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Q&A Irene Vlachou

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It seemed interesting to us to make you discover the profiles of our guests. Discover Irene Vlachou's interview.
Biography Irene Vlachou is a typeface designer based in Athens. She holds an MA in Typeface Design from the University of Reading. She has collaborate with international type foundries and corporations, working as a typeface designer and a consultant for Greek typefaces. From 2013-2019, she was a senior designer and variable font expert at Type-Together. She currently works full time, as a freelancer typeface designer, specialising in OEM/System fonts. On behalf of the Greek Open Source Community (GFOSS), she is a mentor on the expansion of Greek libre fonts for the GSOC (Google Summer of Code) program. For the spring semester of 2022, she is an artist-in-residency at La Becque and a visiting professor at the Master program of Typeface design at ECAL, Lausanne.

Interview

What is your work environment?

Irene Vlachou A permanent work space works better for me. I always need my big screen, and printer and markers and papers. I work from home most of my freelance career and I’m quite happy with it. At the same time, when I’m travelling, I’m quite easy in switching into a more compact way. And I can’t definitely work outdoors, nature’s beauty is always a great distraction for me.

Do you listen music while working?

Irene Vlachou It really depends on the mood of the day. Most of the time I listen to electronica, punk and noise and some other times I tune in to the Third Program of Greece, the classic music public station of Greece, that has great art programs and radio theatre from the 60s and 70s.

Do you read news?

Irene Vlachou I’m following the news, almost daily, from online sources and blogs and on the weekend I buy an actual newspaper :) When it comes to design, I try not too spend so much time online (instagram, mastodon etc), since the information is endless, but I do keep track of what is happening nationally and internationally, work and non- work related news.

Do you practice any sports?

Irene Vlachou Usually walks in the mountain close to my house, or in central Athens if it’s later in the evening. And when I have more time or I need a longer break, swimming interludes in the open swimming pool nearby.

“To be curious about different disciplines and fields. There is always something new than can inform your work and your point of view. Strict specialization takes all the interest and variety out of our work.”
– Irene Vlachou

How much a software and its fixed rules can determine a type project?

Irene Vlachou I think it’s always getting better. Things move on technologically and now days you can do things in and with fonts that you couldn’t, let’s say, 7 years ago. Fixed rules are there to be challenged, to be broken and to evolve. I don’t really find these limitations something to discourage me, probably the opposite :)

Redrawing type classics or inventing new forms?

Irene Vlachou No, don’t think I have spent actual time in revivals. I study a lot of the old and classic designs and I re-use bits and pieces, but I don’t think I would be interested in the redraw of a full set.

Is it possible to draw a typeface for a language we do not know?

Irene Vlachou One of the beautiful things in typeface design and typography is that you get in contact with different scripts, writing systems and typographic notions. This plurality of our profession is a great inspiration and knowledge source that can inform one’s work, even if the alphabet is different. Personally, I’m more interesting in learning about all of these than actually draw them myself. In any case there is so much more to be done with Greek that I wouldn’t really have the time for learning inadequately another script :)

What do you think of this trend of free fonts?

Irene Vlachou I think the demonization of Open source projects isn’t really helpful or productive. Open Source projects serve a very specific purpose and a very specific audience that I don’t think it ever intersects with custom, retail market fonts. Especially for scripts with low market power, open source projects can and have been a source of information, documentation of endangered languages. Regardless to say about the technological progress that open source code can offer, with open libraries and documentation that any individual can study, modify, and give back by re-distributing.

“One of the beautiful things in typeface design and typography is that you get in contact with different scripts, writing systems and typographic notions.”
– Irene Vlachou

Do you sketch–draw on paper?

Irene Vlachou It’s mainly a digital workflow, but I usually sketch in parallel, really fast drawing, to try out ideas.

Do you have words of wisdom for someone who wants to become a designer?

Irene Vlachou I wouldn’t call it a wisdom and neither specific-only to graphic arts. I suppose to be curious about different disciplines and fields. There is always something new than can inform your work and your point of view. Strict specialization takes all the interest and variety out of our work.

What is the message you want to convey during your talk in Paris?

Irene Vlachou I guess the previous point, how research and parallel activities, like teaching can inform and be a source of inspiration to our design work.

What other speaker should not be missed?

Irene Vlachou I know all ready quite well the work of the type design people, so I very excited to see and learn more about the work of the graphic designer speakers.

Thank you very much, Irene!

– Interview by Yi Shen

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