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Q&A with Maria Doreuli

Graphic & type designer from Russia

I am Maria Doreuli from Moscow, Russia. I run Contrast Foundry studio together with a few of my friends. We’ve been doing collaborative custom projects since 2013 and now we are finally working on setting up as a type foundry. Besides type, I have a passion for hand drawn letters, so whenever there is an opportunity I work on lettering projects. I also teach typography and type design and give workshops on type drawing.

How did you get started in graphic and type design, what is your background?

I’ve been interested in fine arts since I was a teenager. I’ve always paid attention to small details, printed matter, pens, art supplies, paper and colour combinations. All of this lead me to study typography and later start work on my first typeface. At that time it was impossible for me to even get the basic curve right. I assume that the fact that I have a quite technical brain together with a innate stubbornness made me determined to develop better skills and dig into the type design profession.

Where did you study? Looking back, would you recommend your path for beginners?

I’ve been always picky about the places. It was important for me to feel the atmosphere, find a place where I do feel comfortable. I started at the art school in Moscow, later went to the Moscow Printing University and to the Royal Academy of Arts in the Hague (NL). It would not be original to suggest students to follow their intuition. Do what you are interested in, do it every day and always try to outdo yourself. There is nothing impossible unless you think it is impossible. And, of course, whatever designer you are—draw by hand as much as you can. I personally can’t imagine my process with only working digitally on the computer.

What is a turning point in your professional career?

I hardly believe that there can ever be a turning point in a career. I think of it is a continuous long way that one follows. Of course studying in the Netherlands was a big thing for me, but it did to just accidentally happen. It took quite a while to decide and get there. And this process was not less important than the actual studying. Perhaps I have to say that I am quite lucky with great meeting people, tutors, teachers, friends. This not only helped, but also motivated. And it is even more likely that my private life influenced me a lot. My husband is very passioned about his work. When we suddenly got married I was only 19 and it was his attitude and his encouragement that made me grow professionally.

What is your ideal work environment? Do you work in your design studio all day long or mix a few activities?

I don’t like work and leisure separation. I think that it is one of those things that makes your life boring. There are many things that I love doing and luckily my workflow allows me to combine these activities in whatever order I prefer. My studio is located in the very centre of Moscow, next to an very nice place which gives us freedom to organise workshops and exhibitions. I really appreciate it. Apart from that I did travel a lot during the last years. My holidays are often combined with conferences, other professional activities or just meeting colleagues. I do work in the studio most of the time, but I always find time for drawing, for teaching and for fun. And when I am having fun I find time to work. I often I wish I had a single assignment to deal with, but at the same I do understand that it would not help, it will only make me procrastinate.

Where are your favorite places in Moscow or outside?

Big cities and dynamic environment—that is what I prefer for my everyday life. That is why I love Moscow. I feel comfortable when everything works 24/7 and I like that even long after midnight I see people on the streets. When I need a relaxed weekend I would prefer to go to my family's countryside house (“dacha", as it is called in Russia). I do enjoy travelling to the places that mean something to me. I am often attached to places were I lived or the one's I visited before. I’ve been to Berlin many times and now it became a good tradition to go there in May. I’ve been living in the Hague for almost a year and now it feels like my second home town. My recent dream is to go back to Tokyo. I was invited there for the Morisawa Competition Award Ceremony this year, but it was a short 3-day trip. So I hope I’ll go back in the future to explore the country.

Who are the designers, colleagues you admire most?

During the last two years I keep my eye on multitasking professionals. I am trying to organise my personal schedule, so it is interesting for me how do other people structure their time. I always wish I had more space for side projects, personal typefaces, etc… I admire people who manage to work on different projects and even in different fields at the same time. The one’s that find time not only for work, but also for holidays, sports, family and weekends and still their work is great. It is hard. When I have a deadline coming I often work during the night with no weekends and stuff. But there are people who can work effectively and manage to sleep normal 7–8 hours. Do they exist or do they just pretend? :) I’m not sure, but I hope I will find it out in the near future.