Dr Axes: ‘my passion for lettering comes directly from graffiti’

Przemyslaw Zyra, aka Dr Axes, is a lettering artist, graphic designer and art director based in Kraków, Poland. In this interview, he reveals how he first got into the world of lettering, his process for creating a new logotype and what he thinks of Affinity Designer as a tool for vectorising his hand-drawn letter designs.
In your own words, who is Dr Axes?

Dr Axes is a guy who loves letters. My passion for lettering comes directly from graffiti. When I was a teenager, I put tags all over the district I was living in (on park benches, staircases, gates). After a while I went deeper and started doing regular graffiti pieces on walls, as well as trains. The passion for graffiti stays with me, as does my love of letters.

How did you get to where you are today?

It is the result of my decisions and events beyond my control—life.

Why did you choose to focus on graphic design and lettering as a career?

Actually, it happened by accident. Few years back I met a guy called Filip Komorowski, he was introduced to me by my crew mates when I was visiting Warsaw. He was involved in graffiti, but as well as that, he was doing lettering for logotypes, clothing, etc. I was very impressed with his works. They were so interesting and had plenty of references to graffiti. That was the first time I saw how graffiti can be combined with calligraphy and incorporated into a graphic design as fresh, modern lettering with an urban feel.

Logo design for Dodge Rebels

I started to do it by myself and after a while I published my works on social media like Instagram, Behance, Dribbble etc. I received very good feedback and suddenly people started asking me to create lettering designs for them—and they were even willing to pay me :). This is how it started.

On another note, I also chose to become an architect and even achieved a master diploma in Architecture and Urbanism; however, I quit this profession after a few years in the industry. I’m not an architect, but nevertheless, I still have a passion for architecture, which is why I work as an architectural visualisations artist at my own studio, Volume Visual.

Logo design for Buzz Stop Barber Shop
What do you enjoy most about what you do?

The possibility to create and independence.

What are the most important things to consider when designing a logo?

The most crucial aspect is to figure out the client’s needs. It is worth conducting a short interview to understand the purpose of creating the logotype for the client.

When you create a new logotype, what is your process?

I start with a series of raw sketches. I usually draw around 50 sketches using different techniques to find some interesting shapes and letter connections to follow up with later. Next I choose a few sketches or ideas that I created during the previous stage to develop 5-10 propositions. I later pass these through to my client as ‘sketches’. Once the client decides which one they want me to develop for a final design I prepare a ‘first vector preview’. After the final feedback, I do some minor changes and send the ‘final logotype’ to the client. Then another interesting project is completed.

Butchers logo sketch and digitised version
Do you prefer a strict brief or a more open one when working with a client?

It all depends on the particular project/client; however, I like it when a client provides me with a brief that makes it easy to understand the kind of aesthetics that they are after. This gives me a clue as to what they will expect. Nonetheless, I always try to lead the client through the whole process and suggest the most valuable solutions.

What are your favourite tools of the trade (both traditional and digital)?

Pencils for sketching, brush pens (mainly Crayola, Tombow and Kuretake), spray cans and, most recently, Affinity Designer.

Why do you choose Affinity Designer for vectorising your lettering?

I was looking for an alternative to Illustrator because I am against monopolists in any field, and I don’t like the new licensing system Adobe has begun to offer. One of my friends told me about Affinity Designer and convinced me to test it. Once I tried it, I realised that I just found what I was looking for. Price, quality, comfort of work and versatility—all in one.

What features do you find the most useful?

The Pen Tool! This tool is something I absolutely love about Affinity Designer. The way one is able to create a desired shape is super comfortable; it works way better than any other software I’ve used before. The second cool thing is Personas—the ability to switch between a vector and pixel environment is awesome!

How do you come up with new ideas for lettering works?

Sketching, sketching, sketching—without any fear or hesitation.

What are your main sources of inspiration?

I take inspiration from everywhere. Music is definitely one of my main sources. I listen to a lot of different generes which can strongly influence the shape of my work.

Superior Belief lettering design
Do you enjoy experimenting with colour or working with a limited palette?

My clients usually ask me for black and white designs; however, I’m trying to experiment with colours by myself. For example, during challenges like 36 Days of Type I take the opportunity to try something new without any hesitation.

Letter ‘J’ design for 36 Days of Type challenge
How are you getting on with the 36 Days of Type challenge?

Very well, the challenge is almost done. I’m pretty happy with my set and so glad that this year I eventually forced myself to participate in the challenge.

Can you tell us what you are working on right now?

Currently I have three main projects: a logotype for a new clothing brand from the UK, a lettering project for a hat, and a set of visualisations of my office building in Kraków where Volume Visual is based.

A 3D render with lettering
What do you think is your biggest accomplishment so far in your career?

I still enjoy what I do and year-by-year I treat it more and more seriously. This year is special for me as I finally opened my own studio, Volume Visual, specialising in high-end architectural visualisations and animations.

Lastly, where do you see yourself in five years’ time? What would you like to have achieved?

I see myself riding a bike along the Portuguese coast. I enjoy the view and the weather, waiting for the evening to draw a few letters in my studio located on the top floor in one of the old buildings in the centre of Porto, sipping delicious cold wine.


You can find more work by Dr Axes on Behance, Dribbble and Instagram. Visit volumevisual.com to check out his studio specialising in high-end architectural visualisations.