Ivana Palecková and Jitka Janecková’s Plastic is influenced by collectible Czechoslovak chains
Slovakia-based graphic designer Ivana Palecková and Czech type designer Jitka Janecková have combined forces for their whimsical typeface Plastic; a variable monospace inspired by the 1980’s Czechoslovakia socialist phenomenon known as ‘Cécka.’ Originally created to be hung as decorative chains, the pastime involved collecting plastic hooks that varied in colour and shape. Cécka soon became a popular toy in the mid-late 20th century where they were co-opted and made as vibrant necklaces or bracelets, where swiftly a marketplace formed – with different shapes and colours garnering a specific desirability and street value. Before long they became currency for children, and trades were made for all matter of goods – from comic books to toys – becoming ingrained within local communities, and cementing themselves in the history of a generation.
Inspired by this craze, Palecková and Janecková crafted Plastic, taking striking and perplexing expressions found within Cécka and aesthetically implementing them into typographic forms. Crafting serifs specific to each character in reference to the unique form of each plastic hook, the typeface’s dual categories of Chain and Simple are optimised for specific uses; with Simple’s micro-enhancements best suiting longer-form and small-scale text applications. Honed for interpolation between four extremes, each cut of the typeface is variable across serif length and stroke weight axes.
In discussion with Palecková and Janecková, they tell us of the greatest challenges they faced in the design of Plastic, ranging from designing the variable terminals of the rounded letterforms to creating unexpected places for serifs to exist. “It was also the biggest fun!” Palecková caveats. “It was also quite challenging to get the proportions of the monospace typeface balanced,” Janecková adds, referring to the opening and closing serifs and terminals, “but it was super fun to see it all work eventually.”
Looking back on the process, Palecková recalls the highlight in its creation, citing the “ability to create a chain from letters and unique shapes” across a chain system. “I like that the typeface still manifests the original feature of c-toys,” she adds, “even though it’s flat and bounded in glyph boxes,” championing Plastic’s playful influence through the typeface’s variable format and stylistic sets. “I enjoyed the expanded capitals and digits in stylistic set 1,” Janecková remarks, noting the set's double-width characters. “Designing a variable font is an exciting and joyful process,” she concludes, “it feels like creating an interactive tool one can play with.”