M.E. recently spotted the work of Jordan Jelev, a Bulgarian graphic designer with a passion for Arabic and Gothic lettering.
Spending most of his professional days creating packaging designs for wine, we were curious to discover how his calligraphic, and design work were related; so we asked Jelev a few questions. Scroll down to find out what he had to say...
These individual calligraphic pieces are quite different to the label work you do - what is the meaning behind them? Many of them seem more like artworks than graphic design or packaging related.
These specifically have no relation with all my work in wine labels. They all are created for my pleasure and also - this is important - they mean nothing. That's why they are part of my asemic calligraphy. The Arabic ones in particular - I don't get a word of Arabic and I feel free to make something that reminds a lot of the original Arabic calligraphy. I also intend in the near future to make an exhibition with my Arabic calligraphy.
Your nationality is Bulgarian, yet some of the lettering pieces you create are Arabic as well as Gothic. What is the connection between the two? Personal interest? Where does this stem from?
I have always been impressed by Arabic calligraphy, ornaments, decoration and pattern styles. What I want to try is to follow those styles but with a modern approach. I am still mostly using traditional tools for calligraphy, but my inspiration also comes from graffiti, Gothic lettering and Arabic calligraphy combined.
I have also been influenced largely by two great calligraphers - Hassan Massoudi and Julien Breton. These guys gave me a direction and also let me create my own environment in calligraphy. In the following years I hope to produce my entirely unique style from all this, I think it is about time.
About Gothic - speaking frankly as a calligrapher, typographer and designer - I think that Gothic letters and the whole Gothic visual culture comes from the Arab countries. Being addicted to the forms of Gothic lettering, allowed me to explore it and understand how close it is to the Arabic lettering style.
Are they drawn by hand or with computer assistance?
Most of them are entirely hand made - although sometimes there might be some digital work.
I also have an innovative way to make digital calligraphy with my Wacom Cintiq Tablet. It's a very powerful tool, which most of the traditional calligraphers still do not understand and accept: but remember what happened with film photography!
You've mentioned that you'd like to continue with the development of these styles into something of your own. How do you envisage this?
Well, that is pretty early to be discussed I think. Producing certain letterforms time and time again gives you the will and the freedom to generate something of your own - inheriting a tradition gives you the right to become an originator of something you see and it is part of you and your talent...
What sparked your interest in typography specifically? What do you find interesting about this design form?
I am addicted to both typography and calligraphy - from early childhood to the present day. My experience in Factor R Studio for the past 11 years as a designer, calligrapher and art director means I pay the maximum attention to typography, the lettering, and it's relation to the whole product as a designwork and as a piece of art that is expected to communicate with an audience.
On the other hand, today it is very difficult to find a wine label designer that can produce custom lettering for his work - remember - today it is all entirely digital, even the fonts are, so I started doing my custom calligraphy for wine labels, knowing pretty well that this will help my work to stand out from all other labels on the shelf.