Kristýna Kulíková isn’t easy to pin down: we’d been making plans on and off to chat on the phone for two years before we managed it. Back in the heady days of 2018, we were hoping to get her views on acid graphics—that trend which shouted loudly from posters, flyers, and record sleeves in brash font collisions and garish neons, seeping into our collective consciousness in gloopy metallic type. Its prevalence now, in 2020, seems to be on the wane—and acid graphics isn’t a term that Kulíková would actively associate her work with, despite her name often being touted as one of the best proponents of the aesthetic.
But as the Prague-based designer adroitly points out, hers is a style that changes not just over years, but over months—weeks even—and delights in veering from firmly futuristic 3D graphics to basic illustrative line drawings and experiments with pixellated, subtly modified system fonts. You can tell a smart designer a mile off if they—like Kulíková—manage to pull off having an utterly distinctive, recognizable approach across any number of styles or commissions.
Perhaps part of the reason she’s been so hard for us to pin down is that since 2015, she’s been attempting to finish her undergrad degree in graphic design at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Brno, her home town in the Czech Republic, which is just shy of 150 miles from Prague. Rather than taking the traditional route of university course/internships in the holidays/perhaps the odd freelance commission along the way/graduation/more internships/dejectedly scrabble for work or borrow a shit ton of money for a Masters course, Kulíková has gone about things a rather different way. In fact, she’s racked up so much work over the past half-decade we had absolutely no idea she hadn’t yet finished her bachelors.
Her first break into paid design commissions came about during her time working at a techno club in Prague where she wound up creating some posters and tentatively showcasing them online. People soon took notice, and began contacting her on Instagram for more of the same. The work she takes most pride in is still largely connected to the more brutal, experimental side of electronic music that she’s into. Over the years this has included a collaboration with Estonian rapper and conceptual artist Tommy Cash, based on the concepts of esotericism imagery inspired by Tarot cards, numerous event posters, sleeve designs and flyers that all strive for “emotional impact” through careful layering of typography and imagery; as well as ventures into designing bespoke merch for smaller fashion brands.
With her musician clients, the beauty for Kulíková is in the close, direct collaboration such projects offer—as well as the fact that she’s often already a fan of their sound. Her process sees her gradually building design systems and typography solutions out of research into the work. She then considers the forms her work might take, whether that’s 3D imagery created using Cinema 4D, hand-illustration, moving image and so on from there. “I work 80% in my head, 20% on the computer—I imagine layout, theme, and most importantly the emotional effect—how the artwork makes you feel,” she says. We asked her to take us through some of her favorite pieces.