Getting young and old closer to typography, a talk with Jan Bajtlik

With a call to influence the next generation, the published work of this Polish talent has reached thousands of families and children. It is amazing to see that his career is just starting.

A standout bio

Born in  Poland back in 1989, Jan Bajtlik has been drawing, painting and hiking since he can remember; he has won several prices for his posters before he graduated from school, turned a personal social campaign into a renowned phenomenon, organised and delivered 63 workshops with more than 1300 participants in the last year, was awarded with a Special Mention at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2015 for his book Typogryzmol, (that can be translated to the German as Typo Scrawler and to English as Type Doodles), and also illustrates for magazines including The Times Magazine and The New York Times.

Jan’s secret for such a prolific career?
Mastering the talent to escalate projects, from local to global. 

Jan Bajtlik presenting his 5 principles for a prolific career © Sebastian Weiß (Monotype)

© Sebastian Weiß (Monotype)

On his talk “No risk no fun – bright side of typography for younger and older” at TYPO 2015 in Berlin, Jan uncovers the five key principles that have took him to the top, and that he adapted from sport climbing.

1. Responsibility for others

Developing and taking responsibility is the key for climbers. There are situations when they trust their lives to one another. When Jan is not on the top of a mountain, he takes responsibility working to bring individuals from all ages closer to letters, and incorporates fonts, illustrations and visuals.

“We can commit to help children from age two and up get closer to letters and typography”

Bajtlik believes that generating books about letters and typography for young children is a necessity. His efforts to provide high quality books and materials for young children have been successfully materialised, The book Auto for ages 2+ was published in Polish in 2013, is about cars; his book Typogryzmol, for ages 3+ was published in 2013, is an activity book about letters that helps children to familiarize with the alphabet, and that can also be used to provide adults with a set of innovative activities to try with kids while they help children develop their manual skills; Korek is a book around a traffic jam, aimed for ages 4+, was published in Polish in 2013, and introduces young readers to words, with a set of 25 cards that illustrates vehicles and presents the words divided by syllables.

Up to this date, Jan has still not found children buying their own books, so he has turned into an expert at creative books that are interesting to kids, and yet grab the attention from the parents, uncles, grandmas and the vast range of adults that have proven to be the ones who buy the books.


2. Taking risk / stress control

Most of Jan’s career has taken place out of his comfort zone, were risks are higher and more is at stake. He has a talent to make risky decisions that bring great benefits for the population, (one example is his social campaign Wez sie do kupy that can be translated as Get your shit together, went from placing his posters illegally on the streets, to get a deal to print thousands of posters in billboards around his city).

“You have to take risks, as they do pay off”

Jan analyses risks and makes big bets and works really hard, he delivers quality in a consistent way. Throughout the development of his workshops, he has dealt with limited budgets, small teams, and vulnerable groups. Always taking the best out of children, adults and the government.

There was a limited budget, and scarce human resources to organise the workshops, but the lack of money or people has not stopped Jan, who obtained a scholarship to help funding his workshops, he also collaborates closely with librarians, educators, teachers and parents, his mission: to improve the first contact that children have with letters.

The workshops started in the library of a marginated district, and have been delivered at a vast range of locations, mainly on libraries but also in schools, parks and one inside a female prison. Always providing a different space where individuals and letters combine.


3. Physical and psychological training

All the recognition that Jan has received recently is a consequence of his hard work and consistency; several international publishers are inviting him to do collaborations and he has received offers to translate his books into different languages, including Spanish. He has invested in himself, by practicing endlessly, and learning everyday and from everyone, and it is paying off.


Physical and psychological training requires technique; one clear example is the methodology used for the workshops. They are divided in sets of 20 minutes, each set has his own objective, they start warming up, then do gesture drawings, and then participants are ready to experiment with letterforms. If participants are from ages 6+ and 7+ the workshops include designing their own book, and then presenting their book, and a pitch for future clients.

 “Children are screaming and running around, but working with their parents is more challenging”

The workshops for very young children require extra physical strength not only because children are screaming and running around but things get really crazy when parents are involved.


4. Parallel Thinking

One day Jan asked himself: what can I do with my experience?
– Propose kids and parents to play with the letters, to change the way kids approach to letters and improve how they learn. –

The plan is to give the kids total freedom, allowing them to experiment and relate with letters in a new way; this includes very interesting and unconventional activities like planting seeds in the shape of a letter, and see them grow.

All these activities do not have to be expensive, as kids are invited to use what they have on hand and reuse tools. There is no need to buy high amounts of materials neither, because children are encouraged to share their materials, all it takes is some big blank papers, ink and paintings.

“Treat children seriously, they usually get surprised.”

Parallel thinking can be very challenging for parents, though; Jan has observed that when parents are involved in a workshop, they instinctively try to help their kids but tend to impose a sense of order and limits to them.
Jan makes a call to treat children seriously, generally both parents and children get surprised; you could start by being at their same level when you talk to children; try it the next time you talk to them and see how you catch their attention immediately.

Parallel thinking also involves educators, who will be responsible for delivering more workshops in the future. During their training sessions, the teachers go through the same exercises and activities designed for children, allowing them to experience what the participants will do. It is surprising to see that final paintings from teachers are very similar to the ones made by kids.


5. Character formation

All the hard work, decisions and efforts of a lifetime have shaped Jan’s character, who posses a generosity without limits. He shares his time and talents with the children and the adults that either help of stand on his way.

At TYPO Berlin we witnessed Jan’s generosity, who spent more than two hours doing personalized drawings for the ones who asked for his autograph. Having a closer look to his career we can notice how he shares his talent, time and creativity wholeheartedly.

“The most important thing (about designing activity books) is the white space”

Jan Bajtlik cares, and it shows, he cares about others, he highlights that the most important thing about designing activity books is the white space. Jan is that white space that allows others to express freely, to find a unique space to experiment, and help children get closer to typography. Moreover, he is doing a great work becoming an influence for the next generation, as he fosters education ensuring  we, the adults, help children’s in their approach to letters, typography and expression.


Jan Bajtlik drawing personalised autographs at TYPO Berlin 2015 © Sebastian Weiß (Monotype)

Jan Bajtlik drawing personalised autographs at TYPO Berlin 2015 © Sebastian Weiß (Monotype)

Did Jan’s career inspire you too? Imagine the impact that your own projects would have if you start applying these five principles.

Jan will be hosting a workshop in Berlin; visit
to sign up. In addition, you can also visit Jan Bajtlik’s page to know more about him and his work.

Jan Bajtlik

Jan Bajtlik

Designer, Author, Illustrator (Warsaw)

Jan Bajtlik (born 1989; master's degree from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Warsaw in 2013) is a member of the Polish Association of Applied Graphics Artists (STGU). He’s been creating children’s books, posters, illustrations, fonts, visuals identifications for cultural events, and conducted typography workshops for children. He is the author of an activity book for children “Typo-scrawler” (Typogryzmol – in Polish; published by the Dwie Siostry Publishing, awarded special mention Bologna Ragazzi Award 2015) about typography and creative scribbling. He illustrates among others for “Time Magazine” and “The New York Times”. He has received numerous awards in national and international graphic competitions, including a silver medal at the 10th International Poster Triennial in Toyama (Japan). Jan is a keen traveler and rock climber.