Bringing back the Ascenders competition for its third edition, the Type Directors Club extended jury invitations to members of our community outside of the Advisory Board for the first time.

Recommended by former Board Member, Zelda Harrison, Bayu was initially hesitant as typography is “more of a side hustle.” Ascenders Chair, Paul Carlos writes: “He’s not only qualified, but he’s also a keen observer, which is what you need from a judge.”

We sent out a questionnaire out to some of our judges and past Ascenders as a light-hearted Proustian exercise. This interview was lightly edited for clarity.

First design job?

Making poster, flyers, and tickets for a varsity event.

Did you go to school for design? If so, where and what was your major/concentration?

Yes, architecture. Does that count?

Of course it counts. What was your earliest design class?

It was an architectural drawing class. Hatching with a pen, rather tedious as I recall.

Tell me about your path from architecture to type. What got you interested in it? How did you learn it?

I’ve always been interested in design in general, but decided to pursue architecture formally and typography is more of a side hustle. This is true until now, where my postgraduate program is also in architecture. Particular interest in traditional scripts first developed around…late middle school. I was looking at encyclopedias in my school’s library for an assignment and came across a beautiful spread of Javanese illuminated manuscripts, with fancy frames and all that. Naturally, I later googled “Javanese script” to learn more, but got sorely disappointed when the only results shown are boring tables and cheesy use in substandard fonts. Rather poor representation, when historically it was rich in design. As I was already interested in graphic design and typography at the time, I thought, “I can do better than the boring stuff on the internet,” and thus I still dabble in traditional Indonesian scripts today.

Name one of your favorite projects from early in your career.

Redesigning Noto Sans Javanese.

Are you embarrassed by your old work?

Yes, more so when people insist to keep using it.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Invest in hard drives, and please organize your files. You can’t save that as whatever.psd.

What top 3 traits are you looking for when looking at young designers’ work?

Familiarity with diverse cultural context. Distinct character without being too gimmicky. Using solid references in new and interesting ways

What are 3 things that you hate seeing in young designers’ work?

Gimmicky faux script font. Traditional script fonts made without research to the script’s inherent characteristics (sadly common). Overzealous “Golden Ratio” diagrams.

If you could change careers, what would you do?

I’d like to be a scribe working under a benevolent patron, but sadly that career path died ages ago.

What do you wish you were better at?

Coding and coloring.

What in your career are you really good at?

Research, probably?

Can you give me an example?

I am currently in a rabbit hole of research/design concerning a traditional card game from South Sulawesi called Bujang Omi. The current “normal” suits with hearts, spades, diamonds, and clubs is actually one of several varieties. It turns out that Bujang Omi’s design is descended from the Portuguese suits around the 16–17th centuries, closely related to the current Italian and Spanish suits. The same Portuguese deck also begat the Japanese Karuta deck. I find this kind of obscure, cosmopolitan connection in historical stuff fascinating, especially when it has design application (I’m making a modern version of that card).

How do you define a successful career?

When you are satisfied with your work and can choose your own client

Any books, films, or albums that have defined or changed the way you think?

Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa, A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. Ratatouille by Brad Bird, Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson, Assassin’s Creed by Ubisoft, Mass Effect by Bioware (but the answer would probably change if you ask me again tomorrow).

What hobbies keep your sanity intact?


What do you like to doodle?

Fake texts in my own constructed script (like Tolkien), Original characters (in manga-esque style), characters from my group’s DnD session, landscape,

How much sleep do you get?

I don’t count the hours, but enough thankfully. I make a point that I will not sacrifice it for “work.” I mostly sacrifice sleep time when I found a good series to binge.

What food must be accessible to you in order to work well?

A variety of tea.

Would you like to retire?

If it comes with retirement benefits, sure.

Anything that worries or frustrates you, looking at the future of design?

Hmmm how shall I word this. I think there’s a tendency for design to be only applied in an economically wealthy environment, I find that unfortunate (even more so when in the service of showing off, lack of taste seems to rise as well). Also, design being misused in corrupt scams. I think there’s all sorts of sketchy deals that sometimes hide behind a facade of attractive design.

What excites you about the future of design?

The increase of diverse perspectives and global accessibility.