Pater 2116: Prague Transit Manual

Páteř (“Backbone” in Czech) is a recently published, hard-boiled story with a futuristic urban setting taking place in Prague in the year 2116. The story is accompanied by graphic design and typography. Welcome to system Páteř.

The design art book Páteř was self-published by Jan Novák. The publication has been produced in a limited edition of 40 numbered copies and was launched in June 2016 in the OKOLO Gallery in Prague, the Czech Republic.

The font Páteř is one of the visual pillars of the project.

The project developed out of a diploma thesis submitted at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. It revolves around a short science-fiction story uncovering the corrupt milieu of a rotting city’s transit system, not unlike the current scandals in Prague’s public transport (MHD). The thrilling story follows the anonymous hero on his search for the creators of Páteř. The plot is peppered with a plethora of details from the future vision of the Czech metropolis: such as the favourite drug of the time, a ban on the usage of wood (an unavailable material), or the adoration of the Žižkov tower as a building upholding the strictest future criteria of quality.

We follow the plot in short passages describing the journey of the hero who comes to consciousness in one of the Páteř wagons in the middle of a city turned upside down. The revolutionary transport system was supposed to be promise of a better future while becoming a spectacular Eastern European technological showpiece. Instead, it’s turning against citizens. The search follows the footsteps of the mad engineers and highest managers of Páteř, JB and ML, who have taken over Prague, turning it into hell.

A sneak-peek into a few double spreads from the Czech edition of Páteř
“The inspiration for the topic came from the book Uncorporate Identity by the studio MetaHaven, which deals with the theory of corporate design and analyses a number of visual styles from the point of view of their political and social significance. I like how design can document an era and be a testimony to its atmosphere, without needing to resort to illustration or photography.”
Inspiration sources for Páteř are: the current phenomenon of fetishist renditions of graphic manuals (Nasa, New York Transit Authority); the game book Stainless Steel Rat; the comic book Incal; and Uncorporate Identity by studio MetaHaven.

The manual forms the theoretical part of the book while dynamically interweaving with the story. It has been created in cooperation with a team of designers and theoreticians and reveals the technological and social background of the story, including its seemingly insignificant details. The reader will be presented with a technocratic vision of the city of the future, the ways to utilize its dynamic public transport (to summon a vehicle you simply need to draw a loop in the air), tips where to catch a transportation device most easily (i.e. a system of transport hubs distributed across the city) and what actions to avoid (touching the matter decreases the speed), including why it is no longer necessary to fund police patrols in the streets.

An excerpt from the book in English translation

Reading through the book Páteř is in many respects an attractive experience: visually compelling and yet of high literary level. Not an everyday experience.

Illustration Martin Groch


156 pages, 165 x 220 mm
printed on digital offset
edition of 40, self-published in 2016

Short video in czech langugae, promoting launch of 1st czech edition


Jan Novák
+420 723 859 806

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