He designed for the most successful companies in the world: for Ferrari, Lancia, Alfa Romeo, Mazda, Citroen, Suzuki. He designed a logo for Fiat that is recognisable around the world. He founded an extremely successful design studio, gave stunning lectures, and wrote brilliant articles for DesignAlive magazine. Get to know a few of the best works by Janusz Kaniewski, a prematurely-deceased Polish design genius.
Cars were his greatest passion. His career started in the homeland of car design – in Italy, where he joined the world famous Pininfarina studio right after graduating from university – and it didn't stop going forward from then on.
His own studio – Kaniewski Design – is today a leading European transport design company, creating projects for cars, lorries, petrol stations, trains, buses, and trams as well as futuristic vehicle prototypes, city furniture and multifunctional devices.
Apart from his own studio, he also worked as a freelance designer, such as his continuing cooperation with Pininfarina. His portfolio includes co-designing iconic cars, such as the Ferrari California, the bodywork of the Mazda MX-5, and the fronts of the Citroen C4 Picasso and the Alfa Romeo MiTo. Because Kaniewski was also an outstanding character, very straightforward and sharp-tongued, his works will be presented with short quotes by him, allowing the reader to have a deeper look into his unique working style.
Ferrari – the interior of the Ferrari 488 GTB
The top-notch, prestigious design for the interior of an ultra-luxury car was one of many that Kaniewski did for Italian car companies. He spent a vast part of his life in Italy, and loved it, even though he was well aware of some specific routines of the Italian management:
It works like this in Italy: two men barge into the meeting and start yelling from its very beginning. They yell for some time and the conclusion is always the same: after the meeting the project looks completely different, is much cheaper and we have much less time for its completion.
A New Logo For Fiat
It was created spontaneously, in one night, in the Freevolo restaurant, during a meeting with a group of directors of Fiat Auto and students of the Royal College of Art. To date, it remains one of the most recognizable logos in the world.
Phillip Morris International, the owner of the Marlboro brand, turned down entries from Leo Burnett and Pininfarina to the contest to design their new packaging. Pinifarina, however, was given another chance. Paolo Pininfarina called Kaniewski and soon his project earned the acceptance of Phillip Morris International.
I created the very first sketch of the package while driving a car to Italy, in a Czech motel, after a few cans of the local beer. I replaced the golden colour with white but left the characteristic broken line.
Alfa Romeo MiTo
I noticed that quite often, during the first meeting with the client, I scribble something on his visit card and eventually it turns out to be the final design. This is how lights of the Alfa Romeo MiTo were designed.
Citroen C4 Picasso
The deadline was inevitably approaching and I had nothing to present to the Citroen authorities. I was wandering around my garden, talking to the cats, getting back to work and loitering around the house. Again and again. Suddenly I decided to draw a girl that I loved. Then, I added a cat, a snail and some kind of alien. In the back, I drew a car. Then I sent it to Citroen and… they were amazed! Among these characters there was their new C4 and they formed a team of people who transposed my drawing into a 3D model. I supervised the process thoroughly because I knew that the crucial part of it is not to lose the emotion I put into this design.
Zły / Bad
This project was the apple of Kaniewski’s eye. It summarises his attitude towards cars: not only a source of transportation, but the most arrogant object of desire and a means to show off. Moreover, he knows that cars are not eternal, that they’ll soon probably be superseded by more ecological and effective means of public transport. He said of himself:
I was lucky to live in the only century in the 4,000 year-long history of city planning when people used cars to move around the city.
To celebrate the end of this chapter he worked on a prototype supercar that would embody the all the beautiful ugliness of cars as a species.
Zły / Bad will be the quintessence of all these daemons. The worse the car, the better it is: it has to be insanely fast, aggressive and arrogant, show the driver’s disrespect for his passengers, be noisy, with a stiff suspension, impractically wide tyres, interior cushioned with natural leather. No doors, no front window, heating, radio. It will evoke feelings of jealousy and envy. It will be inaccessible…
Janusz Kaniewski died on 9th May, 2015, aged only 41.
Author: Wojeciech Oleksiak, May 2015.
Sources: januszkaniewski.com, designalive.com, pininfarina.it, interviews with Janusz Kaniewski for: Onet.pl, KarieraPB.pl.