Wywiad po polsku dostępny tutaj
Hello, on the 14th of September you published a publication entitled “Independent Type – Independent type design from Poland”. The book is your Master’s diploma project developed at the Sign and Typography Studio at the University of Fine Arts in Poznań. It is an outcome of your research and conversations with people working in type design.
The book consists of interviews, questions, suggestions, thoughts but also purely visual, image-based material.
Before talking about the book, let’s start more generally with graphic design. How come you decided to study graphic design? When was the first time you got involved with type design?
I’ve always liked to create things, to draw. I spent long hours by the computer screen. I decided to connect my different interests as I chose my studies. During my last year of high-school, I’ve signed up for a drawing course at Perspektywa in Warsaw. I considered applying for Interior Design or Computer Graphics. For financial reasons, I’ve chosen Warsaw School of Information Technology (WIT). These were one of the cheapest studies at that time as the department was new and experimental.
The classes were conducted by well-known designers that I appreciate. I was very much engaged with every single aspect of the industry – my activity was very interdisciplinary. At that time my approach towards typography was rather distanced and full of uncertainty. The professors of WIT (WSISIZ) were able to share with me their passion for typesetting. I fell in love with editorial design and followed this career path. At that time I designed and typeset many magazines and catalogues. I also focused on developing skills in 3D graphics.
I’ve always felt that typography is important but I truly fell in love with letters during my studies at the University of Fine Arts in Poznań – The Sign and Typography Studio. The University didn’t accept my previous diploma, so I had to start my bachelor’s degree all over again, often studying the same classes but at the artistic university. I moved to Poznań for good.
I’ve learned about typography and type design from Professor Krzysztof Kochnowicz. During one of the first meetings we practised calligraphy, it was a kind of revelation for me, it felt very engaging. At the end of my second bachelor, I’ve decided to practise and learn both calligraphy and type design more seriously. The beginnings were difficult. Professor didn’t approve any of my projects, I’ve spent long days editing and reviewing my work. Sometimes I came back home doubting myself, that I cannot achieve anything but I decided not to give up.
Today, I’d design my Master’s diploma typefaces completely differently (laughs) but the process itself, the feeling, observation that things are gradually getting better and better fuelled my passion. It is probably how I am, I do not give up easily. Facing difficulties helps me to find even more determination. I think that during the process of designing Katarinka typeface, part of my bachelor project, I began to be more certain that type design is what I’d like to do in the future. Professor Krzysztof Kochnowicz was and still is my main mentor in the field of type design.
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned at the Sign and Typography Studio?
I got it after my master’s degree. I’ve sent an e-mail to my professor saying: “Thank you for all the valuable lessons you have shared with me during the 5 years of my studies”. His response might sound very simple but, he wrote back that I must always remember that without determination and engagement there won’t be any results. It reminded me of a quote by Wanda Rutkiewicz, a famous polish Himalayan mountaineer, who once said something like: “A sip of water tastes the best at the peak of the mountain, after a climb”. I try to remember that.
The book is typeset with your own letters. Can you share the process behind designing the typeface?
Initially, I wanted to design two typefaces. One of them was supposed to be more decorative – display for headers. The second one was supposed to be a classical humanistic sans serif in three weights: Regular, Italic and Bold – for typesetting texts and for screen purposes. Professor suggested that I focus only on the second one. There was no exact plan, so much was happening around me. The University required the theoretical paper to be based on research and it had to have the same title as the practical part.
For my practical project, I’ve designed Szykovnia Sans. As an extra project I did the publication with Q&A – consisting of interviews and visual materials such as specimens and images of fonts in use. The book was outcome of a theoretical research on the phenomena called “Independent Type” as well as the type design industry. Interviewing the designers consumed so much time that even though I started my diploma project 1,5 year before the final term I was writing the theoretical part two weeks before the final deadline. I continued the research after my I received my master’s diploma.
What hint would you give to someone who is planning to practise type design?
Do not give up if you feel passionate about it. It’s more of a tip I would tell myself. Remember that it requires time. Considering the technical aspects – do not focus on numbers, mathematics but rather on what you see with your own eyes. I am planning to search for a mentoring and to take part in interesting conferences. I’d also encourage everyone to work in bigger teams and to share basic knowledge – we often forget about that.
The publication consists of various parts, can you shortly describe them?
The book consists of seven parts. It starts with the essay presenting my research. Next, there is Q&A featuring selected quotes. The third part consists of full interviews. The fourth part are specimens. The fifth part presents typefaces in use. The sixth and the seventh parts are consisting of bios, lists of typefaces, publishers and design studios and credits.
Who should reach for your book “Independent Type – Independent type design from Poland”? Who will benefit most?
The book is for anyone using typefaces, no matter if you are educated in graphic design or not. This will be a good reading for lovers of visual communication. Young adepts of type design as well as typo-lovers will benefit most as they will be able to get to know the industry and the designers. Let me make one thing clear – it’s not a typography or lettering handbook. Also it is not really album with inspirational images. For professionals it might be some kind of industry trivia that allows them to get to know insights of other professional designers – on their practice as well as various aspects of business.
The book was written in a direct, straight forward language. I’ve added a small glossary explaining the basic terminology. So, if you are a PR or marketing specialist, you work as graphic designer for publishing house or an agency; or maybe you are a student who is fancy in typography – you will surely be able to read it.
You also work on developing various profiles on social media where you share your thoughts on graphic design industry. Is there a lack of this type of content in polish language?
Very good question. Certainly I can observe this kind of lack. While doing the research, almost every designer I interviewed confirmed that. It is a common problem with limited accessibility of practical and business knowledge. Usually, books are focused on the history of type design – these are mostly theoretical or technical handbooks. We need more books approaching this business in a holistic view. Traditional ways of doing e-commerce business won’t apply here.
The designers run their own businesses, handle their marketing and PR completely intuitively and none of them really wants to share their knowledge unless you force them to do so. I thought that if I can help the industry by systematising what I’ve learned, why not? I’ve asked many designers about a lot of things connected not only with design but also about possibilities to earn, how to license fonts, different business and distribution models. I fully used the possibility I had to talk with them. I must admit, there were many controversies. Sometimes I was worried the designer might stop the interview. Sometimes we talked couple of times for multiple hours. Being able to talk with all those designers and learn from them fuelled me to do more research. I thought that I had a possibility to talk with the best designers and ask them about their methodology, their own, personal ways of doing business. Unfortunately, some parts couldn’t have been published.
Are you planning to still develop and design typefaces?
Yes. I’m planning to extend Szykovnia Sans and Katarinka. I have other ideas for display typefaces as well as for series of lettering projects. I would like to continue educating myself in type design – not only in theory but also in practice.
By doing this type of project (publication) you gained a valuable experience. What type of design challenge would you like to try now?
There is no design challenge that I would not like to try! (laughter). Most preferably I’d like to do projects involving type design or lettering. I like calligraphy too, but I see it more as a starting point to do other things. For now, I’d like to connect typography, lettering, type design and design for brands specialised in digital technologies. Recently I try to get to know UI and UX better, as the company we started is about digital design. In a perfect scenario – more branding projects but also lettering and type design 🙂 Let’s see what happens. I’m planning to expand my typographical portfolio and apply to Type&Media at the Royal Academy of Art in Hague.
How do you define independence?
For me it is about being able to realise your aims in every aspect of your life, according with your inner vision. In professional aspects it is more about being able to work on projects that inspire, that allow me to develop and learn. Projects that bring value to my life and the lives of others as well. And it could be done within a team.
Your favourite letters?
I like &, f, double-storage g, k, z as in case of script typefaces you can go crazy with swashes and round parts.
What is the best way to follow your activities and where the book will be available?
The publication is exclusively available at book.hellotype.pl.
You can download the e-book for the “Pay What You Want” price. Additionally, the essay outlining my research is available for online reading for free.
I encourage everyone to follow social media profiles of Hello Type Studio. On 27th of May 2022 my husband and I decided to merge our skills into one brand. The book is my personal, low budget and independent project – not a product of our company. You can also follow my profiles at Behance or Instagram.
Independent Type – book
Hello Type Instagram
Hello Type Facebook
Katarzyna Szykowna Behance
Katarzyna Szykowna Instagram