The exhibition “Brands: Signs” shows the foresight of graphic designer Anton Stankowski. We often encounter some of his logos in everyday life.
As Anton Stankowski the competition for a new logo of the German bank won, headlined the imageNewspaper in the well-known manner – "A painter earned 100,000 marks with five strokes". The paper also quoted him abbreviated: "Sometimes I only need a second for a draft." That was 48 years ago. Behind this is the idea, which is still alive and well today, that art and design could finally be explained with the help of economic liberal virtues.
The fact that Stankowski has shown diligence, foresight and skill to produce the design that can still be seen above every branch leads to Exhibition "Brands: Signs" in the Berlin Art Library. It is the first extensive presentation of the estate of the graphic studio Stankowski + Duschek.
Temporal balancing act
In 2012, Meike Gatermann, cultural mediator and widow of Karl Duschek, approached the art library and thus the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation with the idea of taking the estate of the two designers into their care. How complex the processes and the scientific work behind the estate administration of artists are can be seen from the eight years that have passed since, during which a change of staff took place between two curators of the graphic design collection.
In the art library you have to do balancing exercises with time, which thanks to the curatorial prologue even extend into the Roman Empire. But whether it's about stamps on roof tiles or the “Berlin layout” as an analogue pioneer of responsive design, the interest here is more than just a historical one. And can also be uncomfortable. Because measured against the omnipresence of commercial graphics and brands in our everyday life, we as a society deal very little with them as pictures.
In the year of imageHeadlines Anton Stankowski and Karl Duschek started working together. One could have been the other's grandfather. But although Duschek had only just finished training and studying, the mutual trust and vision went so far that a few years later he became Stankowski's partner.
"Brands are cultural atoms"
The saying "Brands are cultural atoms", which also sets the tone for the exhibition "Brands: Signs", comes from Duschek. And pointedly what both wanted: to develop philosophically located and at the same time highly concrete graphic designs.
They did this not only in the form of trademarks, which today are mainly called logos, but also in the form of stationery, signage systems, room installations, book titles, calendars and so on – everything that is now corporate design. Passions for concrete art, Russian constructivism and graphic works from the Bauhaus environment can be seen everywhere between the exhibits, which include 300 pieces that kill in the art library.
Most of them are the result of careful consideration of basic geometric shapes and colors against each other in the surface. Sometimes it gets more complex, like the poster for a district savings bank from 1984, which appears like a clockwise color windmill, in which the FRG flag is hidden, and sometimes just as "plain and simple" as the logo of the Germans Bank.
Five lines that tell
Monochrome blue is a diagonal at an angle of 53 degrees in a square. Five lines that still tell what the bank wants to know about itself: Here, there is steady growth, in the direction of reading a share price, and that in a safe environment. Graphics like these were produced by Stankowski + Duschek for Viessmann, Rewe, the Frankfurt Trade Fair, state garden shows, handball championships, the German Design Council, the city of Berlin – and themselves. They are large, clear gestures in small formats.
Finding your way around the exhibition is still a bit of a challenge. But for the rest, there is something to smile about in the face of all the geometric sobriety: on a presentation board on which the Atelier Stankowski + Duschek presented a redesign by Bosch between other, world-famous comparison brands, the booklet says: "The sign – here in one unconverted variant – should withstand the best known brands of its time.
Not only VW, Shell or Mercedes can be found in a confident gesture, but also SEL and Deutsche Bank from their own studio. ”If you let your eyes wander over the collection of logos that are added around the presentation board, that is also there Find the logo of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation. Touché.