Peter Biľak

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Peter Bil'ak in 2013
Peter Bil'ak at Typo berlin 2017

Peter Biľak (Slovak pronunciation: [ˈpeter ˈbiʎak]; born 1973 in Czechoslovakia) is a Slovak graphic and typeface designer, based in The Hague, The Netherlands. He works in the field of editorial, graphic, and type design; teaches typeface design at the postgraduate course Type&Media at the KABK, Royal Academy of Art (The Hague).[1] He started Typotheque in 1999, Dot Dot Dot in 2000 (with Stuart Bailey), Indian Type Foundry in 2009, Works That Work magazine in 2012, and Fontstand in 2015. He is a member of AGI, (Alliance Graphique Internationale.[2]) and lectures on his work internationally. He is a writer for numerous design magazines and frequently contributes writing and design to books and publications that include Print, Emigre, Eye (magazine), Items, tipoGrafica, Idea (magazine), Abitare and, Page.

He has designed several fonts including FF Eureka (published by Fontshop) and Fedra (published by his own type foundry Typotheque). He works on a broad range of cultural and commercial projects and his interest in each discipline extends beyond the practice of design to the inquisitive exploration of it.

Early life[edit]

Biľak was born in Czechoslovakia. He started art at the Art Academy in Bratislava, then studied briefly in the United Kingdom and the United States. Later, he went to Atelier National de Création Typographique in Paris, where he obtained his Master's degree, and Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, Netherlands for his postgraduate laureate.

His biggest influences were the places he has lived. In school, he found out that many things he was taught in school turned out to be mainly false, and that it was easy to manipulate information. Those places made him question what he already knew. Travelling during that time made him more independent and allowed him to see things from multiple perspectives.

As a student in Czechoslovakia, Biľak was often frustrated by the fact that his language were not supported by most typefaces.

Even though it's a Latin-based script, all the accents weren't available for Czech or Slovak. I had to make my own fonts to be able to design books.

— Peter Biľak

He later went on to develop typefaces for Russian and Greek, however a significant achievement came with Arabic, which was a language he had no knowledge about. This began his type-designing career.

During his studies, he had encountered people, whom he referred to as 'inspiring teachers' such as Irma Boom, Karel Martens, Armand Mevis, and Michael Rock.


Biľak started his career with international design agency, Studio Dumbar in The Hague, where he worked between 1999 and 2001. After leaving Studio Dumbar, he started working independently.

In 1999, Biľak established the type foundry Typotheque with the idea of "digging out all the projects from the drawers and publishing them." Originally started with a single typeface, Typotheque has then published articles, book reviews and interviews with other designers, and quickly becoming a reference in the world of design and typography. In October 2009, Typotheque was the first type foundry to license its entire font collection as webfonts.

Web fonts, as a concept, have existed for about fifteen years. But there was a lot of resistance from type foundries, because if you put something online, users could copy fonts freely from the browser. There's also a lot of complexity behind what you actually see on the screen, given the different browsers, computer platforms, and versions of software.

— Peter Biľak

Typotheque's webfont service uses @font-face rule in CSS, and serves the appropriate font file to different browsers, from their network of distributed servers.

Because of his interest in languages, he worked in 2007 with Indian designer Satya Rajpurohit on the Hindi version of Fedra Sans, and in 2009 started the Indian Type Foundry. Similar to Typotheque, ITF started out with a single typeface, but has larger plans to develop typefaces for all Indian writing scripts such as Devanagari, Tamil, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, etc. It also has plans to organise lectures and workshops in India, and to publish typefaces made by local designers. Prajavani, a major South Indian newspaper, has engaged the firm to create a custom typeface, something virtually unheard of in Indian publishing.[3] Since then, ITF has created fonts for multinationals such as Google, Apple, Sony, Samsung, Amazon, amongst others.

For his contribution to the non-Latin typography, he was named in 2012 one of the 12 Game Changers by Metropolis.[4]

In 2014, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic awarded Biľak the Goodwill Envoy award [5] for the successful spreading of the country Slovakia.

Together with Kristyan Sarkis, a Lebanese designer based in the Netherlands, Biľak has co-founded TPTQ Arabic, a sister company that develops original Arabic typefaces and systems for bilingual typography.[6]

In 2015, Peter Biľak, together with Andrej Krátky co-founded Fontstand, a desktop app that allows trying fonts for free or renting them per month, also referred to as the "iTunes for Fonts".[7] Fontstand has been included[8] in the New Europe 100, a list of Central and Eastern Europe innovations that recognises those who expertise in emerging technologies, unique skills and social outreach which have had a global impact. New Europe 100 is organised by Res Publica together with Google, the Visegrad Fund, and in cooperation with the Financial Times.[9]

In 2019 he was awarded the Gold Prize in the European Design Awards for his font "Ping", a truly international typeface, supporting not only hundreds of Latin-based languages, but also Arabic, Armenian, Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Cyrillic, Devanagari, Greek, Korean, Hebrew and Japanese, unprecedented goal for a small independent type foundry.[10]

Typeface design[edit]

Poem by M. Vasalis on a wall in The Hague. Typeface Lava by Peter Biľak

Biľak has been designing typefaces since the early 1990s. Notable able fonts are listed below:


Between 2000 and 2007, Biľak was the co-founder (along with Stuart Bailey), co-editor, and designer of Dot Dot Dot, an art and design journal. Dot Dot Dot is a biannual, self- published, after-hours magazine, originally centred around graphic design, later broadening in scope to interdisciplinary journalism on subjects that affect the way people look at the world, think about and make design. It was not to be a magazine showing visual outcomes of the design process, but presenting the recurring themes of daily work. It was designed to change the way of thinking from 'what a design magazine should show' to 'what we are interested in as designers'. After three issues, the tagline 'graphic design/visual communication magazine', was scrapped, since Biľak thought there was no reason why some things like film, music, literature should not be in the magazine. The only connection it has with graphic design is that the co-founders studied design. The last issue of Dot Dot Dot magazine was published in summer 2010.

In 2013, after raising €30,000 in a crowdfunding campaign,[11] Biľak founded Works That Work, a magazine of unexpected creativity, published twice a year by Typotheque, in print and digital edition. Works That Work is an international design magazine that looks studies the impact of design around the world, comparable as the National Geographic of design. The British national daily newspaper The Guardian named Works That Work as 'some of the best-looking new magazines',[12] and Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University reported how 'the small magazine has found a way to get noticed globally by creating a beautiful digital edition as well as a creative way to distribute its print copies—gaining a lot of ever-coveted user engagement in the process.' .[13] Works That Work distributes 43% of its print run [14] via their Social Distribution, a reader-based system of distribution of physical copies of magazine bypassing traditional distribution channels.[15]

Other projects[edit]

In 2003, he designed a series of the standard post stamps for the Dutch Royal mail (TNT Post), today one of the Icons of the Post.[16] The design of these standard postage stamps was inspired by the Dutch landscape, the starting point being the view of geometric fields from the air, the first view of the country offered to any visitor landing at Amsterdam airport. Besides the inspiration coming from the landscape, the stamps offer another reading. The design is purely typographical, as the width of each letter determines the width of the surrounding block. This depicts how old-style metal printing works, setting metal punches next to each other. In this respect the stamps can be seen as a modest homage to the traditions of Dutch typography. The stamps have been reprinted three times, totalling over 143,000,000 copies. The 2010 edition was slightly modified.

From 2004 he has been collaborating with the choreographer Lukáš Timulak on the concepts of dance performances. Together they were subject of an exhibition 'InLoop/EnTry' in Stroom, Centre for Art and Architecture.[17] Biľak defines the concept of the dance pieces, getting involved very early on in the process. While it is clear what Timulak does as the choreographer, Biľak's role has been defined in the theatre credits sometimes as designer, stage designer, sometimes as dramaturge, sometimes described simply by the noun 'concept'.

Talks and lectures[edit]

  • Precisamos de novas fontes? Tipogracia 10, São Paulo Discussing approaching to designing new typefaces. Lecture, 2013
  • Lançamento da revista Works That Work, Rio de Janeiro. Launch and presentation of Works That Work magazine in Parque Lage, Rio de Janeiro. Presentation, 2013
  • Indic Language Typography for Print and Screen media. Society for News Design, New Delhi. Lecture, 2012
  • Type Systems. Lecture at the Tag der Schrift symposium in Zurich. Lecture, Zurich, Switzerland, 2012
  • Qual è il significato della vita. Lecture at the ISIA Urbino. Lecture and workshop, 2012
  • It's About Time. Sofia Design Week, 2012. Lecture, 2012
  • Non-Latin type. Babel Symposium Hfg Offenbach. Lecture, 2012
  • Designing Type Systems. Tag der Schrift conference, Zürich. Lecture, 2012
  • Language / Script / Type. Workshop at the MIT Institute of Design, Pune (India). Workshop, 2011
  • Peter Bilak, typography. Raffles Millennium International, Bangalore, India. Lecture, 2011
  • Quasar 5. Annual design festival of MIT Institute of Design. Lecture, 2011
  • Possibilities of Typography. National Institute of Design, Ahmadabad, India. Lecture, 2011
  • Shifts & Expanding possibilities of typography. Typo Berlin 2011. Lecture, 2011
  • What constitutes a type family. ECAL, Lausanne. Lecture, 2011
  • Expandiendo las posibilidades de la tipografía. Letter2, Buenos Aires. Lecture, 2011
  • Web typography. Grafill, Oslo. Lecture, 2011
  • Gebruikte Letters. Bern, Typo Club. Lecture, 2011
  • Conceptual typography? A one-day conference, with six international speakers that illuminates the field of conceptual type. Lecture, 2010
  • Typography on the Web. next(con)text, Media Factory & Department of Media, Helsinki. Lecture, 2010
  • Webfonts. Munich, 13 November 2010. Round table discussion, 2010
  • What is Typography? AGI Day, Den Haag. Lecture, 2010
  • Peter Bilak, selected projects. 25 May 2010, Split Art Academy, Croatia. Lecture, 2010
  • Newspaper typography. Society of Newspaper Designers, Lisbon, 12 Nov 2009. Lecture, 2009
  • Peter Bilak, selected projects. Brumen foundation, 26. Oct 2009, Ljubjana, Slovenia. Lecture, 2009
  • Peter Bilak, selected projects. Vienna Design Week, 8 Oct 2009. Lecture, 2009
  • Dutch Graphic design. Hong Kong Design Centre, 6 Aug, 2009. Lecture, 2009
  • History of History CPH Typo 09, Mediehøjskolen, Copenhagen, 16 Apr 2009. Lecture, 2009
  • Language / Script / Type. VSVU, Academy of Fine Arts, Bratislava. Workshop, 2009
  • 23. Forum Typografie. Typografie zwischen Ulm und Amsterdam, 2008
  • Typografie zwischen Ulm und Amsterdam. Hochschule für Künste Bremen. Lecture, 2008
  • Peter Bilak, selected projects. A-Z 33, Typography Process Space Hasselt, Belgium, 20 May 2008. Lecture, 2008
  • Quatro Grafici Olandesi. ISIA Urbino, Italy 7 Apr 2008. Lecture & workshop, 2008
  • Typografiska Fredag. Royal Library of Sweden, Stockholm, 7 Mar 2008. Lecture, 2008
  • École Supérieure d'Art et de Design, Amiens. Lecture, 2007
  • Peter Bilak, selected projects. Zürcher Hochschule der Kunsten, 1 Dec 2007. Lecture, 2007
  • Peter Bilak, selected projects. Dutch Design, Vilnius 12 Oct 2007. Lecture, 2007
  • Peter Bilak, selected projects. AGI congress Amsterdam, 27 Sep 2007. Lecture, 2007
  • Arabic type. Khatt symposium Amsterdam, 24 Aug 2007. Lecture, 2007
  • Kyesign Conference, Goa, India. Lecture, 2006
  • Rencontres de Lure, Lurs. Lecture, 2006
  • Tag der Typografie. Zurich, 25 Nov 2006. Lecture, 2006
  • Peter Bilak, selected projects. DesigYatra conference Goa, India, Sept 2006. Lecture, 2006
  • Helden Avond. OffCorso 7 Willem de Kooning Academie, Rotterdam. Discussion, 2005
  • Biographies Workshop. Eesti kunstacademi, Tallinn, Estonia (March 2005). Week long editorial workshop, 2005
  • Designing History & Criticism. AIGA, National Design Conference 2001, Washington DC. Discussion, 2001


  • Typo en Mouvement. Le lieu du design, Paris, 2015
  • Memory Palace. Victoria & Albert Museum, London, 2013
  • Call for Type. Neue Schriften. Gutenberg Museum, Mainz, 2013
  • All Possible Futures. SOMArts Cultural Center, San Francisco, 2013
  • Bewegte Schrift / Type in Motion. Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, 2011
  • Connecting Concepts. National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India, 2011
  • van Grote waarde – Icon van de post. De Affiche Galerij (Poster Gallery), The Hague, 2011
  • Cartografias do Processo. Lisbon, Palácio Quintela, 2011
  • Deep Surface: Contemporary Ornament and Pattern. CAM Raleigh, 2011
  • Graphic Design: Now in Production. Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2011
  • Open Projects. 21e Festival international de l'affiche et du graphisme de Chaumont, 2010
  • InLoop/EnTry: Peter Bilak & Lukáš Timulak. Stroom Den Haag, 2010
  • Quick Quick Slow. Experimenta Lisbon, 2009
  • Freedom and Order, Quattro Grafici Olandesi. ISEA Urbino, Italy, 2008
  • Doubles Pages. Centre d'Art Contemporain Genève, 2008
  • Multiverso. Torino, 2008
  • Schrift in Form. Klingspor-Museums Offenbach, 2008
  • Experiment and Typography. Brno, Prague, The Hague, Bratislava, Warsaw, Ljubljana, Budapest, 2006
  • Communicate: British Independent Graphic Design since the Sixties. Barbican Art Gallery, London, 2006
  • Work from Mars. in 2006
  • The Future's bright. VIVID Design Rotterdam, NL, 2005
  • Czech and Slovak Poster Art 1993–2003. Poster Museum Aarhus, Denmark, 2003
  • Reading in Motion. 34th Zagreb Salon, Croatia, 1999


  • Type Radio interview with Peter Biľak
  • Progetto Grafico No.9, 2007, interview with Peter Biľak
  • Articles by Peter Biľak
  • Middendorp, Jan, Dutch Type. 010 publishers: 2004. ISBN 90-6450-460-1.
  • Eye magazine No.75, Spring 2010, Interview with Peter Biľak
  • Designing for India, Bangalore Mirror, 6 February 2011
  • Heller, Steven, The Design Entrepreneur Rockport Publishers:2008. ISBN 978-1-59253-421-0.
  • Interview with designer Peter Bilak
  • Peter Bil'ak: Designing for dance, typefaces, and marginalized alphabets


  1. ^ [1] Royal Academy of Art in The Hague
  2. ^ [2] Archived 2012-01-07 at the Wayback Machine Peter Bilak at AGI
  3. ^ [3] Print, June 2011, vol 65, issue 3, p.52
  4. ^ [4] Archived 2012-02-03 at the Wayback Machine Metropolis Magazine: Peter Bilak, Game Changer
  5. ^ [5] Archived 2014-12-04 at the Wayback Machine Minister Lajčák presented Goodwill Envoy awards
  6. ^ [6] Announcement TPTQ Arabic, October 15, 2015
  7. ^ [7] This New Service Wants to Be the iTunes for Fonts
  8. ^ [8] Archived 2015-12-04 at the Wayback Machine The New Europe 100, Fontstand founders
  9. ^ [9] The 2015 New Europe 100: sectors in the vanguard of change
  10. ^ [10] 26 Nederlandse European Design Awards 2019
  11. ^ [10] Works That Work press release
  12. ^ [11] The beautiful magazines setting out to prove print isn't dead
  13. ^ [12] In the Netherlands, a magazine experiments with "social distribution" (and they don't mean retweets)
  14. ^ [13] First year of Works That Work magazine in numbers.
  15. ^ [14] Reader based distribution of magazine
  16. ^ [15] Iconen van de post
  17. ^ [16] Stroom, Centre for Art and Architecture

External links[edit]