Małgorzata Bartosik on Polish design

A few excerpts from Małgorzata Bartosik’s book on Bronisław Zelek:

On Zelek teaching design with Henryk Tomaszewski:

“Working together resulted in exercises aimed at stimulating intellect, looking for new solutions, breaking stereotypes, avoiding cliches and developing designer’s individual style. The initial tasks for students included, for example: a self-portrait, a sequence of three images, a visualization of a slogan, a pair of opposites, an illustration of a mood or a depiction of a phenomenon. More advanced tasks could be coming up with a comment on an abstract phrase (‘How long is a moment?’), illustrating aphorisms by a poet, satirist and aphorist Stanisław Jerzy Lec (‘No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible’), proverbs and even phrases from newspaper headlines (‘We drink away a Fiat every 90 minutes’). There are also more standard tasks involved, namely, designing posters for a movie, theatre and special events, usually concerning social and political themes, promoting health and safety at work or designing instructions.”

On film posters in Poland:

“Film posters, an important branch of design, make up a vital part of all commissions. The main operator here is Film Polski – Film Rental Central, opened in 1945 in Lodz and issuing posters for all productions that enter Polish cinemas. In a special cinematic room on Mazowiecka Street, they organize special screenings for designers, with live translation. The committee selects the poster designer from the participants. Renowned artists are given more options, not only more commissions but also a chance to choose a film they’d like to work on. Wester productions are, of course, more successful than those from communist countries that are usually assigned to less experienced poster artists.”


“All areas of graphic design presented high quality but none became as popular as the poster. Initially, it was treated as somehow an interior field of art due to its mass access, lack of an original copy and belonging to the area of applied arts. With the first successes of Henryk Tomaszewski’s film posters at the International Film Poster Festival in Vienna, this neglected discipline became Polish national art. As it doesn’t need advertising, it performs a good educational function in itself by shaping the sense of aesthetics in society; the authorities are also eager to use it for propaganda purposes. The reality of permanent shortages and demand that exceed supply deem the original advertising function almost redundant, which is why the artists are left with nearly unlimited freedom of expression.”

— (via)