Zuzana Licko was born in 1961 in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia and emigrated with her parents to the U.S. in 1968. She graduated with a degree in Graphic Communications from the University of California at Berkeley in 1984.
Together with her husband, Rudy VanderLans, Licko started the design company Emigre Graphics in 1984. The company became world renowned for its self-published magazine and type foundry, which were greatly inspired by the new technical possibilities offered by the introduction of the Macintosh computer. Licko and VanderLans became early adopters to the new technology and they used the computer to experiment and created some of the very first typeface designs and digital page layouts, causing great consternation within the realm of graphic design. Eventually, exposure of the typefaces in Emigre magazine resulted in demand for the fonts, which led to the creation of the Emigre Type foundry. This growing library of digital typefaces, both experimental and traditional, is currently the principle activity and mainstay of Emigre.
As a team, Emigre has been honored with numerous awards including the 1994 Chrysler Award for Innovation in Design, and the 1998 Charles Nypels Award for excellence in the field of typography. Emigre is also a recipient of the 1997 American Institute of Graphic Arts Gold Medal Award, its highest honors. In October 2010 the Emigre team was inducted as Honorary members of the Society of Typographic Arts, Chicago, and in 2016 they traveled to New York to receive the 29th Type Directors Club Medal.
Licko is the recipient of an honorary Ph.D degree from the Rhode Island School of Design (2005), and she received the 2013 Typography Award from the Society of Typographic Aficionados.
In 2011, five digital typefaces from the Emigre Type Library were acquired by MoMA New York for their design and architecture collection.