Celebrating Poland’s rich heritage of graphic communication, Polski Projekt, an exhibition presented by the Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography (HMCT), brings together work from two practices: poster and type design. The exhibition represents the history of both fields emerging from a society with strong sociopolitical disruptions, a cultural dependence on national traditions, and a slow pace of economic and commercial growth.
Widely admired for their brash wit and strength of gesture, the Polish poster reveals highly individualistic and often painterly approaches to poster design based on ambiguity and metaphor. Unable to access basic materials and design technologies, graphic designers living in the People’s Republic of Poland (1947–1989) worked in continuous negotiation with the state—the only client available to them. The posters in the exhibition, designed by renowned artists associated with the Polish Poster School, include works by Henryk Tomaszewski, Franciszek Starowieyski, Jan Lenica, Roman Cieślewicz, and Waldemar Świerzy, among others.
Contrary to the hand-drawn, self-expressive lettering used in the posters, the type specimens in Polski Projekt showcase typefaces created for the automated setting of texts (typesetting). Dating as far back as the 15th century, this retrospective of Polish type design, reproduced using metal foundry type, matrices, transfer media, and, more recently, digital font technology, illustrates the limitless sources of inspiration and the growing social role of typography in Poland.
The works in the exhibition represent a sample of the Polish Poster Collection housed at the HMCT Archive, which includes nearly 200 posters dating from the mid-20th century to the present day. These posters were acquired in 2019 through a generous donation by Leonard Konopelski—artist, designer, and longtime educator at ArtCenter.
The type specimens are on loan from Typoteka.pl, an index of historical and contemporary typefaces created by authors—type designers, artists, letterers, engravers, and punch-cutters—associated with Poland. Typoteka.pl was researched and compiled by Mateusz Machalski, Michał Jarociński, Andrzej Tomaszewski, Adam Twardoch, Ania Wieluńska, and Borys Kosmynka. The collection currently resides at the Book Arts Museum in Poland.
The exhibition runs November 18, 2022 through March 10, 2023, with a public reception on Thursday, February 16, from 5 to 8 PM. HMCT South Campus Gallery is located at ArtCenter College of Design, 950 S. Raymond Avenue, Pasadena. The Gallery is free and open to the public, accessible daily when the college is in term, 9 AM to 7 PM.