The bold new world of typography

Fonts are having a moment. Type designer Kristína Jandová talks us through it.

A new type of typographer has emerged. Less in awe of the past masters, they’re using scripts and software like Glyphs, Robofont and Fontlab to shake up the industry with confident, experimental fonts that explore the outer limits of legibility.

We spoke to OPX Type and Graphic Designer Kristína Jandová about this burst of creativity, why brands increasingly want something bespoke, and how she got into the letters game.

Was becoming a type designer always the plan?

My background is actually more artistic. I was set on becoming an illustrator or animator but enrolled on a typography course while studying in Poland. It was here I created my first typeface — for a comic book printed on silk screen. I was just a student, playing around with form to see what was possible.

Œ Display Bold, created by Kristína for Berlin’s Œ magazine.
ΠDisplay Bold in action. See more at kristinajandova.com.

When did type turn serious for you?

I did my Masters Degree at the Laboratory of Typography, which is part of the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava. After graduating, I had internships at Production Type in Paris and Studio de Ronners in Rotterdam.

My time in Paris was big for me. I learned so much about the rules of type design and typography software, plus I got lots of great (and demanding) feedback from the CEO, Jean-Baptiste Levée.

How have tech advances changed typography?

It’s given designers the tools to create typefaces much faster. This allows us to take greater risks and design in a completely different way to the traditional foundries. Just recently, Dinamo released two free tools for testing variable fonts, Dinamo Dark Room and Dinamo Pipeline. It’s an exciting time.

Created in Dinamo’s Dark Room.

Of course, we have to keep in mind the rules of creation, but experimenting with responsiveness and new approaches — sometimes at the edge of readability — has led to a lot of progress.

GT America from Swiss foundry, Grilli Type. “It’s quite experimental but very clean.”
GT America design features.

Why do brands increasingly want their own font?

They’re seeing this explosion of creativity in typography and they want to capture some of it for themselves. That’s perfectly natural. Typefaces are an important part of any brand. They’re an expression of your personality; a chance to add flair, playfulness or even gravitas. Having something genuinely unique sets you apart and can quickly become recognisable — particularly with brands producing more content than ever.

Dinamo for Nike’s 2018 Gorky World Cup. “Nike seem to have a bespoke typeface for every campaign.”
More from the Gorky World Cup.

Which foundries excite you most at the moment?

Dinamo and Grilli Type are both doing consistently great work, as is Colophon Foundry. Our Creative Director, David Bennett, loves the work Displaay are doing. They’re an independent foundry based in Prague, where I used to live, so I’m happy with that.

Before joining OPX, I collaborated with Fontsmith. They’re great as well. We’ve actually worked with them on a new font called FS Meridian, which is out now.

Variable Estragon typeface by Dinamo
Reader by Colophon Foundry. See more here.

You’re now full time at OPX. Should all design studio have in house type designers?

It’s definitely another string to the studio’s bow. Clients are always so excited by the prospect of having their own typeface, so it can give you the edge when pitching. It also adds another dimension to the creative. Being in the studio means I can work closer with the other designers and even the copywriters. I’m closer to the brief, which usually means better work.

A sneak peek of the flexible new OPX font Kristína is designing.

Finally, what’s the next big thing in fonts?

It’s all about variable typefaces right now. We’re all constantly flicking between screens of different sizes. Design has had to become much more responsive and now typefaces are catching up. The future is flexible.