Juri Zaech is an art director and typographer, who creates uniquely beautiful and useful typesets, and often finds innovative ways of applying them. Below he shares his portfolio, and lets us in on his process, the inspirations behind particular typefaces, as well as his favorite and least favorite letters.
I like thinking of typography as a hobby, even though I have an education in it, because I love it like a hobby. For me, it’s a very rewarding process because I make all the decisions myself. In advertising, so many people offer their opinions on any one project. It’s rewarding to have a project where you can do everything yourself, from A to Z.
Most new projects are triggered by something I see. It can be something as simple a vintage poster. I lived in Paris for a long time, and was inspired there by the facade typography in old shops. I make very simple, rough sketches on paper. Most of the time, it doesn’t resemble the final outcome. And then I quickly jump on a computer and start drawing in vector, sometimes in illustrator, sometimes directly in glyphs, the software I use for typefaces.
Some letters are a lot more difficult than others. Everything that has diagonal lines, an X, a Y, a W, is quite difficult to fit into the rest of the typeface because horizontal or vertical strokes have to be adjusted so they have the same weight. A horizontal line will be a bit thinner than a vertical line. A diagonal line, again, needs to be adjusted to fit that.
My favorite letter? I really like the capital R. I like the shape of it. It has straight, round, and diagonal lines, Maybe what’s that why it’s such a full letter from a geometrical point of view. My least favorite letter? Funny enough, the lower-case r is a bit of a weirdo sometimes. That’s probably my least favorite.
I moved to Paris and, since I had been cycling my whole life, instantly bought a bike to ride to work. Then I met my girlfriend, now my wife, and she didn’t have a bike. And so, as her first birthday with me came up, I wanted to give her a bicycle so we could cycle through Paris together. But I didn’t want to buy a bike for her because I feel like that’s something you have to choose yourself. I decided to make a voucher. But I don’t like vouchers, so I felt I had to make a really good one, so at least it would have some value. I got this idea of writing her name in the shape of a bicycle. I drew it by hand, with a bit of color, and the shape was actually pretty horrible. But the idea was there and she loved it. It quickly became a series, which is still one of my favorite projects.
I think my technically most perfect typeface is Realtime. It’s the largest character set I’ve done so far. The idea was inspired by my work in advertising. I wanted to do a typeface informed by information displays. Usually the slots on information displays have the same width for each character. That means the lower-case n is very squeezed, while the lower-case l has a lot of space around it. I created realtime so that one could use round text as well. Certain letters have an alt, which gives them a different width, and this instantly lends the typeface a more balanced look and feel. You don’t need to restrict each character to its fixed width. That’s a neat feature I built into the font, which makes me happy. Every typeface I do offers a solution to a design problem. I want to create a tool for someone to create something specific.
A lot of my typefaces have a 3-dimensional aspect to them. BEND is basically flat but still looks three-dimensional. That means, I don’t rely on colors or color layering to create a three dimensional effect or a shadow. I rely on those zebra lines to lend the characters volume. It makes them appear shaded, even though they’re not. That was a technical trick I wanted to try. And I found the result quite interesting, so I built it out into a complete font.
My agency was asked to create this campaign for AIDES, a charity benefit that auctions designer clothes to benefit victims of H.I.V. We only had a few days, so we couldn’t rely on a photographer to shoot a nice visual. We had to be very pragmatic. We came up with this slogan “Soyez Chic,” which means “be fashionable,” but also “be nice.” That seemed like a great tagline for the event. We thought it would be a good treatment to create this fabric look, because that goes well with the fashion-aspect of the event but also looks like a flag, a symbol of taking a stance. And we did that in my living room, photographing wobbly paper at odd angles, and then from there I did the font.
Frontage was one of my early typefaces, so I now see some technical or optical issues with it that I would do differently today. But there’s something very cool about it, so I recently created Frontage Condensed, a narrower version. With a few more notches under my belt, I was able to correct the issues that bothered me.