European born but based in California, Zuzana Licko and Rudy VanderLans co-founded Emigre in 1984 – the earliest small type foundry to accommodate pioneering typefaces by a broad group of designers and artists.
Zuzana was one of the very first graphic designers who became interested in digital type design, and was one of the first type designers to use the Mac. “I thoroughly enjoyed the limitations of the early technology,” she said in her June 2016 Creative Characters interview. “Paradoxically, it allowed for more free exploration than today’s limitless possibilities. There was something to react against, a puzzle to solve, or a problem to overcome. Stripped of our familiar tools, we had to reconsider basic assumptions. This way of working leads to unusual forms that might otherwise not be explored.”
Her style and range has evolved over the years. “The themes emerged organically as the technology changed or new software or hardware became available. Many of the designs were inspired by asking: what if…” Throughout her career she’s also created some impressive revivals using a quite original method. “I aimed to distill an overall look from the varied qualities of the various printed samples, setting out to draw the letterforms “from memory” so to speak. I let the impression and memory of the printed samples I had studied guide my drawings. This is the same method I used for my Baskerville revival, Mrs Eaves. Drawing a Baskerville from memory.”
Zuzana has acted as a tireless curator of Emigre’s expanding collection since nearly the beginning, bringing in designers who provide a wide range of styles and depth to the Emigre collection. “Instead of endlessly adding to our library, I see ourselves more in a curatorial role these days, trying to safeguard the Emigre legacy. And instead of designing new fonts, we’re fired by the idea of showing our existing fonts in new and different contexts and shining a new light on them.”