Book List of the Week

Fonts, Food, and Fantasy: Zuzana Licko’s Book List

By Steve Kroeter August 21, 2012

Zuzana Licko

Graphic designer Zuzana Licko: Emigre (Berkeley, California)

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Co-founder of Emigre, one of the first independent digital type foundries, and an iconic magazine of the same name, along with partner and husband Rudy VanderLans (featured this June on Designers & Books), Zuzana Licko has created typefaces inspired by the experimentation and innovative thinking new Macintosh computers made possible when they were first released in the early 1980s. Five fonts from Emigre’s type library, including Oakland, which Licko designed in 1985 (renamed Lo-Res in 2001), recently joined the permanent collection of The Museum of Modern Art.

Lo-Res (Oakland), font designed by Zuzana Licko, 1985, renamed 2001

Books on type—both cutting-edge and classic—mark Licko’s book list for Designers & Books. These range from the HTML Programmer’s Reference (“All instructional books should be written this way. Spare me the tedious examples explaining how to do things that I don't want to do”) to Gordon Rookledge and Christopher Perfect’s Rookledge’s International Typefinder: The Essential Handbook of Typeface Recognition and Selection, which Licko calls “a traditional overview of typeface classifications. It serves as a reminder of what the typeface landscape looked like just before the personal computer era.”

Considering tradition of different kind, Licko turns to another of her favored subject areas for books: food and cooking. About Julia Child’s The Way to Cook, she says, “When I need to find a foolproof and traditional way of preparing a recipe, this book summarizes the perfected recipes by the master chef.” Other books centered on food—but in fact covering much more—that Licko cites include Jacques Pépin’s The Apprentice, which shows “how life’s random events can shape a brilliant career”; and Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, which, “metaphorically, is an impetus for putting things back into context.”

Mrs. Eaves, a contemporary interpretation of the classic Baskerville font, designed by Zuzana Licko, 1996, updated 2009

Two books on Licko’s book list made a clear early impression on the designer. One is Lewis Carroll’s fantasy Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—also on the lists of four other Designers & Books contributors (Angus Hyland, Sagi Haviv, Maira Kalman, and Deborah Sussman). Licko says about it, “This is the first English book my dad read to me in Czechoslovakia, trying to expose me to the English language, he tells me. . . . I remember poring over the details when I was learning to draw.” The other, Herbert Spencer’s The Visible Word, was “one of the first books I read about design when I began my studies.” It “opened my eyes to the role that typefaces, and their design and implementation, play in communication.” Licko ends her comment on this book with the Alice-like remark, “The answers may have less longevity than the questions the book poses.”

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