Creating fonts is like speaking different voices

David Březina

David Březina, a graduate of FI MU, is one of the four typographers in the Czech Republic.

If someone asks David Březina what he does, he will answer that he is a typographer. This is usually followed by an astonished look. There are not many people in the republic who create fonts for newspapers, magazines or other purposes. "There are about four of us with this full-time job in the Czech Republic", says a graduate of the Faculty of Informatics at Masaryk University. Mr Brezina also studied in Copenhagen or Reading and is also the author of a text font that was selected for the new layout of the monthly magazine

When you sit in a restaurant and get a menu, do you consider what its arrangement is, or you just ignore it?

It depends. I usually consider it when it is too nice or too ugly. At first glance, of course, I recognize whether the restaurant hired someone to design it or not. However, there are a huge number of such perceptions every day. Thanks to the computers, today almost everyone can play with graphic designs. I personally call it folk creativity.

What kind of people and why do they order fonts from you? Or is it more like you create a font and someone orders it?

In general, there are actually two pathways suggested. Either I create a font, which is then sold freely in a shop, which is nicely called a type foundry font; or I come up with a custom made font. For example, a company starts creating a new visual identity, wants a new logo, and the designer usually tells them that their own font would be appropriate, because it would solve a lot of problems for them. The visual identity of the company is then hidden in every text that is written. Such a font belongs only to the client. Orders like thissometimes provide me financially for half a year, sometimes even for a year. It usually takes the same amount of time to create a font.

So do not business owners call for fonts directly?

No, they do not. It is usally the graphic designers who call. Only few people realize that fonts are designed. I accept it somehow automatically, I do not even think about it anymore.

How do you present arguments to people who tell you they do not see the point of having their own handwriting?

Erik Spiekermann, a well-known German designer, once said that having different fonts is like speaking with different voices. We use a different voice for each occasion, as well as a different font for each company.

"Being systematic, abstract thinking, a sense of consistency are all very important in my field, which not all designers have. I brought all this from computer science".

What about the production of a new font? How does it work? After all, it is a very conservative matter, and with the many types that already exist today, it is probably not just a matter of inventing something new.

You are right, it is getting harder. I also sometimes think that it is no longer possible to invent something new. In general, as with any design, you need to know the context before you can do anything; what others have done and for whom you design.

When I designed the font for academic publications, I had to find out what they look like and what their demands are in terms of variants, bolds or numbers. I also look around to see if anyone is working on a similar problem. If not, I start drawing the font. I focus on whether it is intended for small sizes or headlines and so on. The draft design is made only on a few characters to capture the characteristic elements of the font.

In your diploma thesis, you created a font called Codan named after the Danish metropolis, which you were inspired by. You used a typical Danish window and bridge structure as a characteristic element. Do you do this often?

There are many things which serve as inspiration, but not everything can be used with all fonts. Text fonts have different requirements than title fonts or street markings. It is clear from this that, for example, I cannot afford too much ornamentation in a text font. This is even more true for newspapers, which are clearly inclined to use more conservative text fonts.

Most often you create text fonts. Why not headlines that provide more room for creativity?

Text writing is a bigger challenge for me. The conditions are much stricter, but the author's creativity is no less evident. I may have less room for maneuver, but I enjoy it more.

A person who wants to be recognized by their work probably cannot do typographers. To some extent, of course, there are a few people in the world who have their own trademark in this. It is better, however not to try, because the typographic editing of longer texts should be rather invisible, that is, not to interfere with reading.

When a person applies to the Faculty of Informatics, it is probably not with the intention that they will occupy themselves with the creation of new fonts. How did you think of that?

It was definitely not that I was not satisfied with computer science. On the contrary, a lot of things, like theoretical mathematics, I really enjoyed, but I wanted to do something more creative.

That is why I moved to the local Graphic Design and Multimedia Studio and started working on graphic design. In time I wanted to improve even more, so I arranged an internship at Danmarks Designskole, where I met an excellent teacher Ulla Heegaard.

However, you also studied in Reading. How did you benefit from the stay there?

As for writing, I learned more in Reading. I was in Denmark for half a year, when I did about four or five major works which were more or less about graphic design - logos and the like. Reading gave me language skills, the ability to think critically and write about writing and typography, and most importantly, I learned to make proper text writing there.

And what did your study of computer science bring you?

Being systematic, abstract thinking, a sense of consistency are very important in my field, which not all designers have. I brought all this from computer science. In addition, I still program today. When I need to speed up some work, I create a tool which saves me a lot of work. Knowledge of technology is very important.

However, among your classmates in Brno, you are probably a big exception with your profession.

Of course, only very few people in the republic are involved in font design. Only about four full time.

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