Wywiad po polsku dostępny tutaj
It is a sunny May evening. The pandemic continues. I am meeting Professor Roman Duszek via Skype. For several months we have been working on the website accompanying the publication of his book “Spirala: Zwierzenia Projektanta” (Spiral: Designer’s Confessions). The book will be published by the Karakter Publishing House. It is yet another fantastic discussion led by Ewa Satalecka. The previous one – “Pass it on. Design, teaching, life” (Podaj Dalej. Design, nauczanie, życie) – is an interview with Professor Krzysztof Lenek. A read worth recommending to everyone, not only those who are passionate about design. It is a life story rich in various experiences: war, work, academic and mentoring experience. This is also the case with the book “Spirala: Zwierzenia Projektanta”. If you’ve ever flown on LOT Polish Airlines or travelled on the Warsaw Metro, you’ve come across the work of Professor Roman Duszek. The list of his designs is expansive and this is just the tip of the iceberg of this designer’s creativity, who also happens to be an academic professor and illustrator.
Have a pleasant read:
Roman Duszek: I do not know how you wish to start our discussion. Anticipating your questions, let me briefly say that I do not call myself a typographer. I am a graphic designer; I have been a graphic designer all my life. I used typography when it was necessary or needed. That’s how I would define myself.
Laic:Talks: Let’s start with the following: Can you imagine graphic design without typography? No letters?
R.D: It so happens that I used to teach typography. During the first class, I asked my students to close their eyes for a moment and imagine a world without letters. I used the same method earlier on myself. “Can we imagine the world without letters?” Suddenly something happened, some virus, and letters disappeared. After a while, the students were to share their impressions. The disappearance of letters might have a huge number of consequences, often not known to us. As a designer, I can’t see designing without them. All visual communication, as we call it today, is primarily based on written words.
Letters are also present in many of my logos that are probably known to you.
L.T: A customer comes and says: “We need a logo for such a brand or a word”. How do you start your work? Do you start by choosing a typeface, writing it out on paper, or rather with thinking? Do you think about presenting it with a graphic form, a geometric sign, or for example, with a color?
R.D: Recently, I found my old sketchbook confirming that my search went in two directions. One was a logo with lettering, and the other solution involved symbols. I did not assume that it had to be a logotype, which I call a sign based on a letter. Whenever possible, I searched for a form that could also be represented by a symbol. As I mentioned, it seemed to me that using only letters would mean ignoring other possibilities or simply finding an easy way out. However, many of my logos are based on letters.
Let me tell you about something that has often bothered me. When you open some books on signs, you will find them grouped by form. Signs – circles, signs – squares, signs – triangles. Multiple pages of identical triangles or the same squares. I assumed that if Mr. Square asked me to make a sign for him, I would still have to look for something that would make it “Mr. Jack’s square”. Of course, the basis of this sign would be a geometric shape, but with features unique to Jack. I can say that fortunately, among my signs, there are no signs that can be classified as a “pure square.”
L.T: From a young designer’s perspective, how should you talk to your customers? Sometimes some customers can be easily identified and understood. However, some orders are much more complicated. In understanding, in interpretation. In giving them a characteristic feature. Mr. Jack’s square, meaning what? Do you have any solution for this?
R.D: The best thing a young designer can do is haveconversations, meetings, and above all, listen to what the other party has to say. In many ways, the nature of the designer’s work also involves absorbing the knowledge that helps solve a problem. A face-to-face conversation does not always happen. Things happen. In France, I rarely had any contact with customers – there were agents we called traders. They established contact, conveyed customers’ wishes, and presented our designs. When personally meeting a customer, I tried to find out as much as possible about the activities and needs of a given company.
If it was a personal logo, I wanted to know the character of a given person, their interests, or hobbies. It was the material from which I would later put together an idea for a symbol. The conversation was not aimed at finding out how the customer imagines the design. This would be a misfortune! I was also in a good position to bypass customers who wanted to draw their visions for me, thus creating a frame that limited my ideas.
A logo is a collection of symbols, although there can only be one symbol that becomes a sign. Such conversations with customers constitute ground investigation work – what I can learn about their activities and specifics. This procedure applies to every project, not only logos. Listening carefully to what people have to say can set a course of action even if they imagine it differently. Over the years, I have learned to listen. Although at the beginning of my career, I thought I knew better. I was less willing to compromise and less inclined to listen. Over the years and with my wealth of experience, I have learned to value and pay more attention to what others have to say. A list of concepts related to the topic and several associations are created then. Some of them can be defined as form, some we reject as unrepresentable. In this way, the material from which we shape our idea is created. Listening and collecting material that we can use to create something is my advice for young design enthusiasts.
It sometimes happens that the material gathered during the conversation also requires a deeper understanding and expansion of our knowledge in certain areas. I have always found this element fascinating in the profession of a designer – exploring unknown areas and continuous self-education.
Referring to Jack Square, his name suggests a graphic form, one of the most common forms. Of course, you can stick to it by adding one more square to thousands of the existing signs. But Mr. Jack Square is a keen fisherman, and maybe a square fish will distinguish him in the “square category.”
L.T: You mentioned your interests. Can you indicate a discipline from the world of broadly understood culture that inspires you the most, which is a your runaway from design?
R.D: I would like to talk about music. It has always found a place in my imagination. I was wondering if I could show, for example, Bach’s Goldberg variations or Vivaldi’s string concerto in a graphic form. Can pieces of music evoke images, and can our imagination give them shape? Yes, music has been a stepping stone for me. Maybe it is even parallel to design.
In the United States, I designed posters for the works of great composers for over 20 years. There were annual symphonic concerts at the university where I worked with the choir’s participation called Presidential Concerts. They constituted a summary of the entire academic year. Some others inspired the posters, sometimes a libretto, a commentary, or suggestions by the composers themselves. My perception of music was subjective, but I tried to translate the language of sound into a visual form.
Another discipline that engulfs me is photography—initially accompanying design work, with time-evolving as an independent expression of creativity. Numerous journeys assisted me in collecting images, which I often used in my design work. In addition, I found inspiration in both nature and architecture. I translate both sources into the language of abstract forms, departing from their prototypes. I am also fascinated by street situations, which constitute an excellent study for observing human characteristics and behaviours.
My interests are linked by hiking in the mountains, which I started in my early youth, and still practice, although less intensively. Each climb was and is a challenge, just like each project I undertake. The climbing process has its natural stages, doubts, and even fears. Finally, the summit to be reached is set as a goal. All these steps are similar to the subsequent phases of design work. In the mountains, I rely on intuition, terrain analysis, observe and rely on my strength, just like in the studio. In addition, I photograph what catches my eye.
L.T: Let us go back to the book “Spirala: Zwierzenia Projektanta”. In the book, you describe your experiences in typography class – imitating, deleting letters. Would you please tell us a little about the studio of Professor Rudziński? What were the tasks, and how were they organised? I am also interested in whether you discussed any guidelines when it comes to Polish diacritics? Was it important to define Polish accents in all this?
R.D: You see, you are asking the question from the position of a designer who probably also went through this lettering design training somewhere. I’ll tell you what it looked like. In 1959, I graduated in graphics, and typography was called lettering then. In the beginning, it was the studio of Professor Tuszewski, in the third year of studies, before the specialization studio. It was like writing with a stick – left or right truncated. The entire verses were written with ink and stick. The spacing between letters was the primary consideration. The class was obligatory. I did not specifically associate it with what I would be doing next. Our curriculum, the one I remember, was very different from what we teach or should teach today. Years later, I see that this studio was underestimated. Later, however, it profoundly influenced my ability to write a proper letter or imitate existing typefaces. Before that, I had calligraphy built into a Polish language class, learning beautiful writing. Later, when I wrote a French script, I had some practice. Calligraphy, the studio of Professor Tuszewski, and after the class of Andrzej Rudziński was my only but endless series of encounters with typography. There was no mention of diacritics. We inserted hooks, periods, or commas where necessary, without considering the relationship between them and the letter.
Andrzej Rudziński’s studio was hard. His flagship task, perhaps you have heard about it, was a short sentence written with a pencil on a bristol board. The typeface was supposed to be geometric, one element. Today we can say AvantGarde Ultra-Light. It was necessary to write a selected proverb consisting of a few lines. The spacing had to be perfect—the pressure of the 6H pencil on the bristol board – absolutely even. Any tools could be used, but God forbid, the Professor discovered a circular hole in the middle of the letter O or C. This disqualified the design. Spacing, spacing, spacing. Too close, too far. Here the letter is darker. The exercise was repeated many times until the result was flawless. A man may have sworn at it then, but one acquired tremendous discipline and humility there.
Then letters were being written, and for that, I am grateful to the Professor. We started with a classic Roman type. Classic proportions. Trajan’s Column. This Roman type had to be “stretched out”. How was it done? It was drawn. First, quite freely with a pencil to practice writing. Then only tracing paper and a more precise search for the form. Next, a brush or a ruling pen on paper. It was not about repeating a letter, but a Roman type had to be achieved. And that’s what I learned. You wrote using a brush e.g., number 4 or 2, depending on the size of the letter and poster paint. I think I wrote about this in the book. I will never forget the title page of Stendhal’s “Red and Black.” I stretched it out perfectly; at least, I thought so then. I sat all night. In the morning, sleepy, I came to the studio. The Professor puts on his glasses and says, “Well, a very good sketch. Now that has to be stretched out clean”. Suppose I told my students that today, it would not end well for me. It was tough.
You are asking for diacritics that lie in the domain of font design. They weren’t addressed in the lettering classes of the time. I came across it much later, only in my professional practice, and I had to learn it myself.
L.T: When did you first come across newer technologies? In your book you mention that in France, you mainly worked with Letraset.
R.D: France was the first place where Letraset came in handy in addition to handwritten letters. There, too, we had quick access to photo sets mounted in designs. In addition, my ability to paint surfaces uniform in tone with poster paint could be replaced by the so-called Mecanorm’s trams – transparent, multi-colored self-adhesive foils.
The mock-ups that we prepared to be shown to a customer had to look like printed ones. Such a mock-up was made by 2-3 people proficient in various specialties. There were no computers then. Everything had to be done by hand – drawing, gluing, text editing.
Wherever I could, I used my own letter. I used Letraset when it was necessary to insert some small text. Now, from the perspective of all my design activities, I took advantage of this hellish school lettering job done with a 6H pencil, which turned out to be very useful later on.
L.T: Was the basis of Professor Rudziński’s studio discipline and repeating the same tasks many times, achieving an ideal form? Maybe not ideal, but … made in a certain and unambiguous way? Was that the goal?
R.D: The Professor never talked about teaching any discipline. You just had to get the job done. This kind of attitude was typical of those times. You were given a task, and it was usually taken out of context. We didn’t know why we were doing this. The Professor was a perfectionist. It was somewhere in his nature. He was always well organized. He made bibliophile prints and worked in a printing house.
On the other hand, he made drawings of the Vistula landscapes with a thick pencil. Crazy strong, sweeping, and expressive. His etchings were the same. It wasn’t easy to find a link between the Professor’s personality seen in the workshop and his creative work. From him, I inherited the discipline of work, which later helped me a lot. Apart from the discipline in the approach to design, the Professor taught respect for one’s own work. The presentation of each design had to be perfect. Therefore, a special briefcase or envelope was often designed, from which designs were taken out in the presence of the customer. These workshop practices, transferred to live, were reflected in the professional presentations I witnessed while working in an agency in Paris. The high price of a design had to have its setting, sometimes bordering on a spectacle.
L.T: There is a fragment in the book about packaging. Yogurt with simplified fruit symbols did not sell. So after market research, you changed the packaging to a design with realistic fruit. Sales increased. From the perspective of packaging design, and from the perspective of designing visual navigation of the Warsaw metro – Should the packaging, in addition to the visual layer, also focus on the availability of information on the composition and nutritional values? Can these two be reconciled? So that designs and packaging were not only the quick picture we catch a glimpse of – here is raspberry yogurt – but that they would also show us that raspberries constitute, for example, 6%, and it’s not really raspberries, but concentrated juice produced with a huge amount of sugar?
R.D: This is a very complex issue. I have evolved as a designer. Anyway, evolution is part of our development. Coming back to the yogurt, it was an overview lesson that allowed me to understand my role as a designer. I left school with a romantic approach to design that focuses more on looks – apart from function. After a few years of work in Poland, I came to France convinced that it would be great to do something that will glare. My task was to redesign the existing packaging of fruit-flavored yogurt. I decided that an illustration of fruit would be “a sign”, in line with the prevailing trend to simplify the form. The result was a failure, measurable in numbers. The product did not sell—one conclusion: when designing packaging, my name, personality, or aesthetic preferences do not count. What matters is whether the packaging attracts attention and thus sells the product. If a designers’ role is to inform, persuade or sell a product, they should meet these expectations.
It is coming back to the second part of your question regarding the information on the packaging. Yes, the packaging should contain full details on the contents, ingredients, etc. An example would be the commonly used and valid nutrition information on the packaging of food products. It informs you about ingredients, the percentage of their recommended daily intake, and the caloric values for the suggested serving size. In addition, it has a standardized typographic layout, awarded with the AIGA Design Award many, many years ago for readability and complete functionality. Some designers may not like this because it interferes with their design aesthetics. However, for the consumer, it is essential information.
Compared to the information label in question, I often find myself in a situation where I cannot read the contents of a package. It has a yellow background, and the content is printed in small white letters. A designer went crazy, doing something unreadable, disregarding the recipient. Maybe the aesthetics that I did not understand prevailed, or maybe it was not discussed at the school he/she attended. Maybe a cool look was emphasized there and the function was forgotten. However, aesthetics and function can be reconciled.
The visual appeal of packaging is relative as it depends on the place of sale. We design differently for a self-service store and differently for a place where the seller hands the product in exclusive department stores. For example, cosmetics in supermarkets sell with their appearance; Dior or Chanel sell by their brand; therefore, their graphics are very modest.
L.T: You mentioned a strip, and of course, I immediately thought of tobacco products, the labels with information that smoking causes different ailments. These labels are mandatory. I understand that this is a similar solution?
R.D: I stopped smoking a long time ago; therefore, my answer may not be complete. For many years, there has been a requirement to display warning labels on American cigarette packaging. They do not have a uniform pattern, and the text is also varied. Due to the required legibility of the inscription, it covers a large part of the previously designed packaging. It is a foreign addition to it, which probably strikes the designers of the packaging itself. If I wanted to design something like this, I would probably try to take this element into account and harmonize it with the whole design. Fortunately, I don’t have to solve this dilemma.
L.T: Have you refused any jobs? If so, why? As designers, should we do such things?
R.D: I think it is like with the medical saying – “First, do no harm.” I think each of us has an ideology. We have a certain compass built-in, and it would not be easy to design against your own beliefs, regardless of what it concerns. You raised an issue that has become relevant to everyone today, especially to the younger generation. Ecology, environmental protection, human rights, health protection, or political issues, all these elements take on special importance today. At the peak of my design work, I didn’t hear about overheating of the atmosphere and a climate catastrophe, for example. These elements did not come into our field of vision then. I am talking about the peak of my design career in Poland, from 1970 to 1984. The environment was not so polluted and cluttered; at least we did not talk about it. Plastic was coming into use. A colorful container, a colorful plastic toy, pleased the eyes. But, there was a lack of knowledge and awareness of what it exposes the planet too. Buying an egg box, I choose a polystyrene or plastic box that will decompose in the environment for thousands of years, or I can buy a box made of paper-mâché, and the natural decomposition process will be short. Today, I would certainly take such things into account when designing. But, as time went on, as I witnessed the changes, my beliefs also changed.
Gierek’s era, with the propaganda of success, overshadowed the sharpness of vision, and it also affected us, designers. I was not involved in designing any political poster, but I was indirectly involved in supporting the propaganda machine. The problem was not so severe at the time, and I took meaningful, wide-ranging projects to express confidence in my abilities without going too deep into the implications they might bring.
This was the case with the Polish Television logo design. I won the contest despite significant competition with many designers. I also designed Dziennik Telewizyjny (TV Daily). I was stuck in this system. One could talk about it for a long time. At that time, I treated it as a project that would be visible, and I was glad that I was approached to do something like that. Do you know when Dziennik Telewizyjny started to pinch me a lot? At the moment when I saw announcers in uniforms against the background of its sign. Then it suddenly turned out that I took part in something that I was not proud of at all. That was the reality. I still consider this sign of being good graphically; it is strong and visible. The time perspective, however, brings a different view and assessment of the situation. These are very complex discussions and settlements with the past at the moment, mainly concerning the departing generation of designers. Young designers have their problems, but the question of participating in something we disagree with remains valid. Answering your question briefly, I would like to say that we should not do things against our conscience or beliefs.
L.T: Are some situations so complex that you may just have to do your job and that’s it?
R.D: Yes. It was Młynarski who sang “Get on with our business”. It seems to me that it works on many levels. What I said at the beginning – not to do something that is harmful, inappropriate. Contrary to your own beliefs. This is probably the compass a designer should use to navigate.
L.T: A question about participation in contests. In your book you mention that it was a springboard in the post-war market. Has this approach to contests changed later in your career? Were these things still interesting for you?
R.D: Graphic contests were a springboard for me to be noticed in the design market. First, I entered sign contests, and then other topics came up. I also attended them when I had enough assignments and didn’t have to make a name. It was an attempt to test myself in terms of competition. I also participated in contests after coming to the USA for the same reasons as above. I like to design; it gives me pleasure, and entering contests becomes a form of gambling.
Another aspect of contests in Poland was entering them into a group of friends. We were a bunch of young designers, many of us attended Professor Rudziński’s class. There was a healthy competition of ideas between us. Contests and original graphic solutions brought satisfaction. Even when you didn’t win yourself, you were happy about your friend’s victory. I think competition generally raised the quality of design. Most of all, however, our names appeared more and more frequently on the design market, bringing us new commissions.
What did this contribute to? Looking back, I think that in the 1960s and a bit later, we influenced the value of designing a logo or packaging. I’m excluding posters from this because they existed independently of that. I am talking about a group of so-called commercial graphic designers who dealt with transient graphics. By competing with each other, we naturally raised the bar. These are not my words; I have heard such an opinion from my older colleagues who were active in graphic design even before the war. They admitted that it forced them to make decisions more quickly and look at design differently.
During the 1970s to the mid-1980s, the calendar of my assignments was packed tightly and forced me to sometimes work on several designs simultaneously, being careful not to miss deadlines. I also had the luxury of choosing customers. As a result, I did not experience what younger graphic designers described – this terrible abuse by dishonest customers who employed 3-5 people at the same time and did not pay. These were, and still are, completely condemnable practices, which also testify to the erosion of ethical behavior.
L.T: I would like to ask you about designing for science. Do you have experience working with scientists and creating various types of studies and charts?
R.D: As a designer, I co-operated with publishing houses such as State Scientific Publishers, Scientific and Technical Publishers, and Communication and Connectivity Publishers. There were a lot of studies and scientific books. However, it was not yet the stage of incorporating information graphics into the publishing process of a scientific book. I only had come across this as the artistic director of School and Pedagogical Publishers, at the stage of creative supervision.
I started dealing with information graphics in the United States, although it was not designing for science, but rather process visualization or information architecture. I directly contacted scientists while running a project for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a student assignment. The students were supposed to work closely with them. The result was an overview chart to train farmers – “How to protect water sources from the pollution generated by a farm.” It was an exciting project because scientists from the agency prepared their sketches, came to the classes, sat together with the students, and designed charts. Finally, the design was implemented and used in training presentations.
My information graphics studio focused on the functionality of design in addition to its aesthetic values. It was a completely new approach to design for students. They got used to it slowly but accepted it when they saw the results of their work. As a result, I always had candidates waiting in line for my class, even though it was sometimes difficult.
L.T: Maybe a little bit about running a studio. From the perspective of tasks, were they individual designs or, for example, one design for the entire semester?
R.D: Let me put it this way, they were single tasks but connected in a logical entirety, constituting a set of skills required for the subject taught. Furthermore, I tried to arrange the course content to give a student what I called I called a “toolbox,” allowing for independent resolution of complex design problems at the end of the semester.
The general principle of building the course curriculum was to compile a list of skills that the student should learn from the studio at the end of the semester. This list was a framework for formulating tasks related to its items. And so, if, for example, the typography basics course assumed the ability to design a page layout, it certainly included the task of building a typographic design grid.
In the USA, we did 6 to 8 assignments per semester. When I came to Warsaw for a year, I was asked to run a guest studio at the Faculty of Industrial Design at the Academy of Fine Arts. My colleagues from the Faculty were surprised by the number of exercises because the standard was to do two assignments per semester.
The last semester was a different one. The studio operated as a design agency, and students worked for real customers. They also prepared their professional portfolio and, in parallel, were working on their diploma.
The basis of the diploma thesis was finding an existing problem by the student that should be solved by design. It was the most challenging part of the job. Topics discussed included education, environmental protection, and the problems of the disabled. The university itself provided a huge number of issues. Considering the curriculum, I excluded visual identification – a “flagship” topic of many schools, from diploma proposals in my studio, assuming that designing a logo and putting it on a T‑shirt and a coffee mug did not sum up the skills of visual communication designers. Designs were presented to the public, experts, and consultants, coming from institutions for which the design was created.
L.T: Moving away from education, let’s talk about the design for LOT. In the book you mentioned that it was its scale that constituted the difficulty. Please tell me a little about this design.
R.D: Airline identity is a massive project, but it started with a little fragment. Namely, after the announcement of the contest for the identification of Polish Airlines, in search of an idea, I started going to Okęcie (Warsaw Chopin Airport). Back then, there was a jetty where you could go out to wave to your aunt flying to New York from a distance. From this jetty, I watched planes taking off and landing. What caught my attention was that planes, seen from a distance of 1,500-2,000 meters, were anonymous. It was not known to which airlines they belonged. I figured it was time to change that. The solution might be to put a large sign on the fuselage.
This was just the beginning. I think I even have the napkin on which I drew the silhouette of an airplane with a monumental inscription “LOT” somewhere. Later on, on the fuselage, it was readable from a long distance. Thus, the fundamental problem of airline recognition has been resolved. I worked on the design with a colleague, Andrzej Zbrożek, who, in turn, was great at building mock-ups or drawing realistic silhouettes of planes, which helped in the contest presentation. We complemented each other perfectly.
Implementing the design made us face the need to design many prints, ground vehicles, flying equipment, and other previously unpredicted elements. Other airlines’ identification designers have already done this, including a summary of their activities in the form of identification manuals. Having no access to this kind of material, we started building it from scratch. It was very educational in terms of system thinking. It was also one of the first comprehensive designs of this type in Poland.
When the design was completed, we had to deal with its physical scale and transform two-dimensional mock-ups into the third dimension. It was a completely new experience. Graphics to be painted on a prototype, we personally glued the colour boundaries with tape, checking the result up close and distance. This process is done manually because on rounded parts of the plane, there are distortions. After painting the plane, detailed technical drawings are made, allowing the same pattern to be reproduced on subsequent planes. I learned that prototype pasting was common practice in other airlines. Today, this process would probably be replaced by computers.
L.T: Maybe some form of projector or light can be used somehow.
R.D: It may be so, although today, a mathematical algorithm will solve it much faster. It would help if you remembered that we were operating in a world with no computers and everything was done by hand, starting with sketching the letters. You see, this is where what we talked about at the beginning – Rudziński’s studio, came in handy. The moment computers came to be changed a lot. Still, the sensitivity to the spacing between the letters, acquired in the workshop, remained, allowing us to be happy that we can operate with their fractions instead of one or a half-space point. It is interesting, however, if anyone can see it. I remember when my friend, a typographer, Leon Urbański, who used – apart from metal spaces – also a strip of bristol board and thin paper in a metal warehouse, was thrilled to learn about these possibilities of computer typesetting. But this is a story from a world that no longer exists.
L.T: In the book you mentioned the meeting with Saul Bass and that it was one of those people who inspired you and made an imprint. Are there any other people from various fields that inspire you?
R.D: The direct inspiration has always been in the world of contemporary graphics, which you naturally watch. The list of names is too long for me to name them all. However, I am still impressed by the work of Massimo Vignelli and his design philosophy. A significant place on this list is also taken by Herb Lubalin, who broke the trend in the dominant Swiss school of design era. He did it with typography whose roots, I believe, come from little 19th-century printers in the American Midwest.
L.T: Maybe people that did not necessarily inspire, but made an impression – people you followed.
R.D: Paul Rand, a logo design giant for leading American corporations, was such a person. His maxim “don’t try to be original, try to be good” has lost nothing of its relevance. The amount of his work is impressive. The person I was following was David Carson, an American artist and typographer. I can describe my attitude to his work with the words’ approval – disapproval’. I like Carson a lot as a “painter” using letters, a master of expressive typography. However, I do not know whether the word typography is appropriate since it does not carry a message. Though, I deeply disapprove of his projects, which try to communicate something in an unreadable manner. Unreadable typography is a pure oxymoron. Maybe that’s the paradox that makes you remember Carson. I am reminded of the public discourse between Carson and Massimo Vignelli and their radically different design philosophies. I was definitely on Vignelli’s side.
L.T: Professor, let us finally make a connection with the previous talks on the blog and our correspondence preceding this talk – The best breakfast?
R.D: Does it have to be breakfast?
L.T: It can be any meal.
R.D: The best dish I have ever eaten, and I still remember today, is pearl barley with canned, fatty pork cooked in a cauldron over a fire by Soviet soldiers. This canned food from American deliveries was called “pig carcass.” It was 1944, the front was passing, and it stopped on the Vistula for a few months. As a little kid, I was eight at the time, spending most of my time with the soldiers who often invited me to sit by the campfire. Many of them left their children when they went to war. I understood their liking. We civilians were experiencing hunger; turnip soup or boiled rye flour were frequent dishes. I will not describe their taste. This dish, served by the fire, is something that I will remember forever.
L.T: Ceremony of eating together.
R.D: Yes, you can call it that. In addition to the meal, there was a guitar, Russian chants, and the near-front atmosphere. All of this together created this war landscape in which I moved. After a few months, I was fluent in Russian. Back then, I didn’t know much about politics. My father, who experienced the Bolshevik revolution, knew much more, but I was too young for initiation. My childhood memories of the campfire meetings were very different from what we experienced after the Red Army entered. Pearl barley with pork did not change its taste because of politics.
L.T: Sometimes these memories stay deep, and they not always can be replaced afterwards. Professor, thank you very much.
R.D: Thank you.