Font Designer – Jovica Veljovic

Jovica Veljovic

Interview with Jovica Veljović

How did you fall in love with type design?
I spent a lot of my time on typography while still at college and when I graduated I decided I wanted to work for Herb Lubalin in New York. Aaron Burns, a real visionary, remarkable individual and one of the founders of ITC, invited me over to New York for a week. At the time, Ed Benguiat was more concerned with which workbench would be made available to me. Lubalin was already seriously ill, but I was able to visit him at home. I was really lucky. It was only three weeks later that he died. Aaron Burns then said to me “Why don’t you go back to Belgrade and try and design typefaces for ITC from there?” I was amazed at the thick sample typography catalogues I encountered in his office for the first time. So, my destiny was decided in that first week of May in New York back in 1981 and the future course of my life was set. I’ve been continuously working in the field of typography ever since. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to get to know some extraordinary people, such as Henri Friedlaender, the leading Israeli typographer who designed that fantastic Hebrew typeface Hadassah, Paul Standard, author and calligrapher, the brilliant Dr. Peter Karow, who founded URW, Aleksandar Dodig, Karlgeorg Hoefer, Werner Schneider, Gudrun and Hermann Zapf. The latter’s book About Alphabets had a great influence on me and was one of the main reasons I chose to become a typographer and calligrapher – originally I wanted to be a painter.

How many typefaces have you developed until now?
Considering the relatively long period I’ve been working in the field, I haven’t really published that many. I’ve done a few for ITC, Adobe Systems and Linotype. I am the severest critic of my own work. I discard more than I actually decide to retain. But I still have a couple of projects in the “pipeline” and I hope that I’ll manage to bring them to completion.

… I am most comfortable on my own in the world of letters‚ constantly struggling to express what I feel and think …

Is type design what you are mainly doing? What is your profession aside from type design?
I work primarily as a lecturer and I teach type design and typography at Hamburg University of Applied Sciences. But I eat, sleep and breathe typography and calligraphy. It’s nice to be alone, quite alone among all that hustle and bustle of life of which we are often unaware. And I am most comfortable on my own in the world of letters, constantly struggling to express what I feel and think. The whole world and whole of life encompassed by 26 letters.

What inspired you to design Agmena?
I’ve always wanted to create a classic book typeface that would function so perfectly in the context of books and publications that typographers would be able to concentrate on their real task and not have to worry about what the font designer should already have taken care of. I thus concentrated on ensuring the font had the best possible kerning and spacing I could manage.

Were you influenced by other typefaces in the design of Agmena?
It’s difficult to say. Everything and nothing. I’m a bibliophile – I love reading and I get annoyed when books are not properly typeset. I’ve seen many stunning books with superb typography, such as those produced by the Bremer Presse, Doves Press, Mardersteig and Edition de Beauclair. My aim was to design a typeface with which it would be possible to create books like these. Perhaps I was being a touch arrogant, but I think it’s a perfectly legitimate aspiration.

What techniques did you use creating Agmena and what was the process for creating the design?
I started off under the influence of calligraphic scripts. That gave me a basis from which to work. In the next phase, I used design tools, with my first priority being to ensure that my font was appropriately functional while retaining its poetic essentials.

I tried to bring the letters to life when used for text‚ although I didn’t want them to be obtrusive‚ but to be subtle‚ majestic and full of character at one and the same time …

What was the greatest challenge you faced while creating Agmena?
There is a lot that has to be taken into account when you are designing a book font. These include proportion, the relative line ratios, the colour of letters with serif thickness, the relative lengths of x-height, ascenders and descenders, spaces between letters and the effects of their internal spaces and counters – and not just these. I found it most difficult to achieve the poetic rhythm that I had in my mind for the text as whole. I tried to bring the letters to life when used for text, although I didn’t want them to be obtrusive, but to be subtle, majestic and full of character at one and the same time.

Please describe the look and feel of Agmena.
Poetic, harmonious, functional …

There are many different options for using Agmena in terms of languages‚ as I’ve included Cyrillic and Greek letters ...

Is there anything particular about Agmena that you’d like to tell us?
I have designed my typeface to do its job and do its job so well that others find that it is perfect for setting text in the sizes 9-point to 14-point and want to continue to work with it in future. I’ve done everything I can to make sure this is the case. I hope that others will be aware of this when they use Agmena.
There are many different options for using Agmena in terms of languages, as I’ve included Cyrillic and Greek letters. There is a whole range of ligatures, particularly for setting Greek text, but there are also characters with extensions, alternative glyphs, some ornaments and swash letters in italic variants. I have, of course, also included small caps with matching numerals for all possible kinds of applications.
And there was something else I thought was important: I’ve provided letters with the appropriate special accents that can be used to set texts in the languages used in the former Yugoslavia, in Cyrillic and Roman.

… I can only hope that Agmena will be used appropriately‚ with sufficient aptitude and a feeling for its subtler aspects …

For what applications would you recommend Agmena (posters, text, newspapers, advertisements, etc.)?
Those who design a typeface have little influence on how their creation is subsequently used. I can only hope that Agmena will be used appropriately, with sufficient aptitude and a feeling for its subtler aspects. That at least is my wish, but I do not have the faintest idea whether this will actually happen.

What special and unique features characterise Agmena?
I find that difficult to answer. There is so much of myself in this typeface, and I can’t really be objective and sensible when talking about myself. My main hope is that those who use my typeface will be able to say one thing: Agmena is an outstanding and well-designed tool for transcribing language.
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