After training as a decorator and church painter, Stankowski enrolled at the Folkwang School of Essen, studying ‘functional design’, photography and typography.
He moved to Zürich where he completed his Theory of Design. He moved back to Germany but fell prisoner until 1948. After the war he worked at the Stuttgarter Illustrierte for three years, until he founded his own agency. He hired Karl Dushek, who later became his business partner, and he created some of the most iconic graphic work, from the Berlin city visual identity, IBM logo and Deutsche Bank mark. He was also Chairman of the Committee for the Olympics in Munich ’72. From the mid 70s he spent increasingly more time painting and in 1983 he created a Foundation for artists' work in bridging art and design.