Bąk's thoughtful and elegant style is easily recognized in any project he engages in, be it it poster design, paper publications, or visual branding.
Edgar Bąk's style and approach to graphic design is marked by simplicity, although reflective one. He tends to base his designs on plain, geometric shapes and configurations, and often employs typography to support them. Bright colours, vast clear areas and blown-up lettering, layouts that break with the mundane – these are the artist's trademarks.
These may also be the attributes that earned Edgar Bąk his position among the first Polish designers to be found on Trend List – a database for visual communication and its international tendencies. As he tells it, he is impressed by the scale of dispersion of trends in contemporary graphic design across the world, but at the same time he feels very strongly about maintaining authentic feel within graphic design, to be attained by staying close to one's personal background and inspirations. He considers this creative field to be lying between expression and communication, and therefore requiring constant revision and development.
He expresses his attitude to the pull between inspiration and innovation in conversation with Agata Szydłowska:
It is not just a phenomenon specific to Warsaw – patterns in graphic design are alike across the world. It turns out that graphic design doesn't really reach very far. As soon as I decided that I was sick and tired of the recurring solutions in commercial design, I also realized that my entire generation was tired of the same things as me. We all create fine projects, the only problem is – they are all so similar. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as it gets people thinking.
For the past six years (since 2008) Edgar Bąk has been associated with the Photomonth festival in Kraków and responsible for its visual identity – which by now has in fact become its brand. The festival’s visual materials have gained their recognizable character by means of reproducing the initial design created by Bąk – based on a circular shape, and resembling a lens shutter, a peeking hole, or a viewfinder. This sign, powerful and resonant, became a template for the subsequent editions and their products. The second recurring element of the identity is the bright red colour – usually dominating the design surface and thus catching one’s attention. As the artist says, when it comes to visual materials at events like Photomonth, one of the crucial principles is for them to stand out in the city landscape – Bąk proves that it does not take too much to achieve this goal.
The way Edgar Bąk tends to approach his projects is by creating an algorithm – a system that will generate patterns almost autonomously, and also lend itself to transformations and adjustments according to the context. Bąk introduced this method in designing the visual identity for the Sinfonia Varsovia Centre (conceived in collaboration with Robert Mendel), a winning project in a competition organized by the Association of Applied Graphic Designers (Stowarzyszenie Twórców Grafiki Użytkowej), or when creating the layout for the Surowy (Raw) magazine, an impromptu result of a 2010 Art and Fashion Festival workshop. Such algorithms do not only help him to create projects in an organic way, but also make them clear and recognizable.
For Sinfonia Cracovia Centre, a site that was about to change into a multidisciplinary project, comprising music and art events, sculpture park, as well as hosting educational and research programme, the artist conceived a series of symbols that were loosely corresponding to the art mediums and activities. The collection of signs could then be picked and matched according to the context.
The basis for the Surowy magazine was a plain black square – the publication, already filled with style icons and other strong symbols, required only a subtle intervention within the layer of layout. The square outline acted as a bracket for all of the content – it had the potential to be modified in a number of ways, and thus to enrich the pages of the publication, but at the same time it constituted a consistent identity for the project.
Surowy was just one of Edgar Bąk's manifestations of his awareness of the publishing scene and its prerequisites. He has worked as an artistic director and designer at numerous lifestyle and art magazines: Pure, Futu Design Guide, WAW, KTW, MAJ (a one-of project released by the Photomonth in Kraków), Filmpro, and Monitor. Looking at all of the above, one will notice that each has a very distinct identity – which only emphasizes Bąk’s attention to the specific context, as well as the continuous revision of his own ideas.
In 2011, together with Charlotte West, he revived Projekt – a Polish magazine founded in 1955, which showcased art and design from behind the Iron Curtain, and also of the West – which was a rarity at the time. The renewal of the magazine, in the form of an art book, featured a wide selection of examples of Polish applied graphics, and acted as a review of both style and politics behind the collection.
Edgar Bąk has also taken up a task of working as an illustrator – in 2013 he created images (and layout) for the book by Joanna Olech titled Kto Ty Jesteś? The titular question – what are you? – is a quote from an old patriotic rhyme for children. Its idea is to come face to face with the outdated approach to patriotic education, and, by introducing simple slogans and their visualizations, spark some reflection and discussion about the significance of one's relationship to citizenship in contemporary society. The overall language of the book, despite being critical is largely comprehensible and attractive for young readers.
Edgar Bąk is an artist who is realistic about his milieu – he is aware of the repetitive signs apparent in visual communication, but is also optimistic about individual expression within the area. He believes that the products of his work have to be predominantly functional, although the process of building them may at times be fluid and experimental. In practice, he aims to create a successful branding for an institution, initiative, or an idea, but at the same time continues to inject his own creative interests into these schemes.
He sums up:
The outstanding individualism of graphic designers is a myth. They are always at a service of something. We are not artists. We live in times when the role of a designer calls for a redefinition. Everything around us keeps changing, but we still rely on the 20th century’s mythologies. […] Nowadays we experience an unprecedented need for an extreme amount of individual, small brands – naturally, there is not enough forms to cover it. We have to accept that. Anyway, […] the story and an idea [for a project] comes first."
"Kto ty jesteś?" Edgar Bąk, Joanna Olech - Wytwórnia, 2013
"Projekt: The Polish journal of visual art and design" Charlotte West, Edgar Bąk - Unit Editions, 2011
Type Only - Unit Editions
Los Logos - Die Gestalten
Agata Szydłowska, Miliard Rzeczy Dookoła - Karakter
PGR. Projektowanie Graficzne w Polsce - Karakter
Gold & Silver - Victionary
Page Unlimited--Innovations in Layout Design - Sandu Publishing
Green Graphics - Index Book
Design and Design: Book of the Year Volume Three
Infinite Pattern - Sandu Publishing
Sensation. Theme promo & campaign graphics - Sandu Publishing
Basic Cover - Index Book
IdN, Varoom, 2plus3d, +81, Creative Review, CAP&Design, Glamour, KMAG, Skarpa Warszawaska, Elle Deco, Zwierciadło
Wallpaper, What's next magazine, Architektura Murator, Podróże magazine
Awards and Honourable Mentions:
2013 must have - Łódź Design Festival ("Kto ty jesteś?")
2013 Serca Gagi - Plebiscyt magazynu Gaga ("Kto ty jesteś?")
2013 KTR Bronze (advertising illustration of the Advertisement Creators Club)
2012 Society of Publication Designers New York Merit Award (WAW magazine)
2012 KTR Bronze (Nowa Warszawa poster series, Nowy Teatr)
2011 Design of the Year (WAW magazine)
2011 KTR Gold (WAW magazine)
2011 KTR Gold (visual identit of the PFR festival)
2011 KTR Silver (visual identity of the Centrum Sinfonia Varsovia)
2011 KTR Bronze (Surowy magazine)
2011 KTR Bronze (Filmpro magazine)
2010 KTR Bronze (Pure magazine)
2009 CHIMERA Gold (Pure magazine)
2007 Anti Aids Ukraine, poster, honourable mention
2007 good 50x70, poster
2006 2plus3d magazine's Honourable Mention for the Best Diploma Piece
07.06–30.06.2013, Casa do Povo, Sao Paulo
What's on (Michał Łojewski, Edgar Bąk, Poważne studio)
02-06–22.06.2012, Galeria Test, Warsaw
Design for Freedom - Freedom in Design
25.08–11.09.2011, Made My Day, Berlin
13.10-23.10.2011, The 8th Gallery, Tokyo
ALL PLAY, NO WORK
25.08–02.09.2011, Pigasus-Gallery, Berlin
Author: Anna Micińska, 6.08.2013