Alice in the Land of Typography

alphadesigner-bulgaria-moderna-font-presentation-01

Being a graphic designer, I have been flirting with typography for years but I was always superstitiously afraid to get really serious about it. I always thought font creation required some kind of special magic, one that I didn’t necessarily possess.

Just think about it – fonts are so essential for most design projects. They seem so simple and to a certain extent even god-given – the stupendous variety that we have at the tips of our fingers makes us use them impulsively, without much thinking about how hard it is to really create one from scratch.

It’s a monumental effort, and a challenge to all your skills as a designer and illustrator. On top of that, it requires immense organizational talent.

Fear is fear and I’ve had my share succumbing to it but I finally decided to enter the dark cave of typography. The first font project was really critical. I managed to find a really original idea – one that is naturally exotic and allows me to showcase my own design skills.

There is a forgotten Slavic alphabet, called Glagolitic, which was later replaced by the Cyrillic and therefore slowly died out. I just tried to imagine what would have happened if the alphabet was still in use today. How would it have evolved and changed through time? How would the invention of the movable type have influenced it? And finally, how should a creative designer approach it in order to create a really modern font based on its characters? I got my answer 2 weeks after I began the project – in the form of Neoglagolitic Alpha, the first (to my knowledge) modern Glagolitic font.

Alphadesigner Neoglagolitic 44 izhitsa

My second attempt made me sweat a bit more. Much more, to be precise. After all, artistic exercises like Neoglagolitc Alpha are a bit easy because you are in control of so many aesthetic and practical aspects. Reworking the original Early Cyrillic script is a whole different typographic affair. The alphabet is still in use and quite widely. Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Bulgaria, where it was first adopted in the 9th Century, all use strictly Cyrillic characters. It reached even Mongolia. On top of that, its long history and the fact that almost every South and East Slav has an opinion about it makes experimenting with any of its letters a potential sacrilege.

After a month of struggle drawing, adjusting, altering, creating ligatures, diacritics, and adding additional Latin characters while trying to constrain myself to the original aesthetic of the script, I gave birth to Bulgaria Moderna. Of course, no font is ever finished, especially those made by fresh typographers like me but seeing it in action, even at this early stage is like a dream come true.

History of a Map

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When one of the visitors to my photo stream in Flickr told me Süddeutsche Zeitung published my European map, I wasn’t only surprised, I was genuinely shocked.

The map is among the type of work I do spontaneously and without a certain purpose. I can’t recall exactly why and how I made it, I just remember it was during the winter, in one of the most severe gas crisis Europe has ever known and the news reports obviously had some influence but it wasn’t a serious, deliberate attempt to be politically provocative. I uploaded it to Flickr exchanging few laughs with my online friends and that was all I ever expected from it.

Strangely, a month later it began accumulating visits from various social network sites. Then the blogosphere kicked in. It culminated in a feature in Boing Boing which made me glue myself to the screen, following the statistics in Flickr. It was really something I hadn’t experienced before – it can be seen in this short video, made of screenshots of accumulating views. For a period of 15 minutes, it got more than 2000 views.

I still kept on asking myself what’s so interesting about this map. It sure is funny (to me) and a bit provocative (to other people) but If I had known it would become my most popular image online gathering almost 200,000 views, I would have certainly made it much better. But maybe that’s how the Internet works – no matter what plans you make or whether or not you think something is worthy of your public’s attention, such things can’t be predicted. What’s left for you is to just enjoy the party, even if some people in the room look rather suspicious. Like those who think I was paid by the CIA to participate in anti Russian propaganda.

The Trinity Featured in Digital Arts Magazine

The Trinity

Of all the artworks in my Theogony project, this is the only one that didn’t get a presentation on this blog for many reasons. The most important one is that I have so many things to say about it, I may easily fill an entire book. However I am not sure that book would be interesting for anybody else but me. So let’s just say that 2006 was the worst year in my life and at the time I thought this artwork would be my last one.

It’s a swan song affair.

Surprisingly, despite my (relative) silence about it, The Trinity became my most popular artwork. It hit #1 in Flickr Interestingness pages at a time when digital artworks were taboo on the site and its various incarnations and previews generated so many views that I stopped counting them long time ago.

Just when I thought that was enough, I received an invitation for a feature from Digital Arts, UK’s leading magazine for creative professionals. We made a brief email interview discussing the technical aspects of the artwork and I shared some info about the production stages and the challenges in the working process. This, I am sure, you will find interesting. :) Besides, I am told the artwork is supposed to fill an entire page and since I never intended to sell any prints of it – it’s your only chance to hang it on your wall. [/joke over :]

The Digital Arts May 2009 issue is out now and you can get your copy here.

Update May 02 2009: The feature is now available online as part one of Digital Art’s Inside the Creative Mind article.

 

Greetings from the Toilet

I always admired the Czechs for their potty mouths and I could smell fun the moment I heard they were about to take the EU presidency this month.

The cultural initiatives of the politicians in Brussels are hopelessly boring, especially for people in Eastern Europe who know all too well the merits of state-commissioned art. What is worse, communist agit-prop at least had some strong emotions as a foundation (wrong or right, it doesn’t matter). EU propaganda has a taste of a carefully brokered compromise between people who are extremely careful not to offend each other. In short – it tastes like meh.

But not this time. This year we have a winner – it’s an art installation in the Justus Lipsius building of the EU Council, named “Entropa”. Its author is… well, this is when the interesting stuff begins. It appears that the Czech government (or whoever else was responsible for commissioning it) was falsely led to believe that the exhibition would contain works by artists from all member states, each depicting a false stereotype about his or her homeland. Instead, it was created by three artists led by David Černý.

Designed to spark controversy in the capital of Political Correctness, the artwork represents a fragmented map of Europe, where each state’s shape contains a depiction of a particular, mostly wide-spread, stereotype. Germany contains a road network resembling a swastika, Holland is submerged under the sea if you don’t count several minarets, Poland is a hill where catholic priests plant a gay flag, Italy is a giant stadium where every player fucks a football and last but not least – Bulgaria is a giant toilet.

The artists say they wanted to check whether or not Europeans were able to laugh at themselves. Unfortunately my country, led by my prime minister, felt absolutely offended and summoned the Czech ambassador demanding an explanation, cementing the impression that Bulgaria is, indeed, a toilet. :)