When I first came to Aude, I saw this boy with dark, sparkling eyes, completely engrossed in his work. A bit absent-minded, even remote, introverted. He rarely lowered his guard and if so, only for a moment. As if he feared someone could hurt him. Or maybe he knew very well something that we refuse to realize? That it’s not worth talking about trivial things, thinking about silly things, courting fame, worrying about “small” life. He was beyond all that. But if you did manage to get closer to him, he turned out to be a good, sensitive person. And he was so damn talented. This is Robert as we remember him – a graphic designer, a man, and a sportsperson.
He was surprising me – he was so literate, good at finding the punchline, bright observer, sparkling with intelligence. It was surprising because he seemed to be so quiet. But whenever I looked at his works, everything was clear. We worked together on many magazines; he as a graphic designer and I as an editor. One of the more beautiful projects by him was for a bank. I was really proud when the jury of the Szpalty Roku competition awarded his project “for its elegance”. Because Robert, despite not paying attention to the external attributes of so called good taste, had a fantastic sense of proportions, color and simply beauty.
“I worked with Robert for 12 years. When he came to the company he was a young man trying to find his career path. He soon showed us his exceptional artistic skills, enormous sensitivity, intelligence and unusual focus at work. He had a rare talent. He soon occupied a very important place in our small company.
Since he’s gone, the most difficult moments for me are those when I meet Robert through the omnipresent traces of him on the company server. We make magazines that he designed, using the templates which he optimized. We all work using the fruits of his work – very neat, imaginative, passionate, precise. He is still with us, and so it’s very hard to understand that we’re not going to see him anymore,” says Marcin Rutkowski, deputy CEO, head of graphic designing.
“When I think about Robert, I remember my first days at Aude. He helped me to find myself in a new environment. He was always willing to share his knowledge, he was very helpful and I learnt a lot from him. He never ever made me think he didn’t care so much about my opinion because I had less experience – on the contrary, he listened carefully and then executed what I proposed or suggested a different solution. And I always gave him a free hand, because I trusted him and I knew that whatever he’ll do – he’ll do it right,” says editor Paulina Grzęda about Robert.
In Marcin’s memories Robert is not only a professionalist, but also a beautiful person:
“But it’s not from the professional point of view that I miss him most. Even though Robert carefully separated his work from his private life and I only knew him from work, I always thought warmly of him, as of someone who gives me a lot and who makes me a bit better. Robert simply was an exceptionally good, beautiful person. I used to tell him, seriocomically, that he wasn’t an ordinary person, but a saint. He showed so much patience and understanding for other people’s faults and nuisances. So helpful and exceptionally modest. So attentive and listening to others.
One of my unforgettable memories about Robert is with my daughter. She was a toddler then, barely learnt to walk. Each time she came to the graphic designing studio she ran straight to Robert and climbed his desk. She could stay there for long, watching him with admiration.
With Ula we also remember our meetings with Norwegians from our friend agency, who came to Warsaw to learn a graphic designing program from Robert. They just loved him and admired his modesty, they even told him that. We also remember that during our visit to Norway he went to buy a shirt before going to the philharmonic, because he wanted to show respect to our hosts and he happened not to have an outfit fitting the occasion in his bag.
There is this Buddhist tale about God who, trying to hide from all the human claims and complaining, hid in a place where it was hardest to find him – in another person. I think it was never a problem for Robert to find him there, and to share his divine piece with others.
Also for graphic designer Joanna Korolewska Robert was someone special: “It’s hard to accept that he’s gone. He was too young, too good. In my life I’ve only met a few people as kind as Robert. No matter how frustrating something I couldn’t cope with was, whenever I asked Robert for help, I received not only his help, but also his kind smile, which made my entire frustration vanish. I always could count on him. He was very skilled, but also very modest, willing to share his knowledge with us. There is no day I wouldn’t think about him. And he was only my colleague. To me, he was special.
Paulina emphasizes his kindness: “Without him my beginnings in the office would be much more difficult.” And she adds: “Whenever I had a hard moment, he would always cheer me up with a good word or made me laugh and lightened the atmosphere. I think he doesn’t even realize (I should say “didn’t” – I still catch myself thinking about him in the present time) how important role did he play in my life at Aude. To him, it wasn’t anything unusual, that’s just the way he was – kind, full of empathy, truly human.
I don’t remember him using a different means of transport. A bicycle was so inseparable from Robert, that when I think Robert – I instantly see his slender body bent over the frame of his sports bike. He was an avid cyclist, a crazy one, a total one – whether it was snowing, freezing or slushy, he always came to work by bike.
Marcin: “He didn’t like riding without a purpose, like in the song: “put on your tight gear ‘cos it’s good to have style – we’ll be riding from one village to another” (Lech Janerka). He had a professional attitude towards bicycles. He was a brilliant mechanic – he also repaired and adjusted bicycles for everyone in Aude. But his skills as a bike mechanic and constructor were primarily seen in his own bike. It had nothing to do with flow production. It was a single-speed bicycle built on a race bike frame – unusually light, equipped in prime accessories and clipless pedals. As an aesthete, Robert designed it as a beautiful object, and he had it painted mat black by a specialized paint shop. He often moved faster than the cars in our Tyniecka street, which I saw many times.
Last summer, before he died, he built another bike on an old performance frame bought at an online auction. It was a fixie, a bicycle without breaks and chain tensioner – the pedals move always as you ride and as fast as the bicycle goes. Riding such a bike requires great physical strength and condition. The bike was also very beautiful, even though the frame was cracked. I asked him when he was going to paint it. He said he had to test it first, to see if it’s worth further investments. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to…
Tomasz Abelec, technical editor, remembers his boating on the Vistula with Robert: “It was a spontaneous decision. Robert convinced me to work out with the Warsaw Rowing Association. And so I joined people who were already rowing. The workouts were at 7 a.m. on Fridays! Robert was very dutiful. We didn’t always work out together, but I know he never missed a single meeting. It required determination and discipline, so he soon was getting better and better also at rowing.
Were his designs influenced by the music he listened to all the time? No doubt it separated us from him to some extent, but it also said a lot about his sensitivity – jazz, “Blade Runner” soundtrack… And since the concert at the Norwegian Sande Fiord – also classical music, which he then heard alive for the first time. When he got interested in something, it was never a momentary delight. I still listen to Joni Mitchell album which he recorded for me. Just like that, because I said I liked it.
He was an exceptionally talented person, which is why his designs are timeless, but also a hard-working and very precise one, which shows in the details of the magazines he designed. It was real pleasure for me to be able to work with Robert. All my ideas were gaining the best shape under his hand. Today, I am still an editor for the magazine which he designed, giving it a unique character. And each time I catch myself thinking: how would Robert do it? Would he like it? Would it be up to his standards? I try very hard not to disappoint him. As everyone in AUDE.