A Summer of Drawing Type in Paris

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In 2016, I completed the yearlong Extended Type@Cooper Program in NYC. Truthfully, I never considered going through another type design program. Fast forward to Spring of 2018 and I needed a change. I felt creatively drained, in need of a restart and a new challenge. Freelancing full-time isn't always glamorous and can (at times) become pretty monotonous. I began applying for all kinds of things — the Adobe Creative Residency and TypeParis were at the top of my list.

The one and only, Neil Summerour came to visit our lovely class.

On the Hunt for Some Growth

I made it to the final round of the Creative Residency selection process but sadly didn’t snag it — TypeParis was my next bet. The acceptance email to attend the TypeParis 2018 roster came around the same time. I was beyond excited to have the opportunity presented to me but due to a lack of funds, couldn't make it happen. Both opportunities didn't pan out so onward life went.

An entire year went by and I felt like I was still in a similar position, ready for something new. Needless to say, I spur the moment applied for the TypeParis program once again in the Spring of 2019. I received the acceptance letter, again! This time, I really contemplated the opportunity because I had the funds but was I mentally ready to live abroad for 5+ weeks? You can probably tell by the title, hell yeah I was ready.

Living and Working Abroad for the Very First Time

I worked at McDonald's for 3 years during my high school days to pay for “travel club”. This allowed me to travel to Rome, Greece, Britain, Wales, Dublin and of course, Paris. While I have experienced the city once before with a group of classmates and chaperones, this experience was completely unique and unlike anything I have done before.

Traveling and living solo in a country where every aspect is unknown to me felt extremely difficult. I immersed myself in a new culture, new currency, new language, new everything. That in and of itself mentally drained me. On the other hand, I knew that was exactly what I needed. Being completely out of my comfort zone produces an immense amount of growth on all fronts.

Luckily, I knew completing the TypeParis program was extremely doable with no knowledge of the French language. Getting around the city and completing typical daily tasks (ordering food, grocery shopping, asking for directions, etc.) can occasionally be cumbersome. It only took about a week to get adjusted and acclimated to the lifestyle. Towards the end of the program I felt so at home I thought I could move to Paris...But we'll get to that later.

Preparing for an Intense 5 Weeks

The first step to make the TypeParis program work is to find a place to spend your sleeping hours. Since you are attending class from 9am–8pm, there's certainly little time spent in the Airbnb.

**I highly recommend finding a place that has a comfortable bed because those hours spent sleeping should be some high-quality sleep! Bonus points if you snag a place with a washer/dryer as well as AC; the summers can certainly get toasty.

Gina Serret teaching us the ways of the pen.

Calligraphy, the Foundation of Type Design

The first day sure was a whirlwind. The elevator doors opened, we said quick hello's and got straight to work! The foundation of any piece of type or lettering begins with understanding basic calligraphy fundamentals. Working with the ductus of calligraphic forms, we practiced on small sheets and worked our way up to large butcher paper to dive deep into the details of our letterforms. Writing and drawing at a large scale allowed us to explore the character and voice of the typeface as we painted with the positive (sharpie) and negative space (shaving away sharpie with an X-acto knife).

We spent a good deal of time further developing these calligraphic forms; expanding upon weight and contrast. Drawing each letter by hand helped us comprehend the system and save time spent ideating in the computer. It's essential to tackle type design in this manner to easily grasp basic foundational concepts as well as the repetitive muscle memory involved with drawing various characters.

Jessica and Claudia hard at work perfecting those e's!

Field Trips with the Crew!

Being in Paris brought about a number of wonderful field trips to view historical typographic models. Visiting the Typofonderie HQ, Musée de l’imprimerie, Musée Gallo-Romain, and Bibliothèque Mazarine are a few of the many visits that helped us better understand the historical roots behind a variety of letterforms we were drawing.

The schedule was rather nice in that regard — Allowing us to focus heavily on classwork then take a little inspiration break to get refocused on the work to come. Taking the field trips was an amazing bonding experience with my fellow classmates. You really get to know one another quickly when you're spending your entire day together!

The TypeParis Projects Take Shape

While the class finalized the calligraphic forms on paper, we began to research and determine what exactly we wanted to spend the remaining 3 weeks developing. This is where my classmates and I had the chance to create something we were planning to put to use ourselves. Each of us provided a written description of the typefaces to come; A guiding star as we traveled on this type design journey to make sure we didn't stray too far from the path. Myself and a few others decided to take our calligraphic forms one step further for the final project. The remainder of the class chose to start from scratch and build from the ground up.

The goal of this project is to develop a typeface (ideally with two masters) that included uppercase, lowercase, numerals, punctuation, diacritics, and additional glyphs (if you so choose).

It’s an insane amount of work to complete within 3 weeks but obviously an amazing accomplishment. It's a great way to force yourself to work iteratively, work quickly, and get out of your comfort zone.

Each week we were blessed with the wonderful opportunity to receive critique from outside visitors. Nick Misani, Neil Summerour, Andrea Tinnes, Antonio Cavedoni, and Erik Van Blokland all graced us with their presence. It was incredibly beneficial to receive a wide range of thoughts and opinions as our typefaces were expanding. With each critique, I had new questions, some occasional answers, and plenty of additional work!

The final critique day before our big presentation.

The Final Presentation Day!

Of course, after many many hours spent in the studio working on these families, the big day finally arrived! Our final tasks included designing a type specimen utilizing the typeface family as well as a (very last minute) brief presentation about the completed work. To my surprise, the final presentation was open to the public and lived-streamed so that certainly gave me only a little anxiety!

Feel free to check out my project in further detail on the TypeParis site. While you’re there, view the type work of my lovely classmates and consider applying yourself!

Camaraderie to Heal the Soul

The TypeParis program was incredibly life-changing for me. I'm beyond grateful I had the opportunity to be a part of it all and had the means to make it happen. Furthermore, I am so thankful for the insane amount of love and support from my classmates. The program truly fosters a very unique environment to learn and grow with one another. The friendships formed are unlike anything I have ever experienced; this made it very difficult to say our goodbyes.

A massive thank you to everyone that made this experience such a dream. Thank you to my classmates, Jean-François, Mathieu, Julie, Marc, Gina, and all the wonderful guest instructors. I learned so much about myself during the program and it’s something I will truly forever cherish.


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