Marian Misiak, born in 1981 in Ostrava, is truly passionate about local fonts, and a designer, publicist, and researcher of visual culture.
Misiak studied sociology at the University of Warsaw, and after that moved to the UK, where he studied at the Typography and Visual Communication Department of the University of Reading. He worked for London-based Neville Brody Studio, as well as Polish project Polska: The Times. Along with Tomek Bersz, he’s part of the graphic duo BerszMisiak Collective, which was responsible, among other things, for the audio-visual aspects of the Alternativa festival.
Misiak’s work is deeply rooted in Wrocław, where in 2013 he started what he called ‘typoactivism’, which is careful attention to the typographical elements connected with specific regions or cities. In the publication Typoactivism – A Guide: Wrocław Rolling Stock Numerals, Misiak, together with a handful of other designers, explored and redesigned the numerals found on the city’s rolling stock. Under his protection, this typoactivism has spread to several other cities already, where designers propose to use local fonts in visual identifications of city institutions. He held a series of typoactivism workshops in Gdynia, where he was also in charge of the content of Gdynia Design Days 2015. He explains typoactivism’s basic concepts as such:
It’s an alternative for the mainstream way of artistic and designer teaching. Typoactivism fills in the gaps that are normally left out. It’s outdoor, it merges disciplines, it’s connected with the city and it works for the benefit of the local community. For the ones who do not feel at home in the academia it’s a way to meet their idols. The university imposes some kind of structure and respect for the lecturers, but here you can discuss everything on equal level. This informality makes everything much easier, it makes cooperation the most important thing. (Print Control 3)
Marian Misiak also carried out a well-received piece of work for Wrocław, together with Kalina Zatrska and Łukasz Nawrocki. They created, among other things, a project for the visual identification of the National Museum, which skilfully connects the four branches of the establishment. His project was awarded the 1st prize at the STGU competition. Each of the museum’s branches is portrayed with different colour by Misiak – The Four Domes Pavilion is blue, the Racławice Panorama is red, the Etnography Museum is green, and the National Museum itself is black. He even designed two new fonts for this undertaking: Janus and Dia Grotesk. The letter M in the logo itself is a straightforward reference to the letter W in Wrocław’s coat of arms. One of the members of jury gives this explanation as to why Misiak’s composition won:
You have to appreciate how his proposition evolved. It’s not only a logo (which, on its own, is interesting and eye-catching), but it’s also a system that intuitively connects four branches of the museum, it’s a communication and public image strategy, and finally – fonts that are used in the system designed by the author. The proof of the scope of this project is the fact that in order to organise the communication strategy, the name of The Four Domes Pavilion was established – it functions today as P4K as well.
Misiak cooperates with important figures of Polish graphic design, such as Oskar Zięta. It was after his invitation that Marian created the FIDU Alphabet. Maria1 is the first font created with FIDU technology, that is with blown metal. The designer, together with Paulina Sikorska, Albert Nogala and Paweł Rossner, is an author of the new visual identification of Zięta Prozessdesign. In Print Control he says:
As the figures that we use in the new system consist of unique 3D objects, we had to connect our typographical concerns with issues such as lightning, scale and our manufacturing abilities.
His interest in history of typography resulted in a project that he worked on with the design historian Agata Szydłowska. The book Paneurope, Comet, Helium: Sketches from the History of Polish Font Design is a story of 500 years of Polish typography, told with wit and passion. Probably the best way to sum up Misiak’s output is his own words about typoactivists:
A typoactivist is an active individual, a member of an informal social movement, an enthusiast with loads of love for his/her work. He is interested mainly in letters, but also in his physical surroundings and ever-changing social contexts. (Print Control 3)
Author: Agata Morka, March 2017. Translated by AS