Q&A Petra Dočekalová

We have a stunning group of speakers and guests sharing with us this year at TypeParis. 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.

Petra Dočekalová finished her PhD studies about Fostering Increased Appreciation for Handwriting, Penmanship, and a Personal Handwriting Style at the Type Design and Typography studio at Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague in 2020. Since 2013 she has been a member of the Briefcase Type Foundry team. She is focused on editorial work such as the Typo9010 book, which won several global awards, or the Jaroslav Benda 1882–1970 book, for it’s English Edition she hit a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2020. She is also a letterer, type designer, sign painter, and lettering artist, working on new digital scripts. Petra received the TDC Award of excellence for her diploma project dealing with Czechoslovak calligraphy and new hand lettering forms.

Petra will be speaking at the first #tptalks session on Thursday 9 June 2022. Registration will open on 27 May 2022!

What have Czechoslovak Calligraphy and Lettering that make them significant from other Latin scripts?

Petra Dočekalová I’d say it’s only the construction of some letters, like p, q, t, or s, that have evolved from the German current script. Their shape is sometimes unreadable to Americans or other nations, so I adapt them into typeface designs. Still, I love to keep the original, uncommon forms that catch the eye in lettering work. Overall, Czechoslovakia scripts are very close to German, Polish or Austrian ones, so I’d say only tiny local differences in strokes and letter shapes make them unique.

Which is the average percentage between your work as a letterer and as a type designer?

My profession is like 30% type designer, 20% letterer & sign writer, 20% producer and manager, 20% editor & author & teacher, 10% graphic designer, printer, publisher & everything else, and I enjoy all of them the same :D.

“We don’t have enough sign painters and signwriters!”
– Petra Dočekalová

Tell us about sign painting trend in Czech Republic. Is there any revival movement?

It’s pretty doomed right now. We don’t have enough sign painters and signwriters!!! I tried to booze a revival with my Master’s work, but students are no longer interested in hand lettering. They want to create fonts for VR or motion design, they are bored by the real dirt and tools, and I understand that it just needs time to evolve into something new. But I’m happy to see it’s perfectly working abroad – for instance in France, Dutch or the UK it’s the sign heaven!

“In France, Dutch or the UK it’s the sign heaven!”
– Petra Dočekalová

When did you decided to jump into type world?

I fell in love with letters at my secondary art school (approx. 17–18 y.o.), and since then, I’ve been a workaholic addicted to type.

During your creative process, which is the percentage of the traditional drawing on paper before switching into the digital workflow?

I’d say I draw 80% by hand and only 20% on the iPad. Or I mix it in the middle of the process. I like the authentic, raw materials and tools with their genuine stroke, and the smooth, digital pencil stroke with a flawless finish, drawn directly in vectors & bitmaps.

I like the authentic, raw materials and tools.

When you started, who were the teachers or professionals who had the greatest impact upon you?

My teachers at Type Design and Typography studio at UMPRUM in Prague: Karel Haloun, Tomáš Brousil and Radek Sidun, who, luckily, became my lifelong friends and colleagues. And of course, professors Jan Solpera, Otakar Karlas and František Štorm, whom I also deeply respect and like to the bottom of my heart.

“It is a passion for finding new letter shapes and tangling them into a mathematical grid.”
– Petra Dočekalová

What drives you to make new typefaces?

I still have not released any of my script fonts, so I have a massive urge to do that asap! But overall, it is a passion for finding new letter shapes and tangling them into a mathematical grid.

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

I only create self-initiated typefaces for myself and Briefcase type foundry. We often do revivals, digitization and new typefaces, but we are our clients. But, I also do type engineering for commissions, finishing other people’s typefaces, localizing them, kern them. Sometimes I draw custom fonts, too, but it’s a very little time compared to the time I spend with our or my typefaces. My type focus is 100% on Oldřich Menhart’s typefaces this year.

Have your work habits changed notably after the lockdown and the later pandemic restrictions?

Thanks to the lockdown, I was able to write my PhD, and I got so much time to focus and not be disturbed. I had plenty of time to read & write, to I must say, it suited me well. But after all, I am relieved, and happy things are slowly getting back to the previous frequency & speed.

What do you do to evade yourself from work?

Yes, I love cycling more and more, and I can’t imagine a weekend without a bike ride, especially in spring, summer and autumn! You can’t get me off the mountains in winter, both snowboarding and skiing.

What is your favourite way to start your day?

My ideal day would start without responding to any emails, calls, texts or urges, sit and do the type design :D

“I search for new letter shapes, manuscripts, and forms that I haven’t seen before.”
– Petra Dočekalová

As a user of type, are you always on the lookout for new typefaces?

I search for new letter shapes, manuscripts, and forms that I haven’t seen before. It’s hard to describe because I’m very picky, but you can determine it in a second – That’s something new! Language support, features and range of styles in a new typeface should be standard, casual and what everybody does automatically.

Thank you very much, Petra!

– Interview by Gina Serret
– All pictures by Filip Šach

Learn more about TypeParis courses and conferences!

Type & graphic designers interviews
Attendees feedback series

Summer23 programme
Now23 conference
Apply to TypeParis Summer course!
The deadline for applications is 14 March, every year.


Thank you to Monotype for being sponsor for TypeParis
Thanks to Monotype for beign our steel sponor for TypeParis22
May 27, 2022
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