JAN NOVAK — Interview
Jan Novák, graphic and type designer from Prague.
Hello Jan, how are you?
Hello, I’m good, thank you – spending another adventurous day in the studio!
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Jan Novák, I am a graphic and type designer from Prague. This year, (hopefully), I’m going to finish my studies at the AAAD (Academy of Arts Architecture and Design). As a part of my studies, I have also spent six months in Zurich and last year I did an internship at Sagmeister & Walsh in New York. Currently I have a studio with several friends in a beautiful functionalist building in Prague, where I work on various design projects and typefaces. I sell some of my typefaces at Briefcase type foundry or directly on my website.
Where does your interest in graphic and type design come from?
I was a typical drawing kid, I drew everywhere all the time, when a paper and pen were at hand – this stayed with me for quite a long time, and in the last couple of years I managed to fulfill this obsession by drawing typefaces and doing graphic design. I like creating things and caring about them during the whole process, which is quite possible with both type and graphic design. But I can easily imagine that I could be doing something completely different in five years time.
Can you describe to us one of your project?
One of my favorites is the visual style for Between The Walls – one of the exhibitions in MeetFactory, for which we are working with Filip Kraus since 2012. For this one, we created 10 special bricks, into which we sandblasted all the information about the exhibition. It was quite hard, but our school has great workshops where it was possible. A photograph of the bricks was turned into a poster and we also recycled them – we used them as a printing matrix for the catalogue. Imprints of the bricks worked as captions inside the catalogue and the structure of bricks created a wall on the cover.
Can you tell us more about the Liguria typeface?
The Liguria typeface was created in 2012 for the third issue of a magazine published by my friends from creative group OKOLO. This issue was focused on the northern Italian region of Liguria. I was fascinated by the local concrete architecture from the 60’s and 70’s and these shapes inspired me when creating the Liguria font. The robust details and blocks almost look like they are resisting gravitation; these constructions couldn’t have been possible to build before – without the concrete casting method.
It was a challenge to create a highly specific display typeface, which could be easily legible even in a small text. Most of the “pixel” elements in this font substitute ink traps and other dynamic details.What’s interesting in using your own typefaces on a graphic design project?
It can be difficult in the beginning, because I am always kind of fed up with it – after weeks or months I spent working on it. I like to give it to my friends and let them use it, so I can see what other people can do with it. Then after some time I can come back to it, and then it’s a real joy. You can use the type as your own tool for building a poster, invitation or book, which is great, and you feel much more like it is “your own design”.
Do you have a favorite typeface?
That is a very difficult question – I can’t really name one typeface. It is similar with music or fashion, taste for typefaces evolves. I don’t want to stick to one typeface (but for example Experimental Jetset have built their career around it – they chose Helvetica, obviously). But I like Swiss typography a lot – I was really into Replica, which I love for its strong construction concept.
A designer that you admire?
I am visually more inspired by artists or just everyday bits of design than by admiring a particular graphic designer. But I really like the work of Stefan Sagmeister, for his great ideas and also his strong will that keeps his studio small and focused on interesting projects.
Which books are on your bedside table?
A small sketchbook, because the best ideas could come just before I fall asleep. A Czech sci-fi book from the 60’s called Stopa ve Vesmíru, a graphic design book PROTO and Small World: An academic romance by David Lodge, which I read over and over.
The last word…
Buy a font and thank you for your interest!
Interview : Dennis Moya & Tiffany Bähler — 05.15
Images ©Jan Novák.