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Anton Stankowski, Selbstporträt, Zürich 1930,
Photography (Vintage), © Stankowski-Stiftung

This fertile creative phase was to end abruptly only a few years later. After losing his working permit, Stankwoski was forced to leave Switzerland in 1938 and was able to get a job as a freelance graphic designer in Stuttgart. He became a soldier in 1940, and in 1948 he returned from war captivity to Stuttgart, where he set up his own studio in 1951 on the Killesberg. A new cultural circle arose here together with Willi Baumeister, Max Bense, Walter Cantz, Egon Eiermann , Mia Seeger, and others. The large number of visual images that Stankwoski developed in his studio from the mid-fifties onwards for companies in Germany and abroad are based on systems and principles of order whose geometric vocabulary and clear use of color make them stand out.

Anton Stankowski, Kalenderblatt SEL 1960 (Kraft durch Rotation), © Stankowski-Stiftung

The show in Stuttgart demonstrates the innovative character that has characterized Stankwoski’s work since the post-war years. The all-encompassing approach in the invention of form and commercial design that went beyond single products and services to concentrate on “product families” and the interaction between people, society, and the business world was still a novelty in the sixties. In this respect, Stankwoski developed into a pioneer of graphic design and corporate identity. The artist, schooled in Constructivism, profited by his involvement with serial and programmatic design that dated back to the twenties.

Anton Stankowski, Designs for
Baseler National-Zeitung, 1935, © Stankowski-Stiftung

The prominent “Deutsche Bank Blue” that corresponds with the effect of the diagonal and square is only one example for the many problems Stankwoski has addressed: perspective and dynamics, representation and abstraction, regularity and spontaneity. Numerous works attest to this, including the so-called “Stankograms” in which the designer visualized information and floor numerals for the Stadthaus Bonn in the seventies. Thus, for instance, the numeral “3” on the elevators in the third floor of the building were visualized in several ways at once: through three fingers on a hand, as a numeral and triangle, or through three diagonal dots, as on dice.

Anton Stankowski, Floor numbers for Stadthaus Bonn: 1,
1973-77 © Stankowski-Stiftung

Anton Stankowski, Floor numbers for Stadthaus Bonn: 3,
1973-77 © Stankowski-Stiftung

Anton Stankowski, Floor numbers for Stadthaus Bonn: 5,
1973-77 © Stankowski-Stiftung

More than any other designer of the Federal Republic, Stankwoski influenced notions of successful design throughout the sixties and seventies. From 1969 to 1972 he was chairman of the Committee for Visual Design at the Munich Olympics. Together with Karl Duschek, who joined his studio in 1972, he designed the logo for the city of Berlin, the Munich Reassurance Companies, and firms such as IBM and REWE. Added to this was his involvement in the area of environmental design and the development of orientation and color directional systems in public buildings. For Stankwoski, his hope for designing the world in a more human way was connected to the functional criteria of an aesthetic design that conveys order. To this day, his ascending diagonal has remained a potent symbol of dynamics and achievement. At the same time, it is a call to make things better, and not to leave them as they are. Stankwoski’s message applies not only in a worldly sense, but also in a spiritual sense that the Constructivist visionary Malevich would have approved of: we are meant to grow beyond ourselves.

Oliver Koerner von Gustorf

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