Graphic designer and teacher, born in 1936. He specialised in information design (charts, diagrams, interfaces, typography). Krzysztof Lenk died on May 22nd 2018.
Graphic designer, teacher.
He studied at two Academies of Fine Arts – first in Warsaw, then he moved to Katowice, where he attended the branch of the Kraków Academy of Fine Arts. In 1961, he obtained his diploma in graphic design.
In the beginning of his professional career Lenk designed posters, book covers, books and magazines. While in Paris, he designed the Jeune Afrique weekly and the book Mexico 68 about the Sport Olympics of that year. Having returned to Poland, Lenk continued to design periodicals, including Polish Art Review, Problemy, and Ilustrowany Magazyn Turystyczny. He was the art director and designer of the acclaimed weekly Perspektywy.
The 1960s in Poland were a period of increased interest in graphic design. In 1973 the Typography and Publication Design Studio was created at the Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź. Lenk was its head from its creation to the moment he emigrated to the US (1982). He constructed his syllabus basing on his own experiences, but also drew inspiration from foreign institutions, such as, for example, the School of Design in Ulm, Pratt Institute in New York. For his work, considered pioneering in Poland, he was awarded the Prize of the Ministry of Culture and Art.
In 1982 Lenk was invited to work as visiting professor at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, US. In 1984, having won a competition for a full professor position, he started teaching at the Graphic Design Department. He taught at RISD until he retired in 2010.
He first started working on information design at RISD by coincidence. As visiting professor he was asked if he could add such a class to his schedule. Lenk accepted the proposition. While teaching, he went deeper into the subject and it became his passion. His program of teaching 'Diagrams, Charts and Graphs' class and the results of the students’ work were presented in the professional magazine Graphis (No 238) in 1985.
In 1990, Krzysztof Lenk, together with Paul Kahn, founded the studio Dynamic Diagrams, Consultants in Visual Logic (DD), with the office in Providence and then also in London. Under his creative direction it became one of the most specialised studios at the time, famous for its innovative methods of planning and visualization of large and complicated information structures (for internet, among other media). The list of Dynamic Diagram’s clients includes IBM, Microsoft, Yale and Harvard Universities, the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris, American Medical Association, Siemens Nixdorf, Nature and Science magazines, Netscape, and Samsung Electronics in Korea. In 2001 Lenk, together with Paul Kahn, wrote the book Mapping Web Sites, which was translated into five languages.
applied graphic design
polish poster school
Lenk also conducted workshops, lectures and seminars for students and corporate clients in nearly 20 countries. He was invited to participate in many conferences and was a member of such professional organizations as the Association Typographique Internationale (1975-1983) and, subsequently, the American Institute of Graphic Design (AIGA).
In his career as a designer and a teacher, Lenk paid particular attention to the trends and changes in the form and means of human communication. Being aware of them he actively supported the evolution in methodology of teaching design by promoting flexible curricula which should be adjusted to the emerging needs of the surrounding culture as well as the changes of the market and its new tools.
Krzysztof Lenk wrote various texts and articles regarding new trends, rational and functional aspects of information design and demands in teaching the subject. These texts were frequently published in the Polish magazine 2+3D.
He was a teacher and mentor of many future remarkable designers and professors, both in Poland and abroad.
In 2011 he was awarded the honoris causa degree of the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice as well as ‘Srebrna Laska' [Silver Cane], a prize awarded by Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Warszawskiej Akademii Sztuk Pięknych [The Society of Friends of the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts] in recognition of his outstanding pedagogical achievements.
Publications in English:
Mapping Web Sites (with Paul Kahn), RotoVision SA, UK, 2001
Pokazać. Wyjaśnić. Prowadzić / To Show. To Explain. To Guide, bilingual publication, Zamek Cieszyn [Cieszyn Castle], 2010
- Projekty i bazgroły / Projects and Doodles, bilingual publication, słowo/obraz terytoria, 2009
The text was written using the sources: Ołówek i komputer [Pencil and computer], an interview with Krzysztofem Lenkiem by Marcin Giżycki, OBIEG, no. 10, 1990, p. 3-9; Krzysztof Lenk. Myślące plakaty (Thoughtful posters), 2+3D, 4/2003, p. 8; http://www.iwp.com.pl/aktual030105.htm
Written by Sylwia Giżka, December 2006, updated: MJ, May 2016, updated: AM, October 2016, translated by Natalia Cichowska May 2017, update based on the information provided by Ewa Lenk – NS, Nov 2018.