Today, we are joined by Nikodem Pregowski , he is a Graphic Designer. You can view his portfolio here.

  •  Tell us about your graphic design career. How did you break into graphic design, and how did you advance to where you are today?

I’ve been drawing since I remember. I was quite good at it and all my grammar school friends would have wanted some of my sketches. My first graphic design experience was making drawings and some lettering for the secondary school zine ‚cooltura’ issued by a group of my friends. I’ve realized that it’s an exciting work to design something which is going to be published in more than one copy. And everybody wanted to have them because of my drawings! The most important fact was that I did’t use the computer because of the lack of hardware. My tools were pencils, brushes, scissors and handwritten typography. I was making layout just by sticking lot of small sheets of paper together. Than the original work was xero-copied. I think that this experience has determined my attitude to manual work, which is now crucial for me. When I had to decide what to study it was obvious for me to choose Fine Arts at the University in my hometown. During my studies my interests focused on the poster design. Poland has a great tradition in poster design, and Polish poster is well known around the world. It was something completely new for me. Visual communication based on simple and strong sings and metaphorical way of thinkink affected me so deeply, that I’ve decided to become a poster designer. After graduation I had an opportunity to make a PhD – and that had lead me to the academic career. Breaking to professional designer career as a freelancer wasn’t easy. Nevertheless, step by step, I’ve reached an opinion of a recognizable designer having ambitious commissions from all around Poland. I think that the most important in a freelance activity is very hard work, patience, some luck and international graphic competitions where you might be spotted by an independent audience.

  • What do you enjoy most about your career?

Profession of the graphic designer gives me an outstanding opportunity to do what I love (mostly). Being a freelancer offers me an opportunity to choose commissions which are satisfactory and lead to interesting projects that I can show publicly. Equally important for me is being an academic teacher. Contacts with my students – young and lively people, forces me to be vigilant on design trends, what is reflected in my works.

  • What were the biggest inspirations for your career?

It’s hard to name one source of my inspiration, there are so many of them. I love Polish school of poster, especially work of a legendary Polish poster designer Henryk Tomaszewski, who had a great influence on my work. My favorite and most inspiring periods from the history of the graphic design are: Hippie era of psychedelic gig posters of the sixties and the postmodern breakthrough of the nineties. I also admire work of apologists of modernism – like Massimo Vignelli and Wim Crouwel.

  • What are some favorite projects you’ve completed and why?

I think my favorite projects were made for cultural events and for NGO’s events. I like to have freedom while choosing ideas and visual language for my projects. In my opinion, cooperating with cultural institutions is the most convenient for a graphic designer. I’m not really into commercial design. One of my favorite projects is the series of posters for the Annual Symposium ‚Human rights and a just society’ organized by the University of Toruń together with Loyola University of Chicago. It is most satisfying when you feel that your design is a carrier for ideas of great importance.

  • Tell us about your graphic design education. How did you decide to study graphic design?

I’ve been always interested in visual communication so it was rather natural for me to choose graphic design education. Moreover, both my parents are artists. I remember, that when I was a child, my mother was manually designing some books and music album covers – I was under a great influence of this almost magical atmosphere when she was working in front of her drawing table using all those ‚analog’ tools. I believe that design process which is based on turning ideas into forms, is in a way metaphysical. My graphic design education was 5 years of master studies followed by another 4 years of doctoral studies. What I have appreciated the most in my studies, was an emphasis on manual work: drawing, calligraphy, painting and workshop graphics. I found my drawing and painting courses difficult, but now I’m sure it was the key to becoming a good graphic designer.

  • In retrospect, what do you know now that you wish you knew before you pursued your graphic design education?

I think that the moment when you have to choose your studies is to early. From my perspective I feel I was too young to study and the same applies to most of my students. I wish I was more conscious and determined of who I am and who I want to be. Maybe prospective students should have travel and gain some work experience before studies? Just to gain a wider perspective and have a more critical view.

  • Based on what you hear in the industry, what do you think are the most respected and prestigious schools, departments or programs? Does graduating from a prestigious school make a difference in landing a good job?

I had a pleasure to be displayed at the SVA at New York. It was the International Poster Project ‚Green Iran – where is my vote’ reflecting political situation after elections in Iran in 2010. I remember Yotutube interview with Steven Heller about this exhibition and exhibited posters. In that way I got to know the School of Visual Arts and I find it as a wellknown and a significant one. One of my friends is a lecturer at the Rhode Island School of Design. As far as I know it’s also very important school as well as Cranbrook Academy of Arts which is – in my opinion – the center of postmodern design. When it comes to Poland, the best design school is Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice. Surely, graduating from a prestigous school gives you an extra bonus, however, we can’t forget that in a profession of a graphic designer, what also matters, is hard work.

  • How can prospective graphic design students assess their skill and aptitude?

Not everyone can be a graphic designer. Of course there are some dogmatic rules you can learn to make correct designs. But, to be a really good graphic designer you have to have it in your DNA. I mean – to have a specific sense of composition and space between letters, an ability to think in an abstract way and to reject liberality. In general I think they should rather be rationalists than melancholics.

  • What can students applying to graphic design schools do to increase their chances of being accepted?

They should try themselves and enhance their skills through graphic competitions. It is a great opportunity to build their portfolio and challenge various subjects for their future projects. It is not less important for the prospective students to be visible on the web, especially on the social media and web portfolios. It’s a great platform to compare yourself to others and to develop one’s aesthetical sense.

  • What other advice can you give to prospective students thinking about an education and career in graphic design?

Just try to find your own graphic solutions. Try not to copy others. Try not to be trendy. Think!

  • What exactly do you do? What are your key responsibilities?

Basically, I’m a poster designer. That’s who I think I am, and what I was tought to do, however I also create print design, editorial design, typography and illustration. I’m also o teacher – I teach graphic design, calligraphy and typography at the Fine Arts Department of Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Poland. I think that my key responsibility is work with my students – to show them the „designer’s” way of thinking and encourage them to enhance their skills.

  • What are the tools of the trade that you use the most?

First of all, designing is research. Before I start the design process, I spend a lot of time to find as much information on the topic as I can, mostly on the web, but also in other sources. In fact it’s the longest part of the process. Then I do the brainstorming and try to find a graphic solution of given subject. A kind of software and tools used afterwards doesn’t matter . If you’re a skilled and experienced designer, producing a final image is the easiest and the shortest action. Very important part of my job is gathering inspirational images – I especially like to collect examples of vernacular, amateur typography and calligraphy, rough, fast typo sketches which I’m processing and adapting in my projects.

  • What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

Dealing with clients – this is the most challenging – to find a compromise which would be satisfying for both of the parties. And also telling your student to restart the project.

  • What are the hottest specialties within the graphic design field over the next decade?

Difinitely design for mobile devices. Kind of responsive design well displayed on every device, no mather of its size. From megaboard to tiny smartphone – the same idea translated on different spaces. I also believe that a static poster will start to move and change into a motion graphics.