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Jan Lorenc

EGD's journeyman



According to Jan Lorenc, “design is a journey…we learn from the world around us.”

Lorenc's journey began across the Atlantic. The Polish-born designer immigrated to the Midwest when he was 8.

Straight out of the Illinois Institute of Technology, he began his own design firm in Chicago. Several years later, he and wife Barbara journeyed around America, meeting other designers and appreciating the regional differences. He settled in Atlanta and today partners Lorenc Yoo Design, a multi-disciplinary firm that creates signage, museum and trade show exhibits, furniture, store planning, sculpture and environmental design.

“Design is his life and his hobby,” says partner Chung Yoo. But despite this intensity, he is said to have a wacky sense of humor.

What is your most vivid memory of Poland?


In 1962, my mother and I traveled from our village to Warsaw by steam-engine train. We stayed wtih friends in their (fifth-floor) high-rise apartment. This is where I saw my first television program and took my first bath in a bona fide bathtub. At home, we'd had family bath night — we filled a big iron basin (in the kitchen) with water heated on our wood-burning stove.

What is the purpose of environmental graphics?

To embody the sense of place, to provide for a sense of entrance and to work in context with the overall design. In its best light, it's seamless with the physical landscape, interiors and architecture. Envrionmental graphics is the appropriate use of form, materials and place-making attitude.

What is the strangest thing you've created?

Habitat for Humanity has an annual artist's birdhouse show and sale. The first one I designed was a multiplex community where birds and bugs could live in harmony. Birds could invite their insect neighbors over to “dinner” — and eat them. Hence, the circle of life.

What is the most beautiful thing in the world to you?


As a husband and a father, I would have to say the birth of a child. As a designer, it always changes. When I attended the Cirque du Soleil, the Alegria performance was such an emotional event for me. Listening, seeing and feeling the choreographed energy of the multi-sensorial extravaganza brought tears to my eyes and resonated from my head to my toes.

And what is the most unattractive?

America's urban and suburban sprawl, particularly the retail strip centers with immense parking lots and purely consumer-based, anti-social attitudes. The realization that we have an energy crisis will eventually catch up to us, and we'll plan better communities wherein our children can walk to school.

Finish this thought: If I knew in my 20s what I know now…

I may not have started my design firm straight out of school, since I knew nothing about design or business. But it's good to pursue your dream when you are passionate, perhaps naíve. You can do anything without those perceived boundaries.

Whom do you admire most in this industry?


I admire Ralph Applebaum, a major force in museum design today. His projects — the Holocaust Museum, the Newseum and the planned Civil Rights Museum — have become major landmarks. He not only orchestrates a great story, but the end product is crafted so tastefully and powerfully. I met him several years ago when we both received SEGD's “25 Most Significant Contributors” and my respect for him compounded.

What is lacking in retail today?

Most of it is “follow the lead,” or “follow the successful risk-taker.” I guess this is the way of all industries, but experimentation should occur more frequently in retail than in other design fields, since fashion changes so often.



MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

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