For the design magazine Works That Work, Peter Biľak found himself in the situation of being both commissioner and designer. As a fellow type designer, I’m not surprised that the first thing he did was to start work on a typeface for his new magazine. To the non-typeface designer, this might seem like an odd place to start, but for me, it was the obvious place. Typefaces are carriers of the tone of voice; the bricks from which the building is built. Because they play such a fundamental role, they should embody the very essence of the design. If the auteur has conceived a clear vision for the edifice he wishes to build, then first making the bricks from which to build it seems entirely logical.
This particular sequence of turning an idea into reality is a manifestation of the title of the magazine. This is making a typeface as a work that works because of its specificity to the content.
Looking at Lava, one can immediately identify the designer as Biľak. It is steeped in a form language that is uniquely his. Designing a typeface that is clearly of one designer’s hand, yet general enough to be usable by many is no easy task. Yes, Lava is Plantin and Caslon in the main, but it goes far beyond being a revival or postmodern love child. The classic proportions inspire confidence from that familiarity, and the execution is both contemporary and personal, but never idiosyncratic for the sake of being so, or to the point of distraction.
The vague quality of timelessness is one I care very little for. Designers in any field should strive to reflect on the context in which they practice. This inspires discourse, and without discourse, we drone.