Juri Zaech – the font man
Jane McGuire

Juri Zaech – the font man

Juri Zaech the font man

First published date January 21 2015 Amended date March 24 2016

Although we might not realise it, most of us are inadvertently suckers for a good font. Whether it’s sharing a quote on Instagram, or opening a book with a well designed cover, apparently it’s not just what you say, but how it looks on the page. After falling in love with his ‘write a bike’ series (if you haven’t seen it yet, you need to), when it came to finding an expert for graphic design, Juri Zaech was top of my list. A Swiss Art Director living in Paris, you will find Juri designing his own fonts and working on graphic designs alongside his day job in advertising. Keen to find out more about his journey, success and love for typography, I caught up with Juri from his Parisian workshop to talk all things graphic design. Confirming the stereotype that designers really are the cool kids of the industry, it quickly becomes clear this is far more than just a hobby for Juri, but a passion.


First things first, how did you get to where you are today?

When I finished school I didn’t have a clear view of a career or a specific field of work in mind. I was done with school and wanted to work, so I decided to take an apprenticeship in typography instead of going on to study further. I liked visual things, graphic design but also architecture. I started my apprenticeship in a local print shop and worked for a couple of years at a small graphic design/advertising agency. These were such important years as I didn’t stop learning; it was a protected environment where I was able to develop gradually. I then decided to focus on the advertising side of things, so enrolled in the art direction portfolio program at Miami Advertising School in Hamburg. This was a big decision that meant leaving Switzerland and working abroad. After that I ended up in Paris and have been here for the past six years; whilst advertising is my main occupation I do typography and graphic design projects on the side.


Have you always been passionate about graphic design?

My dad is an artist and my mum a ceramist, so I grew up in an environment where creation was a daily subject. However, my interest in graphic design was triggered when I started my apprenticeship in typography. I remember first studying the print shop’s font library – I was fascinated and that feeling never went away.


Have you had any formal training in graphic design?

During the four years of my apprenticeship I had classes every week on typography, the history of art, publishing and so on. At advertising school we had classes in art direction, branding, visual impact and conception for communication. Those classes were very practice orientated as most of the programme.


What is the best part of graphic design?

It’s what I’m personally interested in and therefore it’s more than a job for me, which makes motivation come naturally. Besides that, you often find yourself in a pretty laid back atmosphere with like-minded people.


What is the hardest part?

It’s important to know that we’re not artists and our job is to serve clients. Saying this, you still become emotionally attached to your ideas; when your creation goes through the process of creative directors, account management and often several steps of clients, what comes out the other side might not be exactly what you came up with in the beginning. That fight can be frustrating but is part of the job. A lot of opinions go into the creation of something, but my self-initiated projects help to balance this out.


You work in advertising and do design work on the side, do the two parts of your job overlap?

They do on a basic level yes. Both have their roots in design and visual impact; however the structure of projects and their work environment is different. I learn things from advertising that apply on my side projects and vice versa. You could say they nourish each other.


Where do you see yourself and your career in five years time?

I don’t see myself letting go of either advertising or my side projects, even less quitting the creative industry completely – I like it way too much! It’s possible that I will have changed country again – my fiancé and I are both open to moving abroad. But then, everything might turn out completely differently! If I had answered this question five years ago I wouldn’t have described my current position – that’s the exciting part of the story I guess.


Who is your main inspiration when it comes to design?

Everyone who creates something I wish I’d done myself.


What advice would you give to someone hoping to follow in your footsteps and get into the industry?

Follow your instinct and have fun. If you don’t have a very focused interest like I did when I started out, try out a couple of different things to find out what excites you the most. I think moving around in the beginning is very valuable, for example working in different sized companies can feel very different and you might prefer one to the other. The most important thing is that you enjoy what you do. The best creations are done by the people who are passionate about the subject, so if you don’t get excited about what you are doing, change it. I’ve seen designers become writers and they were happier for it – at the end of the day, that’s what matters.


If you have a notepad bursting with doodles and want to follow in Juri’s footsteps and put this to the test with a graphic design course, we have just what you need to get started. With plenty of options available, learn how to create the fonts, designs and graphics of the future. What are you waiting for? 

Meet the experts