Hidden behind this studio’s professional and technical name are two imaginative young designers, Artur and Magda Frankowski. Fontarte is a unique combination of Artur’s technical education (printing) and Magda’s education in the humanities (history of art).
The pair have been working together since 2004 and their studio in Warsaw offers just enough space to think and work comfortably. Their greatest strength has been their ability to revive and modernise two aesthetic trends: Polish avant-garde and contemporary street art.
For example, their poster for Yael Bartana’s 2010 film Mur i wieża (Wall and Tower) was inspired by the avant-garde. While drawing on interwar photomontages from Mieczysław Berman and Teresa Żarnower, it also hints at something personal. This symbolises that the emphasis is not on a nostalgic idea, but on art from our times. The Frankowskis have also been studying the work of Henryk Berlewi; a Polish abstract painter, precursor of modern typography and design, and creator of the Mechanofaktura theory. In 2009, the pair wrote and published a book about him.
One example of informal inspiration is Golonka FA, a typeface project. In their interview, the pair claim it was the result of their fascination with 'urban typography', the interesting parts of which are its imperfect and naïve elements. 'For over half our lives we’ve been working and living in Warsaw, a city which inspires us and a place to which we feel the most connected,' says the couple. They once drew inspiration from something they spotted in the window of a Warsaw bar (Jaś i Małgosia), a sign consisting of self-adhesive foil letters which had been stuck on by hand. As can be seen, things which are nearby do not have to be searched for extensively. Golonka FA can be downloaded from the designers’ website free of charge. They also have several other Warsaw typefaces in their collection, including Praesens FA, inspired by lettering from the Brukalski architects.
The Frankowskis work in a variety of fields connected with design and art. They create logotypes, posters, corporate identities and catalogues for a number of institutions including: the Museum of Modern Art, the Zachęta Gallery and the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw; Moderna Museet in Malmö; the Polish Institute in Brussels; CSW Signs of the Times In Toruń; the Polish Institute in Vienna; BWA Design in Wrocław. They collect interwar typefaces and hunt for the elusive traces of Polish design history. They were research consultants at the most recent Warsaw in Construction exhibition at Warsaw’s Museum of Modern Art. The couple also curate exhibitions: they organised an exhibition of Polish graphic design in China in 2010, and co-created the Enfant terrible young Polish poster exhibition, which opens in September 2013 at BOZAR in Brussels.
Their portfolio is rich with both books and exhibition catalogues. Designers also run their own publishing house. As a part of this project they published Złote rączki drżą (Golden hands are shaking), a book by a painter Aleksandra Waliszewska, which combines both her work and texts written especially for this projects by invited contributors. Wunder Kammer, on the other hand, constitutes a very private collection of peculiar artefacts, curated by Magdalena Frankowska herself. Similarly nostalgic in nature, another of their books called 12_2010 TIME / SPACE takes one on a very intimate journey. This time the reader is invited to join Artur Frankowski in his photographic adventure in Marocco.
Artur Frankowski’s interest lies in typography dating from the end of the 1990s, a subject on which he lectures at the Department of Design at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw and at the Printing Institute at Warsaw Technical University. In 2010, he published a richly illustrated book on signs and lettering in Warsaw’s public spaces entitled Typespotting Warszawa. He has designed over a dozen typefaces, such as Grotesk Polski (Polish Grotesque), inspired by the 1930’s roman type of Adam Półtawski. His Silesiana, a typeface for the region of Silesia in eastern Poland, created in collaboration with Henryk Sakwerda, went on to win top prize in the applied graphics category at the Śląska Rzecz competition in 2006.
Magda Frankowska designs and writes texts, and has organised a series of lectures on book design and typography, participants of which have included Irma Boom, Jost Hochuli, Norm Studio, and Henrik Nygren. Frankowska has passion for social activities: she is an active member of the Association of Applied Graphic Designers (STGU) and recently became involved with the Association for Fashion Development. The entry on her Facebook page stating that a Museum of Design is badly needed in Warsaw has caused quite a stir in the design community and provoked discussion in the media. And her Saturator typeface, inspired by a hand-made Polish font which brings to mind the Polish Republic era, sells exceedingly well in the USA.
Our interests are a mixture of influences from high and low culture. In our private ‘museum of imagination’ we have Marcel Duchamp, a dating agency flyer from the turn of the century, a lamp by Arne Jacobsen and a shoe form from Alexander McQueen’s latest collection: all happily co-existing. Nearly every new project is a new discovery. That’s perhaps one of the greatest virtues of a designer’s job — the possibility of being able to seek freely, the Frankowskis tell Sebastian Cichocki in an interview for the quarterly 2+3D (No. 35 II/2010).
Author: Dorota Jarecka, September 2013. Updated AM, May 2016.
English translation: Garry Malloy
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