Archive for the ‘Publications’ Category

The power of simple graphics

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009


For a country whose government didn’t recognize the people’s right to free speech, Poland certainly had a great tradition of beautiful book covers in the 20th century. I recently found a collection of Polish book covers from last century that are so much more simple and beautiful than most contemporary designs.


Many of them use a collage style, inspired by the Bauhaus in the 1930s by Herbert Bayer and László Moholy-Nagy (the founder of the Institute of Design in Chicago), while others are more inspired by the Polish poster style. If you look at movie posters done by Saul Bass from California, the torn paper collage style was dominant in the US during the same time.

There appears to be some level of freedom in these book covers as the Soviet Realism style that was dominant in the USSR did not encompass Poland. Poles were largely free to move ahead with their own design language, while Russians had to adhere to a state-directed vernacular.

Visit A Journey Round My Skull blog to see a great many more covers.

‘What Is Exhibition Design?’ book being published in Polish

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

img_28314-224x300The textbook I wrote with Craig Berger and Lee Skolnick is being published in my native tongue: Polish.

‘What Is Exhibition Design?’ provides an overview of exhibition design techniques, from crafting narration to fabrication, and provides a portfolio of the excellent work being done by firms across the globe.

SEGD wrote a mention of the new publication on their blog, including a call to action: “Rozpowiedz to wszystkim.” (It means “pass the word to everyone.”)

Thanks, Craig, Lee, SEGD and everyone who has contributed to making this book a huge success…in English, Russian, Polish, Chinese, and soon in Korean! You can buy the book (in English) through

Terror House communicates time and situation

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

I wrote this article with my son Richard for segdDESIGN magazine earlier this year. I visited Budapest in the summer of 2007.

The slow, viscous drip-drop of oil fills the entrance lobby with an eerie, unsettling noise. A continuous flow obscures the faces of hundreds of victims of tyranny who were tortured and killed in the very building that now memorializes them, a wing of an infamous government complex that sits at 60 Andrássy Street in Budapest, Hungary.

Terror House exterior

The Terror Háza Museum—opened in 2002—is a reminder of the mass brutality of 20th century wars and revolutions, and a monument to the people who played roles both inside and outside the building’s cavernous underground prison cells. It documents the period beginning in 1944 when the Nazis gained power in Hungary, to the early 1990s, when the Iron Curtain fell and Hungarians fi nally gained freedom from Communism.

Hungarian architects János Sándor and Kámán Újszászy designed the museum as a monument to failed ideas and innocent victims. Working from a mindset beyond simple architecture, they recognized the need to create the right ambiance to guide visitors through recent history in a respectful and subtle way.

Thematically, the museum juxtaposes the dual hazards of the Nazi-supported Arrow Cross Party and the Soviet-backed secret police. This comparison is clear from the beginning. A large cross and a large star each cast shadows on the street below the building. These logos are flanked by the word “terror,” which casts its own shadow. The designers placed these features onto a large awning that hangs over the roofline of the building, which otherwise appears unchanged from its time as a prison.

DSC_5507Many of the rooms inside the museum have been preserved to appear as they did before Hungarian liberation. The director’s office is still luxurious, and his receiving area still resembles an Austro-Hungarian Imperial-era room that has been painted over so as to erase the memory of the past. There is even a limousine parked inside the museum, its lights slowly rising to reveal plush red seating areas and champagne glasses reserved for the perpetrators.

But just as the museum highlights the excess of criminals, it focuses on the deprivation and inhumane treatment of their victims. The architects preserved the expansive prison, which not only fills the basement of 60 Andrássy Street, but also had been expanded by the Communists into the basement areas of a number of other buildings on the block.

Visitors descend into the basement in a slow-moving freight elevator that is illuminated by harsh fluorescent lights. The prison is generally dark and dank, and the only real light comes from the desk lamps that sit inside interrogation rooms.

The gallows are preserved in their final resting spot, and artifacts from inmates line the claustrophobic corridors.


Beyond preservation, the museum presents a subtly modern flavor on the upper levels. A room resembling a church depicts the role the state-controlled media played in the terror. Its windows, floor, pews, and desks are plastered with pages from newspapers, and the front wall contains a television display that plays a video on the impact of misinformation and government propaganda.

Religion, too, suffered under Hungary’s dual tyrannies. Dramatic sculptures and blue lighting characterize an exhibit that literally depicts political icons presiding over symbols of religious rubble. A long corridor with a rounded ceiling houses confiscated religious items in small alcoves, and the floor contains a long, illuminated cross that looks as if it has been exposed from a brick grave underneath.

The room dedicated to the memory of the prison’s victims may be the most moving of all. Lit from behind, metal stencils with victims’ names line the walls, and low-level lights produce an ambiance reminiscent of a candlelight vigil. Brass plaques indicate the end of the road for the victims, and are capped with skulls and crossbones. There is also a room reserved for their aggressors, which depicts them in black and white photos on crimson walls.

DSC_5570Spaces can convey deep levels of meaning in ways unlike any other form of storytelling. The Terror Haus is a well considered museum that simultaneously informs, impresses, and cautions. Its story is made that much more accessible by its modern design and high level of craftsmanship. The designers’ use of color, light, material, media, and era-specific furniture contribute to an intimate understanding of the place whose mission is now to teach, and whose visitors will leave with a better picture of the atrocities committed in the name of politics not that long ago.

Jan Lorenc is the president and design director of Lorenc+Yoo Design, an Atlanta-based environmental design firm. Richard Lorenc is the director of outreach for the Illinois Policy Institute, the state’s free-market think tank, and he also serves as director of communications for Lorenc+Yoo.