This page is brought to you in partnership with the Museum of Czech Literature (PNP). The PNP was established to acquire, gather, permanently safekeep, catalogue, scientifically process, and make available collections of material that documents the development of literature and literary culture in the Czech lands from the 18th century until present.
František Muzika (1900–1974)
Painter, graphic designer, illustrator, typographer, stage designer. A pupil of Vratislav Nechleba and Jan Štursa. A member of the Devětsil.
Worked with the important interwar publishing companies Aventinum and Melantrich. Author of the two-part encyclopaedia Beautiful Writing in the Development of Latin (1958). He created the graphic design for the covers of more than five hundred volumes of the World Reader pocket editions with the famous wind rose, its colour indicating the original language of the book. He entered the Most Beautiful Book of the Year competition as a doyen of Czech book art. Franz Kafka’s novel The Castle (1965) with Muzika’s cover design was included in the first set of the most beautiful Czech books in the revived competition. The originality of Muzika’s typography lay in the combination of just two methods: an easily legible font – just a shade darker than the colour of the cover – and its positioning.
Oldřich Hlavsa (1909–1995)
Typographer, graphic designer. Qualified typesetter.
An outstanding figure in postwar Czech typography and in the Most Beautiful Books of the Year competition. He won his first prize for the graphic design of Vladimír Holan’s collected works (1965). In 1960 he started working on the logo and basic visual appearance of a newly established series of books for the publishers Československý spisovatel (Friends of Poetry Club), opting for an unconventional square format. The publishers won the top Ministry of Culture Prize for this series in 1974, the same prize which Hlavsa had previously been awarded for his cover design for one of the volumes in the collection: Hello, there’s a storm coming – a proper gale!! (1969). Another edition which won many awards in the competition, and has Hlavsa’s signature style, was the fine-press series Bohemia. Hlavsa also won himself admirers abroad with the originality of the typographical compositions on his book covers (and received numerous foreign awards).
Zdenek Seydl (1916–1978)
Painter, graphic designer, illustrator, typographer, stage designer. A pupil of Jan Konůpek and František Kysela.
Zdenek Seydl began working in the publishing industry in 1949. For almost thirty years he influenced the visual appearance of books as part of the artistic editorial board of Československý spisovatel publishers, which together with Odeon publishers has won the largest number of awards in the competition’s history. Seydl’s graphic designs for the series Questions and Opinions, Spiral and Life Around Us – together with large-scale pieces of illustration work (e.g. F. Rabelais’s Gargantua and Pantagruel), usually accompanied by his own handwritten script – ranked him amongst the most versatile artists in Czech book culture. Seydl was also admired by other artists, and according to František Tichý he gave Czech books a whole new look.
Jiří Rathouský (1924–2003)
Graphic designer, illustrator, typographer. Pupil of Cyril Bouda.
Rathouský’s masterfully designed composition of lettering and image on the front cover of the book Leading Position received an award at the Most Beautiful Books of the Year competition in 1965, and along with other volumes from the Young Journeys series published by Mladá fronta (including Space for Differentiation by Věra Linhartová, 1964; Protocols by Václav Havel, 1966) represents a unique contribution to the aesthetics of the book cover in the 1960s. A substantial part of his extensive applied-graphics work consists of Rathouský’s visually expressive book logo designs, for example the graphic symbol unifying the works of Ernest Hemingway (1965) or the logo for the Pyramid series, as well as the logos for the publishers Československý spisovatel and Academia. Rathouský again received awards in the 1980s for his graphic design for the Gamma series.
Libor Fára (1925–1988)
Painter, book designer, stage designer. Pupil of František Muzika and Emil Filla.
The surrealistic basis of Fára’s artwork can also be seen in his graphic designs for books. His experience with the underground activities of surrealist groups in the early 1950s (the Signs of the Zodiac compilations) prefigured his later book-design work in the 1960s and 70s (e.g. the anthology Magnetic Pole, 1967). The training which Fára received in book design from Jaroslav Šváb continued into the 1960s with their cooperation on the Drop series. For the front cover of Nesvadba’s novella Einstein’s Brain, Šváb chose Fára’s collage with the popular motif of an eye and sans-serif typeface, which started to become more common in Czechoslovakia in the late 1950s. Fára’s successful designs for the series Art Photography (1966) and A History of Czech Theatre (1968) were complemented by other titles which regularly won awards in competitions up until the late 1980s.
Jan Solpera (* 1939)
Typographer, book designer, illustrator. A pupil of František Muzika.
Title lettering, lettering as an original illustration – these are the distinctive book-design methods which Solpera developed in his work and in the Most Beautiful Books competition. Solpera’s unmistakable graphic style, which appeared on the front covers of books by Odeon publishers in the 1970s and 1980s, is linked to his distinctive designs for works by Shakespeare. Solpera’s front-cover designs also met with success in competitions in the 1990s.
Zdeněk Ziegler (* 1932)
Architect, graphic designer, typographer.
Ziegler’s book designs have appeared in the Most Beautiful Books competition since its first year. He worked with leading publishing companies – Odeon, Československý spisovatel and Mladá fronta – until 1989, and their carefully designed publications won many awards at competitions and also influenced the evaluation and overall standard of national book production. In Ziegler’s work we can repeatedly see typographic front-cover designs with a minimalist aesthetic, and in some cases a predilection for oriental symbolism (he created the visual form of the Libra series in the 1960s, and worked for the Oikoymenh and Brody publishing companies in the 1990s). It was only when working with Zdeněk Křenek on a design for the Aulos publishing company that Ziegler’s original vision of the book as an organic whole fully developed, with his appropriate choice of graphic design giving equal weight to all of its elements. For a long time there was nothing in the competition to rival the publishing company’s fine-press productions, thanks to Zdeněk Ziegler’s sensitive designs. As well as winning several national prizes, the Aulos publishing company has also received two international awards.
Studio Najbrt takes its name from its founder, Aleš Najbrt (* 1962, typographer, graphic designer, pupil of Jan Solpera), who has been one of the leading figures in contemporary graphic design since 1995, when he won the main prize for young artists at the Most Beautiful Books of the Year.
Studio Najbrt employs a team of individuals from various generations who are involved in the wide range of activities that the studio’s portfolio offers. This includes traditional areas of applied graphics – book design, magazine design and posters – as well as corporate identity designs, websites and even interior design.
Over the twenty years of its existence, the studio has been successful in all areas of graphic design: it has received highly-regarded awards at the Biennial of Graphic Design in Brno and the Czech Republic Ministry of Culture Prize in the Most Beautiful Czech Book of the Year competition, and it was awarded the prestigious commission to create the logo and posters for the 49th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (2014).
Petr Babák (* 1967)
Typographer, graphic designer, pupil of Jan Solpera.
He worked with Tomáš Machek from 1995 to 2002. He has had his own studio, Laboratoř, since 2002 and he is head of the Studio of Graphic Design and New Media at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague. He is guided by the principle “craft is a prerequisite, experiment a condition, risk a necessity”, and he resists emphasizing his own signature style or favourite graphic approaches. His style is not to have a style, and yet his designs are not lacking in originality. He searches for a type of graphic design which will give the book a stamp of uniqueness – for Babák the initial text becomes a unique theme, subject matter or artistic style. In the resulting design it is present in a symbolic form: a stylized M on the cover of the catalogue for Ján Mančuška, traces of missiles on the cover of the catalogue for the architectural studio Projektil, geometric symbols on the functionalist-styled cover of the catalogue for Ladislav Sutnar’s exhibition. Juries have noticed Babák’s original approach to book design, which is why he has regularly been awarded main prizes.
Juraj Horváth (* 1974)
Typographer, illustrator. Pupil of Jiří Šalamoun.
Since 2000 Juraj Horváth has regularly featured as one of the winners at the Most Beautiful Books competition as a graphic designer or illustrator. This multi-talented artist set up his own children’s literature publishing house, Baobab (the name frequently appears on imprints along with the name of the graphic designer or on its own). The idea behind the publishing house was similar to that of Aulos publishers (a brand which represents a specific collective aesthetic view). Horváth’s original vision of the book unites the publishing company’s varied and high-quality productions. Horváth and Valoušek work together exceptionally well as typographer and illustrator, and their joint publications – never lacking in wit and dynamism as well as information – have won many prizes in competitions. The innovative output of the Baobab publishing company continues in the tradition established by Jiří Šalamoun (Horváth is his successor at the Studio of Illustration and Graphic Design at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague).