Hrvoje Živčić: ‘I don’t have an established process of reaching a solution.’


Croatian Design Superstore presents its first regular column Designer Portraits – interviews with designers whose products can be found in Martićeva 4 and on our online shop. Each of them will share little secrets of their profession with you, but also thoughts on everyday occurrences which make them happy, inspire them and encourage their creativity and work. Find out what everyday life of designers is really like!

HRVOJE ŽIVČIĆ: I don’t have an established process of reaching a solution

One of the most productive designers of younger generation Hrvoje Živčić (Zagreb, 1986) got a masters degree in visual communications design in 2010 at School of Design at the Faculty of Architecture in Zagreb, and then he specialized in typeface design at MA study Type and Media at Royal Academy of Art in Den Haag, Netherlands (2012). In collaboration with Dario Dević for years he has designed visual content for Student Centre in Zagreb, mostly for SC’s Culture of Change and &TD theatre, and he also worked for clients like Sociology Department of Faculty of Philosophy in Zagreb, BLOK (designing with D. Dević for their UrbanFestival programme) and many others.

For his work he received many international awards and recognitions, among which it’s worth to mention that he was acknowledged as one of the most interesting artists under the age of 30 by the renown New York magazine Print (together with Dario Dević in 2011). We talked with Hrvoje about his recent work, namely in the area of typography, new collaborations and other interesting subjects.

CDSS: You are one of only few people who design typefaces in Croatia. You have published your typefaces within Typonine – digital foundry of designer and typographer Nikola Đurek, and from recently you also work as a typographer for a studio in New York. How did this cooperation arise, what does it consist of and can you make a living in Croatia from typeface design only?

Hrvoje Živčić: To publish my first typeface for Typonine was logical because Nikola, who was my mentor during college in Zagreb, got me ”hooked” on typefaces. The New York studio to which you refer to is Commercial Type with which I have cooperated since 2015. My task is primarily production of their typefaces, for retail or clients (Nike, Yandex). One of the partners in the company, Christian Schwartz, was my external examiner during my final exam project when studying in Haag in 2012. We met in 2015 at Robothon conference and thanks to a friend and colleague Miguel Reyes we have arranged that I spend a summer working in their studio in New York. Those two months were key for continuation of our cooperation. They have very generously explained to me in detail their approach to design and production of digital fonts. After that the cooperation has intensified and I have been actively working for them at one project at least. This summer I have again spent a couple of weeks there and we plan to continue in the same rhythm.

CDSS: Describe to us the phases of creation of one of your typefaces from first sketches to final product. How long does it take to design a typeface, what do you have to keep in mind during that process and how demanding it is to be ”solo” in this adventure?

HŽ: I have to admit that I still don’t have an established process of reaching a solution. My only published author work typeface (Mote, 2013) was begun as part of my final exam work in Haag. I still haven’t finished some typefaces that I have drawn or they are made for specific projects and as such are not subject to rigorous market preparations as typefaces for free sale. Length of the project significantly varies depending on the function and scope, from several months to several years. This is one of the reasons why most typeface designers give over at least some parts of the production (rendering full set of signs, kerning, hinting, mastering) to one of the associates, especially during technical phases. Currently I enjoy most the creation of typefaces for specific projects. In that way I can allow myself more freedom of expression and I also have easier control of the final result, i.e. manner in which the typeface will be used in design. In projects like these the typeface is created in parallel with the rest of the design work and they are mutually directed and preconditioned.

CDSS: How were the posters by which you are presented in Croatian Design Superstore created?

HŽ: Posters available in CDSS are a selection of a series of ”typo-posters” initiated a couple of years ago by Nikola Đurek, and most of them are reproduced in silk-screen in circulation of about 50 copies. Some are aimed at promoting one or more typefaces, while others function as pure images, with emphasis on letter-like forms. The posters were created by Dario Dević, Marko Hrastovec, Dejan Dragosavac Ruta, Vanja Cuculić and myself, in collaboration with Nikola.

CDSS: What motivated you to elaborate and point out the subject of a particular poster?

HŽ: The poster NI/TKO NI/JE NI/ŠTA (NO/BODY IS/NO/T NO/THING) is a simple game of words, more of a jest than an elaborated topic. For the same series of typographic posters I have created a poster “GGG” which especially doesn’t have a specific subject, at least in a narrow sense, but deals with aesthetics solely. Such working model also serves as a break from ordered projects.

CDSS: Whom could you name as your professional role model and why?

HŽ: This has changed a lot in time. During my studies in Netherlands those were typographers like Bram de Does and Freda Smeijers. Couple of years ago I found Roger Excoffon fascinating, and somewhat later I was stuck on Herb Lubalin, and lately on Berthold Wolpe. Those are all designers (primarily of typefaces) who had a very specific and original expression.
CDSS: When colleagues are concerned, whose works would you emphasize?

HŽ: Among younger typographers I would definitely point out Berton Hasebe, Sandrine Nugue, Florian Schick & Lauri Toikka, or the Swiss foundry Dinamo. I also like the French Production Type’s approach, even when I don’t find the final result that exciting.
CDSS: Do you ever wish to take a break from design and how do you do it? Do you ever wish to work in some other industry? What are the biggest disadvantages and what are the benefits of a designer’s life?

HŽ: Of course, it’s good to get away from design sometimes. It’s easier to save work enthusiasm that way. I don’t have a particularly high stress tolerance so I try to geek-like be always on time and avoid tense situations. Any activity further from computer is already a break from design. The way I work (part time in a home studio) has widely known advantages and flaws – more freedom in scheduling, but than it happens that all my time is potentially working time.

CDSS: What is the latest thing you encountered that left you speechless?

HŽ: The Alpes in Italy, the album Divers by Joanna Newsome and Lubalin Center design at Cooper Union in New York. This is a huge archive of primarily typographic design open for public.

Photo of Hrvoje Živčić: Tjaša Kalkan



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