Jack Biesek: Pioneer, Mentor, Advocate
Long-time SEGD member, former board member, and past president Jack Biesek, founder of Biesek Design, died June 30 of esophageal cancer. He was 66.
After successfully battling his illness several years ago, Biesek had been undergoing treatment again and planned to undergo surgery in the fall. He died quietly Sunday at his home in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Jack was a 30-year SEGD member, playing many critical roles including board member and president starting in 1990. He operated Biesek Design from a studio he built next to his home in beautiful See Canyon on California's scenic Central Coast.
The firm served a wide variety of educational, medical, and parks clients, completing signage master plans for UCLA, Pasadena City College, Zion National Park, and California State University, Stanislaus, among many others. Biesek also directed the development of wayfinding systems for clients such as the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C., the City of Anaheim, U.S. National Parks, and Cal Poly Performing Arts Center.
“One of Jack’s passions was trying to bring common sense to accessibility signage regulations, and he served on many volunteer committees influencing signage regulations in California and nationwide,” says Wayne Hunt, FSEGD, a long-time colleague and friend. Biesek was a member of California’s Best Practices Advisory Committee on Signage, and for decades was an active voice in the SEGD community, speaking at numerous SEGD events on signage regulations and wayfinding.
Biesek started his career as a graphic designer in 1970 after studying art and design at Pasadena City College.
About 10 years ago, Jack turned his attention to another lifetime passion, sculpture, when he set up a stone carving and welding shop on his property. He had several one-man shows and his work is in several private collections.
He is remembered as much for his humanity as he was for his leadership in environmental graphic design.
“I remember meeting Jack at his first Cranbrook conference back in 1986,” says Sarah Speare, former SEGD Executive Director 1985-1995. “He was so exuberant to have found the home he had been looking for—where he could learn, share, and support the work that gave him joy and that he believed in. He instantly wanted to help SEGD and in no time became an indispensable board member. He cared deeply about strengthening the fabricator/designer relationship and set the bar in terms of sharing knowledge for the benefit of the profession. He jumped into a million projects with gusto and helped move a lot of programs forward, including TechTalk and the ADA Committee.”
“Jack was full of humor and levity in every situation,” continues Speare. “What I remember most of all was his huge heart, glowing smile, and immense generosity. He was more than special and will live forever in the heart and soul of SEGD.”
"It's truly sad to lose such a kindhearted member of our community,” says Amy Lukas, Partner in Infinite Scale and President of the SEGD Board of Directors. “Jack was a true leader and innovator in the world of environmental graphic design, as well as in SEGD. He was genuine, kind, and always nurturing the next generation. He was a good man. He will be missed."
Ken Leonard, Canyon Road Design, remembers Biesek as a mentor and an EGD pioneer with a gracious, humorous business style that made him the favorite of clients and fabricators alike.
“He pioneered best practices in every area of the business and honed his firm’s design and planning methodology into a fine-tuned, problem-solving machine, guided by a deep understanding of classical typography and human psychology (as well as accessibility requirements).”
“A decade before I met him, I had heard about his elegant aesthetics, along with his exacting standards,” Leonard continues. “The sign fabricators I knew spoke about him (and Biesek Design) in reverential terms. ‘He's tough, but he's fair,’ ‘His drawings are gold,’ and ‘We do our best work for Biesek.’ So, when I finally met him in 2005, I was surprised that he was so young, so friendly, so open, and so willing to share the Biesek process with me.”
The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to a cancer foundation of your choosing.
Wayne Hunt contributed to this article.