Type surrounds us: it’s on posters, screens, packages and billboards. Yet when you look at who created these typefaces, you find very few Black type designers. We wanted to get a little perspective on the question – and some possible answers – so we spoke to type designers, Kwesi Amuti and Tré Seals. (You may remember Tré from our interview with him back in April.)
Tell me how you work to create a new typeface.
I’m pretty sure my experience is very different from most, but I go out in search for photos of causes and advocacy marketing materials – mainly protest signs – from different progressive movements throughout history. Once I land on a particular movement, I try to find something that multiple people have a connection to, like banners carried by multiple people or a single protest sign carried by thousands. From here, I try to fill in the blanks and make sure that their message can be seen beyond a single day of peaceful protest.
How is digital design different than print design?
I feel like the two were different a few years ago, but with contemporary trends in print being inspired by digital media, I believe they’re starting to merge. And as you mentioned, with the increase in font choices, it’s easier to make a brand’s website as dynamic as its print collateral.
There seems to be a bit of confusion sometimes when the term “typographer” or “type designer” is used. How do you describe your work?
I usually describe it as a service, and less of a title. For example, if a client wants a logo, I’ll tell them about my font design service which can allow their logo to stand out even more. Or if it’s someone who wants a poster, I’ll ask if they want something with a specific style of illustration, or if they’d prefer something hand-lettered. I try to avoid typographic terms unless I know their level of expertise.
To you, what does it mean to consider men and women of color in design?
I feel like women have a much greater voice in the design industry. However, this is probably because there are more women than there are black people in design. Also, as far as my work experience goes, the majority of my bosses have been women, and the majority of my co-workers have been women (like 90%). As far as black people are considered, I’m usually one of only two or three in the workplace.
Type forms have a long history, from wood block carvings to moveable metal type. What do you hope to express through type?
I believe that what I’m currently trying to express is what I see for the future of typography. The fonts I’m creating are handmade and refined with digital formats in mind, but they still have that human character and imperfection.
Who else is doing work that you regard highly?
In terms of type design, I love Briefcase Type, Colophon Foundry, Darden Studio, Fontseek, Frere-Jones, Hoefler & Co., Mark Simonsson, Sharp Type, Swiss Typefaces, and Type Supply. And of course, my favorite of all — Vocal Type Co.
What publications and organizations do you appreciate for type and design?
Eye Magazine is my favorite magazine, hands down, for typography inspiration. They truly understand and explore the variety of sources of inspiration.
After that, I’d say Communication Arts and their Typography Annual.
Is there a place to talk about who is included in typography and type design?
I’m not aware of one.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.