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Q&A Krista Radoeva

We have a fabulous selection of international guests critics visiting us at TypeParis Summer24. We wanted to find out a little more about each of them, so have presented them with a series of questions which they have generously taken the time to answer. Discover Krista Radoeva’s interview.

Biography Krista Radoeva is an independent type designer based in Sofia, Bulgaria. She makes fonts in Latin, Cyrillic and Greek. Collaborating with international foundries and design agencies, her main focus has been custom fonts. She also spends a lot of time teaching and researching Cyrillic.

Interview


Describe your typical day?

Krista Radoeva I really don’t have a typical day. Most days I am working in front of the computer, but this can be very different depending on the projects I have at the moment. Working as a freelancer means I am constantly juggling client projects, consulting, teaching, calls and communications, and trying to fit in some time for personal projects and actual rest. I can’t say I am handling all these tasks very well daily, finding balance is definitely a work in progress.

What is your favourite way to start a day?

Krista Radoeva My day starts when my dog decides to wake me up, which is usually before 7am, sometimes much earlier. I do some quick breathwork exercises in bed to calm my busy mind. Then we head on a long walk through the park until we get to the centre of the city, where my coworking space is. Being outside for an hour every morning is the best thing for both me and the dog.

Once I am in front of the computer, I usually focus on the more important type design work for the first half of the day and leave calls, admin, emails etc for the afternoon.  

Do you prefer a permanent/dedicated workspace, separate from home or at home?

Krista Radoeva I genuinely hate working from home these days. I live in a small apartment, my desk is in my bedroom, it’s hard to separate work from rest. Getting a flexible membership to a lovely coworking space in Sofia was the best thing I did for my mental health. I am not the most social person, but I like having the presence of other working people around me, especially since I work alone most of the time. I still work from home sometimes, especially when I need quiet time to concentrate, but I enjoy my days at the office much more.

Have your work habits changed after the pandemic? 

Krista Radoeva For me, lockdown was a huge change, because it coincided with losing my job at Fontsmith, switching to freelancing, and also moving back to Sofia after many years in London. So everything changed! I made a huge effort to create a comfortable home workspace. I got a flexible standing/sitting desk, because I don’t like sitting on a chair all day. I got into DIY and redecorated the office/bedroom, got a lot of plants! In a way, my whole life changed in 2020, the only thing constant is drawing typefaces.

Favourite kind of music to listen to while working?

Krista Radoeva I am one of those people that likes to work in silence. Everything else is distracting. I do have an electronic music playlist, consisting mostly of my favourite Bonobo songs, that goes along really well with kerning. I have another secret playlist with old-school hip-hop songs for when I need a confidence boost, usually for writing emails or preparing presentations.


“I believe there will always be space and opportunity for creating new typefaces and that is even more true for designers that work on more than just Latin.”
– Krista Radoeva


What do you do to evade yourself from work?

Krista Radoeva I try to stay active to counteract all the hours spent staring at a screen. I also get bored if I do the same sport for a long time, so I am constantly switching between many: yoga, handstands, pole dance, aerial acrobatics, mobility and bouldering. Recently I’ve also become more interested in deeper breathwork practices and sound healing sessions! Those activities have helped a lot in my journey of burnout recovery and better physical and mental health.

What drives you to create new typefaces?

Krista Radoeva A never ending curiosity. I constantly have new ideas for typefaces, the folder with unfinished personal projects on my computer currently has 8 fonts in progress. Some of them are carefully considered as typefaces that I believe would add value to the design world. Others are results of random thoughts or visions in my head, that I couldn’t let go of, until I had tried them. I believe there will always be space and opportunity for creating new typefaces and that is even more true for designers that work on more than just Latin.

What is your ratio of self-initiated typefaces vs. typeface for clients?

Krista Radoeva I am passionate about both client and personal work and I enjoy switching between the two, because they present very different challenges. In the previous years, it used to be mostly client work and very little time for self-initiated work. I have made a conscious effort to change that in the last year and incorporate working on personal typefaces every week, even if it is just a little bit. I made this shift, because after 10 years as a type designer, I think it is finally time I publish some personal fonts independently!

Are you rather one of those who draw or redraw type classics?

Krista Radoeva I think I am somewhere in-between: taking inspiration from history to create something new. Type has such a rich history, I don’t think it is possible to draw letterforms without any reference to writing, calligraphy or classic shapes. They are the foundations that every type designer should be familiar with. But I am not interested in “true revivals” (in fact, I think they are impossible to achieve). I find more joy in using this abundance of historical material as a starting point, but aiming to design something for contemporary use.


You worked at the Fontsmith foundry in London for 5 years. What did you learn from that experience and how did it influence your move to freelance work?

Krista Radoeva After finishing my master’s degree in type design, I spent a couple of years really struggling with freelancing. I knew how to draw typefaces, but had no clue how to do everything else needed to maintain an independent career: I didn’t know how to manage my time, how to price my work, how to promote myself, how to communicate with clients. I was overworked and underpaid. So when the opportunity to work at Fontsmith came, it really saved me. I learned so much there, not just about type design, but about the whole process involved around making and selling fonts, presenting to clients, collaborating. I also met some wonderful people and have great memories with colleagues. 

I was made redundant once Fontsmith was bought by Monotype. I didn’t really want to search for another full-time job. It seemed like a good time to move to freelancing again. But this time, with much experience, confidence and better understanding of the bigger picture. It’s a constant learning process. There is always the stress of finding new projects and dealing with a lot more than just drawing letters. But there is also much more flexibility, variety of work and independence.

Custom fonts represent an important part of your activity. Is there a difference in the way you work on a custom project, compared to one that isn’t?

Krista Radoeva Custom fonts are my favourite kind of projects! They have a specific brief and purpose, a timeline (usually a short one), and you get to see them in use soon after they are ready. I enjoy working within the limitations of a client brief, collaborating with branding designers and agencies on finding the right solutions, based on the intended use, the budget and the deadline.

I love developing my own typefaces too, and recently I have been focusing a lot more on those. But with personal projects, it’s usually a much longer process. When you are your own client, and you are a perfectionist (like most type designers), it is hard to know when to stop refining, expanding the character set, adding more styles. And nobody is there to stop me when I decide to change the shape of my serifs or terminals at the last minute.

As Bulgarian, could you tell us how Bulgarian Cyrillic is different, special?

Krista Radoeva We would need a whole other interview or long lecture for me to explain how Bulgarian Cyrillic is different. In short, Bulgarian Cyrillic forms are more closely related to handwritten or cursive forms in their construction. Of course the writing system, the language and its visual forms are an integral part of Bulgarian culture. I wouldn’t say it’s about claiming independence, but more about preserving cultural identity with all its diversity.



While you teach Cyrillic drawing, how do you convey the nuances in the different shapes, to designers who know neither languages nor cultural and political differences?

Krista Radoeva I teach Cyrillic together with Maria Doreuli, we both have different approaches to teaching and designing Cyrillic, which I think helps our students get a better sense of the variety and richness of the script. I always start with an overview of the Cyrillic script to give everyone a better understanding of history, context and nuance, before delving into the actual letterforms. 

Whether you should still be designing Cyrillic even though you can’t sell it in Russia now, it is a tricky question. As a freelancer working in Cyrillic, I have of course felt the reduction of custom Cyrillic projects in the last few years. But I have also seen a noticeable raise in the interest in all forms of Cyrillic: Bulgarian, Serbian, Ukrainian and many more. Perhaps it is time for designers to realise that Cyrillic was never just a synonym for Russian?

When you started, who were the teachers, mentors or professionals who had the most impact on you?

Krista Radoeva I owe my awakening into the world of typography to Phil Baines, who taught me at Central Saint Martins. He could just make anyone fall in love with typography. In my last year at university, he was the one that suggested I should consider becoming a type designer and apply for the Type and Media Masters in The Hague. Even though I was already doing a lot of lettering, calligraphy and drawing type, it somehow didn’t occur to me that I could be a type designer, until he pointed it out. So I will be forever grateful to him.

I also owe a lot to all my teachers and classmates from Type and Media. I had very little experience in type design before joining the programme and less than a year later I came out ready for a career in type design.


“I wouldn’t say it’s about claiming independence, but more about preserving cultural identity with all its diversity.”
– Krista Radoeva

During your creative process, do you sketch–draw on paper (or tablet) before moving on to the digital workflow? 

Krista Radoeva I always sketch on paper, especially at the start of projects. It is the most fun part of the process and I enjoy it while it lasts. Besides being fun, it is also a much better way to come up with a variety of ideas and shapes, as well as prototype them quickly, without focusing on unnecessary details. 

Do you have words of wisdom for someone who wants to become type designer-typographer-letterer?

Krista Radoeva Don’t be afraid to ask for help and feedback — You don’t need to know everything and you don’t need to work in isolation. Find mentors, workshops, community meetups and designers to show and discuss your work with! 

Be patient, focus on smaller projects at the start until you build up your skills and confidence to tackle more complex large type families that support multiple scripts. It’s better to learn how to take smaller projects to the finishing line first, before starting new ones.

I am also still learning to finish my own typefaces, before starting new ones…

Thank you very much, Krista!

– Interview by Lilian Hervet

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July 1, 2024
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