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Kristina Bartošová


Graphic Design

April, 2017




Graphic Designer and Art Director Queen of the world, Austrian designer Kristina Bartošová is perhaps my favourite designer at this moment in time. Coming from a background of classic graphic practice, she works mainly in editorial, branding and styling.

I spoke to Kristina about her approach to working with clients and following your gut.















Sophie
Having studied traditional graphic design methods, you have developed a very strong skill for typography. What is your process into creating a piece of typography / lettering and how much derives from an original hand drawn sketch?

Kristina
It really depends on the project. Usually the first couple of drafts are super messy. I am by no means someone with a presentable sketchbook. But these first drafts, though really messy, are still extremely important for the process, as those are the initial ideas that I try to put to paper as fast as possible to have a basis for later. While other people may just see scribbles, I look past their current state and try to imagine what the finished logo or lettering looks like. This ‘fast forward’ helps to speed up the process. If I see potential, I go into fine-tuning and that usually means writing the same word over and over again in that style. This is to get a feeling for the subtleties, what I can push in terms of style and what looks weird. If I draw a piece and I’m already happy with its proportions, I take a piece of transparent paper and a pencil and begin to trace the shape as cleanly as possible. Only after then I start to vectorise it.





“While other people may just see scribbles, I look past their current state and try to imagine what the finished logo or lettering looks like.”











Client - SESTRA
Design, Art Direction & Styling - Kristina Bartosova
Copywriting - Thomas Pokorn
Photography - Lipp Zahnschirm
Retouching - Kristina Bartosova
Print - The Infinitive Factory





Sophie
I really love the custom type face you designed for SESTRA. Was it a case of designing the logo first and then the other letters after?

Kristina
Thank you for the compliment! Yes, that’s exactly how it went. I had a very distinct picture in mind of what the word Sestra should look like – a contrast between condensed letters and more geometric proportions. I had been searching for a font that would fit, but did not find one that matched my ideal. So I decided I might as well draw the forms myself, since it’s just five letters. When I finished the logo, I felt like the identity could really benefit from a custom typeface. I could write headlines with nesting ligatures and combine it with Futura (which I was already using in the branding) in smaller text sizes. So I started adding letters as I needed them. First the uppercase and ligatures and then some lowercase. I ended up with quite a large amount of letters and figured I could turn it into a font. Plus I was really curious what the finished typeface would look like myself.

At first, only the Es were drawn with multiple widths. Later, when the New York Times approached me asking to use Sestra for their annual The Lives They Lived issue, I added more alternates and ligatures and Sestra now has over 500 glyphs.






“I had been searching for a font that would fit, but did not find one that matched my ideal. So I decided I might as well draw the forms myself...”









Client - Stefan Leitner
Design, Art Direction & Styling -
Kristina Bartosova
Product Photography - Juraj Bartos
Letterpress - The Infinitive Factory






Sophie
The design, art direction & styling you did for photographer Stefan Leitner, you described as resembling his work as well as his personality. I was surprised with the font chosen for his contact information most - what made you choose this font vs the typical sans-serif easily read typeface you see on business cards most?

Kristina
Stefan could easily be a Mad Men character – not because he’s always in a suit, quite the opposite – but because of his extremely direct, yet very charming personality and strong work ethic. I was asked to do his personal branding and originally we wanted to create something very sober. Just a clean grotesk type, black and white. I created several proposals for this direction but it always felt off. It just didn’t look like him at all. You have to imagine that he has a signature style for epic nature shots and extremely glossy advertisements for BMW and such. He is really a true maximalist and I simply couldn’t see him handing out an understated business card. No way. I went with my gut and made a bold logo and a soft type that would match his character.





“He is really a true maximalist and I simply couldn’t see him handing out an understated business card. No way.”




The styling was where I went overboard. My parents have this insane art deco card table from the 30s. It’s made out of shiny olive wood and has a beautiful grain. Together with the leather-like texture of the heavy Colorplan paper it already looked like a dream, but to push it a little and and make it more cheesy I styled it with a portable telephone. It had to be American. I’m a sucker for the TV series Columbo and I have always loved its technological optimism. In every episode they end up showing how a piece of technological equipment works and it’s always something that was cutting edge at the time. It is often as central to the plot as the motive of the suspect. The styling for Stefan Leitner was a little bit of an homage to that.











Sophie
When did you first realise you wanted to do more than just the graphic design element of a project?

Kristina
Probably around the time when I went freelance and needed to think about how I wanted my work to be presented. Because the majority of the projects I made at the time were quite low-budget, the clients often produced only the most necessary collateral. It is easy to make an impressive case study on a one color backdrop if you have the branding applied on a wide variety of products. But when the only thing produced at all is a business card, you really need to get more creative to make an impact. I’m allergic to mockups, if I couldn’t sell the idea to be produced it’s either financial concerns or it didn’t fit the project, but there’s no need to fake it. In fact, most of the time it’s the client’s production budget that determines how round a project ends up looking in your case study. Not a lack of talent or imagination, but often just a trivial thing like lack of money. I have seen bad logos from agencies applied on beautiful and expensive packaging and beautiful logos from independent creatives applied as a proposal in just black and white. There is a discrepancy between the quality of work and the effect it can have that’s made visible through presentation. For me, set styling is a tool to show the context in which a brand lives and could live. If done well it makes every project look like a million bucks.





“I’m allergic to mockups, if I couldn’t sell the idea to be produced it’s either financial concerns or it didn’t fit the project, but there’s no need to fake it.”













Client - FELL SALON
Creative Direction, Naming & Copy - Thomas Pokorn
Art Direction, Design & Styling - Kristina Bartosova
Photography - Lipp Zahnschirm
Retouching - Kristina Bartosova
Web Design & Development - Jurgen Genser
Hair & Make-Up - Gunter Steiniger







Sophie
When coming up with ideas for how to present your work, is that based on research and a discussion with the client, or do you ~ see ~ an image of how you want it to be in your head?

Kristina
Bit of both. When working on a branding project, I actually talk to the client about materials or interior design from a very early stage on, before I even start working on the logo. Though I see the logo as the essence and the heart of the brand, it is never first on the list. I do a lot of moodboarding to make sure that we’re on the same page of how everything should look and feel together. This helps define the context and vibe a project should have for both the client and me. There’s a lot of discussion involved for all these elements and that’s how the branding takes shape. I start connecting the individual pieces that make up this particular project and ideas for the presentation sort of evolve out of this. The feeling in the shots is anchored in all these discussions we had along the way. What my presentation looks like afterwards is the way I personally see it, how I intended it and entirely up to me.






“Though I see the logo as the essence and the heart of the brand, it is never first on the list.”





Sophie
Do you approach Art Direction in the same way you do Graphic Design, i.e. this font goes well with this font, and so in the same way this material can only work with this other material in the context of this project?

Kristina
Totally! But this is a skill that I’ve started practicing only recently. Materials are a great way to set the mood. The same way I’m influencing how you perceive a project if I use a certain typeface or paper for print, I can make a statement by choosing a certain material when I am doing the art direction for a photoshoot. It’s about figuring out what works by trial and error. There’s no rulebook or anything to hold yourself to, it’s often about the magic of the unexpected that works in a photo. It’s a lot of fun once you get a hold of it and I love that there are really infinite options to communicate by combining all of these elements and disciplines together.

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Find Kristina’s site here ︎︎︎





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