HEAVYWEIGHT — Interview
Heavyweight is a Prague-based type foundry founded by Jan Horčík and Filip Matějíček.
Hello, Filip and Jan. How are you?
Both: Hello, we are fine. We are currently working on our website and are trying to move the individual fonts on it. It is a lot of hard work but we are grateful for it nevertheless.
Can you introduce yourselves?
Both: We come from the Czech Republic and are currently based in Prague. There are two of us — Jan Horčík and Filip Matějíček — and we go under the name of Heavyweight. We set-up the type foundry in 2013 during our studies at the Studio of Typography at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague (AAAD Prague) where we met and began to work together. During our studies, we had enough time to think of the concept and direction of the type foundry. Increasingly, we created our own custom fonts that we used later within our graphic work where we could adapt them to the ideal shape. This became our intention, to create a graphic design font for the needs of graphic designers. We gradually built up our collection of fonts and the first font Topol we created together, fifty-fifty. At the moment, we are constantly working on other fonts that we consult with each other.
Where does your interest in graphic and type design come from?
Jan: In my case, it is more complicated. When I was fifteen, I had to decide my career orientation and together with my parents I decided to go to a hotel and vocational school. I didn’t think at that time that I would become so interested in graphic design and even so, my pictures and drawings on paper were not particularly convincing — either for me or for my parents, and so I decided more pragmatically to enter the tourism and hotel industry. Being fed up having to dress as a waiter, I hung around the Prague graffiti community who were more my kind of people and my pencil and paper soon turned into spray paint and a wall. If you notice, there were quite a lot of graffiti artists who had a similar development, or fate, if you prefer. When I finished the hotel school, I worked in a graffiti shop in Prague where I found out that I should learn something more meaningful than the hotel industry, something where I could believe in myself. Retrospectively, I realise what a crucial decision it was to try this school where I began to learn typography. Even if this was for the reason that it was partly a coincidence arising from boredom and the frustration of the transition from school to life. This is why I don’t mind admitting to the link to graffiti.
Filip: Perhaps I cannot easily describe where my interest in design and typography came from. From my perspective, it is a process taking several years that cannot be described in one sentence. It is a complete development and a transformation of my personality and opinion. My first contact with graphic design began when I started at high school where I did a lot of break-dancing. With our crew, we organised local competitions for which I “designed” posters. This was my first contact with graphic design. At that time, I had no idea about the concept of graphic design. Along with my studies at technical school, my interest in graphic design became stronger, eventually replacing all my activities, including break dancing and school. After technical school, I wanted to turn my hobby into my profession and I continued to study graphic design (at the Ladislav Sutnar Faculty of design and Art in Pilsen). Most of my work was rather simplified and minimalistic but over time I began to lean more towards typesetting and working with texts and fonts. Experiments with Fontlab software and a fascination with my own symbol set and its subsequent introduction in life and utilisation in my own project had the “wow effect”, which was what made it for me. I continued to study font creation and typography at AAAD in Prague.
How did you come to start up the foundry?
Both: One of the key moments for the beginning of our cooperation was a university project at a studio where both of us were studying. The project task was to organise the final studio exhibition presenting all the students’ works. We were charged with the curatorial duties during which we agreed on a visual accompaniment of the entire studio presentation. It was very intensive work and we spent 90% of our energy creating a common Topol font, which we used across the full spectrum of materials for the exhibition — both printed and digital. We both worked on the font together, fifty-fifty. By that time, we could not imagine it was possible. After all, it was a confirmation of our identical ideas and similar tastes. After this experience, we continued to create individual alphabets and after many discussions we decided to combine our fonts under one common project — the Heavyweight type foundry.
Can you tell us more about the PANO typeface?
Filip: The Pano font is based on a group of six specifically designed capitals as a logotype for a brand of racing bikes. It was the first impulse for the creation of this font. The specific spatial arrangement of the bike frame determined the drawing of individual letters with wide proportions. Based on the uppercase glyphs, I drew a rest of the glyph set and then expanded another five cuts. What was interesting was that from the beginning I approached PANO as a text font. Thanks to the high x-height this font can even be utilised in short text compositions. Therefore, the entire symbol set currently includes 534 symbols, which is the reason why the font can be used in more than 50 languages.
PANO is a type of experiment for me. I wanted this font to be as wide as possible and I did not want its round shapes to have a square character.
Another main element of the work is the minimal contrast between vertical and horizontal strokes. Arms and shoulders are smoothly connected to the stems and strokes terminate on the vertical axis.
To soften the already hard, sometimes even aggressive character, the drawing contains humanistic details. For example in glyphs such as lowercase “a”, “s”, the ampersand, or pound sign.
PANO mainly excels in title sizes, on posters, headlines as well as in magazine graphics. Sometimes, I think that every word typeset in this font can become a logotype. I like the PANO font because of its potential variety of uses.
Where would you like to see your typefaces used?
Everywhere. Even embossed on toilet paper.
A designer that you admire?
Jan: Among Czech designers, I would nominate Ladislav Sutnar and Jan Solpera. For me, they are icons who were able to break through during the previous regime with a strong global design. Radim Peško also definitely ranks among the leading contemporary Czech designers. Internationally, then I would say definitely Laurenz Brunner, whom I had the opportunity to work with. He is the ideal combination of a graphic designer with extraordinary sensitivity who has the ability to estimate and create a font.
Filip: For me, it is definitely Ladislav Sutnar. He is a designer who broke through globally in his time and the quality of his work includes much more than just graphic design. Also Karl Gerstner, the ultimate graphic designer.
Is there a book which opened your eyes about design?
Jan: If we talk generally about design, I can remember the book Expo58 Brussels, which was mentioned a lot due to the success of the Czech design. In terms of contemporary designs, then the book Graphic Design Now in Production.
Filip: There are a lot of excellent books. I have read just a fraction of what is available, but I am generally more interested in the historical, period, or retrospective reproductions of the graphic designers of the 60s and 70s. These have an admirable purity of work combined with an absolutely perfect finish. Simplicity without unnecessary effects and clearly legible information.
The last word…
There is a new website coming soon, so stay tuned!
Pictures & projects by Heavyweight Foundry.
Interview: Dennis Moya and Tiffany Bähler, 09.16