Drawing on my experience as a typeface designer and graphic artist, I continue exploring the relationships of abstract forms, and developing them into structural systems.
My ceramic work features clean lines, simple shapes and bold use of contrasting colors and textures, complementing many styles of interiors and architecture.
The geometric compositions featured in my weavings play with repetition in an unpredictable way, creating imaginary perspectives and optical illusions that welcome interpretation.
It all starts with the building elements. A single bit may seem insignificant; a lone pixel on a dipslay screen, a single stitch in fabric. But arranged into bitmaps, groups of pixels convey images through their underlying patterns that convey textures, shapes, shadows, and colors. A single bit can be represented by a square on grid paper, a halftone dot in a photo, a loop of thread in fabric, a light emitting diode on a computer screen, a ceramic tile in a mosaic, to name a few. Each one carries it's unique abilities to build and blend, but our human perception is required to complete the process. Recognizing a smily face or letterform within an eight by eight grid or perceiving the color yellow, blended from red and green light emitting diodes illuminated side by side. This is what fascinates me about the building blocks of imagery.
My jacquard textiles are woven by a computer driven loom. I create the master image file as a coarse resolution bitmap, specifying the particular thread configuration for each bit with color coding.
It's always exciting to see the finished pieces, including the surprises that happen when I test new thread combinations. Through some trial and error, each one leads to ideas for the next.
These weavings are essentially bitmaps, built from thread, which is a wonderfully gratifying bridge to my early digital bitmap font work.
I hand assemble each piece from a combination of wheel thrown and slump molded elements, employing a variety of clay colors.
Ceramics began for me as a counterbalance to my digital design work. The making of objects is something I enjoy, and miss about the digital medium. Over time, I discovered that pottery and type design are connected in many ways.
Both disciplines rely on the balancing of shapes, abstraction of form, as well as creating illusions. For example, a form may appear either heavy or light, regardless of it’s actual weight.
Both disciplines also deal with modularity and the duality of inside and outside form. And both require resolving transitions of curves; when throwing a piece on the potter’s wheel, the conceptualization of the shape can be reduced to a single line of curve transitions, which represents one half of the symmetrical cross section. These curve transitions and balance of form have much in common with constructing curves in letter forms.
Zuzana Licko is the cofounder of Emigre, which became world renowned for its self-published magazine and type foundry. In 1984, Licko and cofounder Rudy VanderLans became early adopters of the recently introduced Macintosh computer technology and they used the computer to experiment and create some of the very first digital typeface designs and page layouts. Exposure of the typefaces in Emigre magazine resulted in demand for the fonts which lead to the creation of the Emigre Fonts type foundry.
Honors and Awards
2016 The New York Type Directors Club 29th Medal, awarded to Emigre.
2015 SFMOMA acquires Licko's "Signs of Type" HyperCard stack, originally presented at the 1990 ATypI conference in Oxford, and Licko's "Digital Fonts" catalog.
2013 Typography Award from the Society of Typographic Aficionados, awarded to Licko.
2011 MoMA New York acquires Licko's Oakland/Lo-Res family of digital typefaces for their design and architecture collection, which were included in the MoMA exhibit, “Standard Deviations: Types and Families in Contemporary Design” in 2012.
2010 Society of Typographic Arts, Chicago, Honorary membership, awarded to Emigre.
1998 Charles Nypels Award for excellence in the field of typography, awarded to Emigre.
1997 American Institute of Graphic Arts Gold Medal Award, its highest honors, awarded to Emigre.
1994 Chrysler Award for Innovation in Design, awarded to Emigre.
Education and Degrees
2005 Honorary Ph.D degree from the Rhode Island School of Design.
1984 Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Communication from the University of California at Berkeley, College of Environmental Design
Selected Exhibits and Installations
2023 Zuzana Licko / Solo show, concurrent with Rex Ray: Gallery 16, San Francisco, CA
2022 Sculpture in the Garden / Group show: Ruth Bancroft Botanical Garden, Walnut Creek, CA
2021 Nine Jacquard Weavings: Intersecting Figures, Faceted Figures, and Isometric Puzzles / Solo show: Katherine Small Gallery, Somerville, MA
2021 Design(H)er: Works by Contemporary Women Graphic Designers / Group show: Eleanor D. Wilson Museum at Hollins University, Roanoke, VA
2021 Ten piece jacquard weaving installation at the Hyatt House Denver Aurora, Denver, CO
2020 Twelve piece jacquard weaving installation at private residence, Mill Valley, CA
2017 California: Designing Freedom / Group show: Design Museum, London, England
2016 Typeface to Interface, Graphic Design from the Collection / Group show: SFMOMA, San Francisco, CA
2011-2012 Standard Deviations: Types and Families in Contemporary Design / Group show: MoMA, New York, NY
2011 Now in Production / Group show: Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN
2011 Typographic Tables / Group show: Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Bolzano, Italy
2009-2010 Emigre at Gallery 16 / Group show: Gallery 16, San Francisco, CA
2007 Puzzler Prints / Solo show: Berkeley Frame, Berkeley, CA
1998 Charles Nypels Award Exhibit featuring the work of Emigre: Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht, Holland