I Love Typography

An Interview with Nikola Djurek

Grandmother Amalia

Born in Zabok, northwest Croatia, his passion led him to Italy and then on to the Netherlands where he studied type design. Nikola now teaches at the University of Zagreb and the Academy of Art in Split. Among his types are Tempera, Tempera Biblio, Greta Display and Greta Grande (with Peter Bil’ak), and Amalia. He also designed DTL Porta for use in the newspapers of Dutch publisher Wegener. Nikola very kindly took time out of his busy schedule to answer some of my questions.

Which letter do you design first?

I don’t really have a letter that I design first. I first think about construction (translation, expansion), proportion, contrast, and then I begin to make sketches in the way that I prefer; it can be a different letter each time, but it’s usually a lowercase letter, and then maybe two caps just to gauge the proportions.

Can you tell us something about type design in Croatia?

Typography and type design are not on a particularly high level in Croatia, and that’s mostly because, until recently, we didn’t have any education in this field; so that’s why I went to Italy and later to The Hague (KABK and Type and Media), because I really wanted to study typography and type design.

What do you like best and least about designing type?

I really like type design, and there really are few things I dislike (correcting things can be painful sometimes, because in most cases it’s a never-ending story). But I really like to do calligraphy, stone carving, making sketches, digitalize, and to use Python which really speeds things up — mostly in the production phase of font development. I also like to use great new software that Erik van Blokland, and Tal Leming, Just van Rossum are making (Robofab, Superpolator, Prepolator, Metrics Machine) and the very useful tools that Frederik Berlaen is making.

What was your inspiration for Amalia?

The typeface is named after my grandmother Amalia, who was extremely handy at writing with pointed pen and who embroidered her sketches on table cloths.

It developed naturally after sessions of practicing writing with pointed pen. Soon after that, the first, single-weight digital version was designed. Next, I completed the family with three more weights and made further amendments to the original designs. Amalia is available through OurType.

What are you working on now?

I have a few projects on the go right now. We (Peter Bilak and me), just completed Greta Display and Greta Grande published through Typoteque.

I will release my new typeface Brioni on Typoteque.

I also plan to release other new typefaces on Typonine — Tesla (a typeface that I made for the Croatian edition of Playboy),

Tesla

and Marlene, in September 2008:

What future ambitions do you have?

This year I started Typonine, my own font foundry, so my ambition is to make it a nice font foundry (nothing big), where I will publish some of my fonts. Also, teaching is still a great ambition for me, so I spend a lot of time teaching at the University and Academy of Art.

What’s your inspiration in type design and in life?

Lots of things inspire me: signs in the city, old posters, nice books, the sea, the hill that I’m living on. It’s hard to say — probably everything that surrounds me. In type design my biggest inspiration is, probably, the Den Haag scene and the great designers from there, especially teacher and designer Gerrit Noordzij. I’m quite connected with The Hague (friends and teachers).

What do you do besides type design?

As I mentioned before, I’m teaching at the University and at the Academy of Art. I also do graphic design (mainly books and book covers), and I have several hobbies: playing drums and trumpet, taking photos of everything, and spending time in the family vineyard (helping and learning how to make perfect white and grey Pinot).


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  1. Very very good Blog and interview! Congratulations.

    Regards
    Daniel

  2. Rouss Valiulin

    Nikola, if you hear us, could you give me a piece of advice: if i’m already taking my classes in Economics (yeah, weird, but this is the situation) now and cannot come to The Hague, but desperately want to learn how to design type, what are you tips and recommendations?

  3. Great insightful article! I’m relatively new to typography and its great to read interviews with professionals.

  4. Very nice blog and content!

    Cheers,
    Daniel

  5. Eben Sorkin

    Thanks for this interview. I have wanted to know more about Nikola for some time!

  6. Thanks for posting the interview with Nikola. (I looove ‘Tempera’, and it’s hightly ranked on ‘my list’. ;)

  7. Thanks for interviewing Nikola, John. It was a very fascinating and interesting read.
    Good luck with Typonine, Nikola.

    Btw, did I notice a typo in the image for Amalia Pro? It says: “an inspiring grandmother amaila”.

  8. N Mutans

    I think there may be two typos in the image. In addition to the “amaila” that inspirationbit spotted, there’s one that may be intentionally spelled according to common pronunciation; it says “granmother” rather than “grandmother”.

  9. inspirationbit & N Mutans
    Well spotted, and thank you. Now fixed. And they were my typos, not Nikola’s :)

  10. Great interview! Nikola basically lives a typographer’s dream—design, type, teaching and wine. Not sure what else you could want in life!

  11. Thanks for the interview!

  12. Really good article. Like I’ve said before I really like to see the whole process thought out on paper with sketches. I’ve been keeping a type sketch pad for few months now. Hey John maybe you can do a post where we all can contribute our own sketches or type doodles or something along those lines.

  13. As a logo designer, I come across great type on a daily basis. There are so many fantastic fonts out there in the market that just seem to be there and used by people like me. It’s great to actually get an insight into what goes into this art and see the whole process deconstructed from start to finish. A real eye opener.

  14. Great read Though a bit short… but I guess us type people never get tired of reading a good piece. Congratulations to Nikola for everything, you’re awesome.

    @Rouss Valiulin - you had an interesting second comment, and I would like to kindly repeat your question, though not addressed to Nikola, but to everybody.

    @Johno, there’s an idea for a future post (round-up of some of the best resources and advice on how to start a career in type design).

  15. Aww, I like the story behind Amalia! How sweet! It looks quite lovely in use, too.

    And Fedra Serif Display is just beautiful.

  16. Beautiful blog!

  17. Great interview. Splendid blog. Thanks for interviewing Nikola.

  18. Hey Johno

    Great interview.. I’m a sucker for seeing the process of almost any creative endeavour, so I really enjoyed the sketches and notes included.

    Brioni is quite a beautiful font and it’ll be nice to see it in use at some point. And naming a font after his grandmother is ever so sweet.

    Just a small note, missing an e on ‘the’ in the answer to the second last question :)

  19. I think Amalia has a special flavor, it’s so sweet and detailed. Hope Nikola have success with Typonine.

  1. Design Bump—Aug 14, 2008

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