After the French Revolution in 1789, the new people in charge wanted to get rid of the old ways of doing things. It was a time of huge change in France. The monarchy was abolished and replaced by a system of government that tried to make life fairer for everyone. (Photo: In Great Numbers)

The design process of the book became a fountain of knowledge for Olejníková. She tells us, "There was quite a lot of what I wasn't familiar with. For example, the invention of the meter. The original definition was based on the size of the Earth and the length of its journey around the sun. And it is also a shame that I didn't know anything about brilliant female mathematicians Hypatia of Alexandria and Ada Lovelace!" An educational voyage into the history of numbers for both children and adults, In Great Numbers curtails pivotal moments and figures in numeracy that helped humankind evolve.

In Great Numbers An introduction to the fascinating world of numbers for children. Available in English