With design projects that focus on functional systems, Florian Karsten’s graphic design practice leans heavily on typeface design as well as programming and web design. With his small design studio in Brno, Czech Republic, Florian looks towards clean aesthetics that aim to be timeless, which means removing superfluous elements that might date these design projects. Perhaps this awareness comes from his background in interaction design, which he studied before moving on to graphic design. “I like the cleanliness of graphic design and also the fact that you are making something tangible, physical; something you can touch,” Florian tells It’s Nice That. “When we design and develop a website, it seems like it’s never finished and can always be changed.”
Florian’s work in type design started out as a natural part of the design process, when paying for licenses for every web project became too expensive to sustain. “Even though we love using Arial and Times New Roman, after a while, it became a bit tiresome, so we started to create our own typefaces that we can use and customise whenever we need,” Florian says. His process is considered and detail-oriented, which means that limitations and structures provide a shape to the projects that he pursues, rather an obstruction.
“We like those greenfield projects where you have to actually figure out what you should do. And we like complicated projects which require a lot of structuring,” Florian says. “We don’t have some concrete tested process and we try to tackle every project without assumptions. Start from the first principles sort of approach. I think we are also pretty versatile, nerdy and technically skilled.” The studio also offers programming for other studios and designers that may require its skillset.
Starting with simple concepts and what he calls “mundane solutions,” Florian looks to design work that ages well, veering away from the constant obsolescence that often plagues web design when new trends are integrated recklessly. “This started a long time ago when we were upset about website designs that last for two years max. We asked ourselves: can you design a website that lasts five years or ten years?” he explains. “We found out that one way to do it is to make it look and function like it’s already ten years old. If you manage to make a website that looks dated while still being interesting, then you have a big chance it will still be interesting five years from now.”
Rather than focusing on old or retro aesthetics, instead he focusses on form and simple elements. “A full-screen picture won’t age and using an underline for a link will still be the most obvious way to make a link,” Florian says. However, this doesn’t mean that Florian and his studio shy away from experimentation, but that this experimentation usually stems from a design problem that needs solving. For the 100 year celebration of the faculty of architecture in Brno University of Technology, Florian created FK Raster collection to use on LED screens to create a durable information solution for when the faculty’s building turned into a public space. “Finding an x-height that would work for both grotesk and roman variants of the typeface was a big decision to make at the start. I had to sacrifice the grotesk proportions to make a serif pixel font even possible,” he says. “It turned out that a serif font with an x-height less than seven pixels is just not enough to fit all the serif.”
With a new website and updated font shop that he is planning to release for other type designers in the future, Florian’s focus seems to be on the design community and functionality. “We found that many [type designers] don’t want to join a large font reseller and prefer a simple custom and not very expensive selling platform,” he says. “As a type designer, you can use many existing solutions, but we think none of it is 100 per cent suitable for selling typefaces. We’re trying to solve that.”