I’ve been here; I hope the same for you, Henryk Tomaszewski, Warsaw

I do not have patience to admire beauty in itself–skilful eye or hand. I prefer failure to mastered perfection… I am not interested in showing-off accomplished forms anymore. I enjoy, instead, playing with a language I do not know yet.

 Henryk Tomaszewski, editor Agnieszka Szewczyk, translation Kinga Kowalczyk

I have recently visited Zachęta – National Gallery of Art in Warsaw where Henryk Tomaszewski’s graphic work is on show till 10th June. The exhibition and the work of the leader of the Polish Poster School was a revelation and a fortunate coincidence. In this post I used some of the photographs I had shot in the gallery, fragments of the exhibition catalogue, Steven Heller’s article for the New York Times (2005) and one of the episodes of the Polish Film Chronicles (1978).




Even when he made a poster to advertise another artist’s exhibition, Mr. Tomaszewski interpreted the content. For example, to announce a 1959 show of Henry Moore’s sculptures, he created a veritable sculpture garden from the letters of the artist’s name and placed Moore’s “Mother and Child” on a pedestal made from the “O” in Moore. But this handling of the subject was not just a flagrant personal conceit; Mr. Tomaszewski succeeded in showcasing the salient features in Moore’s work that were akin to his own.

Steven Heller, Henryk Tomaszewski, Leader of the Polish Poster School, Dies at 91

PKF – Polish Film Chronicle, a 10 minute long newsreel, was part of the official information media in the communist Poland. I decided to use one of the episodes here to give a feel for the times in which Tomaszewski lived and worked in.

“Politics is like the weather,” he once said, “you have to live with it.” His art benefited from this resistance, since he was forced to come up with concealed satiric images in his work. He stayed clear of overtly political issues and focused entirely on designing posters for cultural institutions and events.

Steven Heller, Henryk Tomaszewski, Leader of the Polish Poster School, Dies at 91

Bauhaus, Socialist Designers, architecture for humanity and music for thinking


I realised that closer links had to be forged between the machines and the artistic individuals. So I established workshops which trained people in two ways: as artists and craftsmen as well. … You can’t understand a machine unless you’ve understood the tools of your craft. …

Walter Gropius ( Bauhaus: The Face of the Twentieth Century)

Since it was depression, a period when they had no money, you had to work with what was at hand. So you would say to students, go out to the junkyard and pick up from the scrap what you can. And, then try to find out what’s in the material.

Charles Jencks ( Bauhaus: The Face of the Twentieth Century)

  If I make something from material I must exploit, not disguise, the strengths inherent in it. His aim (Josef Albers’s aim) was to make you think in terms of the material. He set us projects, like for example: create space from a large piece of paper that was about a yard long using any kind of tools. One could fold it , cut it, do all of those things. We discovered that we could make it carry a vertical load. We made folds a man could stand on. But all in all, Albers was a man who systematically drove the artistic madness out of young people and forced them to think intelligently and clearly.

Prof. Kurt Kranz  (Bauhaus: The Face of the Twentieth Century)

The Haus am Horn. The site was on a field used to grow fruit and vegetables for the Bauhaus canteen. The house was constructed from prefabricated parts and furnished entirely by the Bauhaus workshops. It was ecologically sound, cheap to build and easy to run.

Bauhaus: The Face of the Twentieth Century

Socialist Designers is a collective of politically conscious graphic designers who have agreed to follow “an indisputable set of rules”: Design must be done on location. … Design must be done in spot colours. Four-colour process and varnish are not acceptable. Photoshop filters and any other filters are forbidden. Design must not contain superficial element. Temporary and geographical alienation are forbidden (that is that design must take place here and now). “Genre” design is not acceptable. … We are socialists but we are not attached to any institutions. It’s our desire to act in the original sense of the word. We are socialist because we have social concerns, because we are interested in a very specific way of thinking about life, about a better life.

From an interview with Fabrizio Gilardino (Citizen Designer by Steven Heller)

So we decided to embrace an open source model of business–that anyone, anywhere in the world, could start a local chapter, and they can get involved in local problems. Because I believe that there is no such thing as Utopia. All problems are local. All solutions are local. … this isn’t just about nonprofit. What it showed me is that there is a grassroots movement going on of socially responsible designers who really believe that this world has got a lot smaller, and that we have the opportunity–not the responsibility, but the opportunity–to really get involved in making change. … Instigation, developing ideas with communities and the implementing–actually going out there and doing the work, because when you invent, it’s never a reality until it’s built. So it’s really important that if we’re designing and trying to create change, we build the change. …

Cameron  Sinclair (My wish: a call for open-source architecture)

Music for thinking is Brian Eno’s Lux.

…generative art… designing systems that produce music… establishing a set of possibilities and allowing them to happen…

Brian Eno

So much more than just a buzzword?

Maria Popova  in an interview for Steven Heller’s book Writing and Research said:

The design world, especially the ever-growing piece of it that deals with the intersection of design and business, or creativity and corporation, tends to reduce complex arguments and ideas to sound bites that can fit on a Powerpoint slide. (Okay, perhaps Keynote.) Over the past few years–or, some might even say, decades–words and terms that once stood for something have become vacant of meaning, thrown around as weightless fluff.

What is Design Thinking?

Creative thinking-in-action.


A discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.

Design Thinking by Tim Brown, Harvard Business Review, June 2008  

A comfort zone where graphic metaphors are the basis for creating and co creating.

Visual Facilitation by Jane Cheng, ID PURE, issue No. 30 


Can designers design without thinking?

Do doctors feel the need to remind us that they think about health?

…As designers, we can stand at the intersection of creativity and enterprise; the place where thinking and knowing and creative leaps of faith are integrated.

Cheryl Heller 

Whether or not I like the buzzwords, they have strategic muscle. I have long been suspicious of the term ‘design thinking’, believing that all designers think, so to separate it from quotidian matters is basically marketing-speak.

Writing and Research by Steven Heller 

Design Stinking? No, Design Thinking.

It lulls people into thinking they are being creative when they are not. It harbors procrastination and stereotypical thinking, substitutes process for real invention. It robs design of dimension by placing it solely in the world of the brain when design is much more than rational thinking – it is emotion and intuition and sensing and gut.

Cheryl Heller 

How Design Thinking happens?

The design process is best described metaphorically as a system of spaces rather than a predefined series of orderly steps. The spaces demarcate different sorts of related activities that together form the continuum of innovation.

Design Thinking by Tim Brown, Harvard Business Review, June 2008 

Unlike analytical thinking, design thinking is a creative process based around the “building up” of ideas. There are no judgments early on in design thinking. Outside the box thinking is encouraged in these early processes since this can often lead to creative solutions.


Finally, since Edward de Bono is many designers hero, I thought the quote below might be a good ending, or a beginning…

Wasps chew up wood, mix it with their saliva and make it into a fine paste which dries into a material that is both lightweight and strong – paper. The common European wasp produces a very high-quality paper, and with it builds nests of great perfection. Within identical hexagonal cells, a huge workforce is raised to serve the queen and maintain the nest.

From Trials of Life (Home Making) by Sir David Attenborough