The Malee Scholarship 2022 Finalists
Meet Tamara Segura, Fernanda Cozzi, and Krutika Shah. The 2022 Finalists are each at different stages in their type design career, and seek to educate the next generation of lettering artists and type designers.
The Malee Scholarship is honored to announce Tamara Segura, Fernanda Cozzi, and Krutika Shah as 2022 Finalists. We were especially impressed with their talent in type design as well as their commitments to educating the next generation of lettering artists and type designers. Tamara is an avid learner and active member of and contributor to the typography community, including Times New Woman, Letrástica, Typographics, and more. Fernanda runs her own foundry while also teaching workshops and classes for aspiring type designers. Krutika is a communication, user experience, and visual designer who is working on publishing a Gujarati typeface. We are honored to recognize the three of them as Scholarship Finalists, and are excited to see how they flourish and enrich our community.
Tamara Segura is an aspiring type designer and letterer. She was born and raised in Mexico City. Her love for letters began early in her life when she drew birthday cards and signs for school presentations. She received her B.A. in Graphic Design and proceeded to study Type Design for a year at Centro University. She has worked as a graphic, branding, and packaging designer for local and global brands at different agencies, while pursuing her dream of becoming a full-time type designer and letterer. She graduated from the Type@Cooper Condensed program and Type West in 2021. Since then, she has been active in the type community as part of the Times New Woman and Letrástica. In 2021 she spoke at Typographics’ TypeLab and participated in the Alphabettes Mentorship Program.
When did you first get interested in letterforms?
My fascination with letterforms began early on in my life. I’ve always been an avid reader, so letters were often an important part of my daily life. I loved decorating and doing the titles for my elementary and middle school presentations. Whenever an opportunity presented itself to draw letters, I’d take it: Valentine cards, gift tags, notebook covers, birthday signs for friends.
In my last year of high school, I was not sure about which path I wanted to take career wise. I don’t think I even knew graphic design was an option. When the time came to decide, I found the program for Graphic Design at a University close to my home. The program checked a lot of the boxes for what I thought I could be good at and it also had a wide range of classes I believed could help me specialize in something later on. During my second semester I discovered that typography was a branch of design, and a few semesters later, I found out there was a group of people who drew letters for a living: type designers. With this realization, my career plans shifted. Even when I was enjoying other aspects of graphic design, type design never really left my mind. I started to take lettering and calligraphy workshops, which was the turning point for me. I had been telling stories with letters for most of my life, so why wasn’t designing those letters from scratch the better option?
“I had been telling stories with letters for most of my life, so why wasn’t designing those letters from scratch the better option?”
How does your background and community shape who you are as an individual and designer today?
I believe who we are influences everything we do in life, what we like, what we do, even what and who we love. Who we are is not crystal clear most of the time, but the journey we took to get us here has shaped much of that. Being a Mexican designer has made me look at the world differently. Mexico is a place full of colors, culture, history and diversity, traditions and celebrations. But in order to see the good, you also have to look at the bad — the injustice, crime, inequality, misogyny, privilege. As someone who communicates I have to know where I stand, so I can do better as a person, as a woman, and as a creator. Especially as a type designer, I think I have a responsibility to use letters to pay tribute and to take part in whatever happens around me and in the world we live in, to be part of a voice that fights for something bigger. Being a member of different communities has taught me that we are all a part of a greater whole. We are each trying to find our way through life. It is not an easy path, but we can make a difference and also inspire others.
Tell us about your typeface, Atropos. What were some of the challenges?
Atropos has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my short career. It was not the first time I worked on a revival, but it certainly was the first time I did it very consciously and intentionally. I worked on Atropos during my first term at Type West ’21, with a bit more knowledge of how to approach a revival project. The pandemic was still ongoing and going into a bookstore to find a source was diffiicult. I knew I had to find a source text that spoke to me strongly enough so I could look at it everyday for a few months. When I looked at “Typefaces / type designers before 1920”, I realized all of the designers I knew from that time period were male. This sparked something in me, since women have been a part of the type industry for a couple decades now, so how was it possible that they weren’t around before the 1900’s? When I searched “women type designers before 1920”, only an article from the Alphabettes blog popped up. There were only two, three names I could use, and I learned of Hildegard Henning, the first woman credited with the design of a typeface called Belladonna.
I started researching Henning, who I figured had to have more than a few lines in an article about what she did. But I only found a few paragraphs here and there, and a one-page specimen from the Klingspor Museum. This wasn’t necessarily what I needed for the assignment, but I was so moved by this information that even with an incomplete character set, I wanted Belladonna to be my revival project. I also found a small thread on Twitter between María Ramos and Lauren Elle DeGaine who were talking about the metal type for Belladonna, a photo of a specimen she printed herself. I managed to get in touch with Lauren and found she was working on her now-published thesis about Women in Type in the 20th Century. With her help, I got good sources and references.
I learned not only about type design, but about the role and names of women in type from this project. They paved the way for all of us who are trying to work in this industry. It is important to see historical figures, because they can teach us about what we still need to do in our present and future.
You have grown so much as a designer in the last few years, what experiences have led you to your type practice today?
The past two years have been a complete 180 for me. I've had many experiences and opportunities that I don’t even know if I can name them all. But defining what I want to do and what I love has been life-changing. In 2020, I participated in the Alphabettes Mentorship program and I began developing a font called Mercado which is inspired by Mexican culture. This personal project continued on with support and feedback from the Malee Scholarship Mentee program. I was also granted one of the BIPOC scholarships for Juan Villanueva’s Display Type Design class in the fall of 2020 and designed Xóchitl, which was a typeface once again inspired by my neighborhood Xochimilco and a tribute to the festivities and fairs celebrated here. It was a tribute to the festivities and fairs in my neighborhood. 2021 was really challenging because I got accepted into Type West, and later on into Type@Cooper Condensed. I’ve gained so much from all of these opportunities and have become a better designer as a result.
You described yourself as a very crafty person. How have your crafts influenced or shaped you as you pursued typeface design?
In any creative practice, I believe it’s important to have an urge to keep learning — especially about things that are different to what we do in our day to day. I consider myself a creative soul, and everything I’ve done and learned in my life has somehow contributed to my work as a type designer and letterer. Inspiration is everywhere, so having this desire to do and make things has given me new perspectives. In my life, I have learned guitar, origami, dubbing/locution, ballet, volleyball, how to make macarons, and much more. Even though none of these directly relate to type design, they have taught me to be more sensitive to my surroundings, to draw inspiration from any discipline. Letters have their own mass that you can sculpt in any way you want, so having insight from something other than visual communications, pushes me to explore different techniques to get interesting results. The techniques from other disciplines can be tools, rhythms, materials for type design.
Type design is changing very fast. There are more technologies and new people who are giving fresh takes on what has been considered standard for many years. One of the things I believe is starting to pick up and improve is language support. As a non-native English speaker, there have been many times in my graphic design practice where designers are still failing the design when it comes to diacritics. This is improving, but we are still seeing typefaces where language support is second in importance.
I also hope to play a part in improving inclusivity. Type design can be a scary path — it's not straightforward, but it can be frustrating and require a lot of patience and trial and error. Although we are often designing by ourselves, it is so beneficial to get feedback from others. In my experience, when I started, the industry did not seem as inviting as it is to newcomers today. There have also been language obstacles, since there aren’t as many resources in Spanish and in Mexico. We need to do better as type designers, as educators, as institutions to try to get rid of these barriers. We need to be open to new developments, to actively do more to include women and people of different ethnicities, genders, backgrounds. We need to see that the only way to move forward is to actively make decisions and have safe spaces where everyone feels welcomed.
I am really proud to be part of Times New Woman, which is a community of Spanish speaking women interested in letterforms, who regardless of age, experience, or knowledge, aim to support other women by horizontally sharing knowledge, feedback, and experiences. For example, we’ve provided support regarding education, career, software, and how to put a portfolio together. These women inspire me everyday and I am so proud to call them my friends.
Letters. The roadmap I’ve traced for myself is currently at a crossroads. I need to start putting myself and my work out into the real world. I want to release a type family soon. I know that I have to keep learning because the more I learn, I feel like the less I actually know. There are many aspects of type: designing, planning, concepting, production, engineering, marketing, distributing, licensing, updates, multiscript, and more. I am just beginning to scratch the surface, and I want to have a better understanding of how this all works. I also want to share what I’ve learned with younger and aspiring type designers, whether it's in a workshop, classroom, or one-on-one setting. I want to serve as a bridge and bring to others what I didn’t have when I wanted to design type.
Fer Cozzi is an independent type designer born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She obtained her diploma at the University of Buenos Aires, where she teaches in the Master in Typeface Design. In her work she seeks to explore rhythms, shapes and strokes where randomness and a not-so-obvious rationality meet. Talkative and passionate about letters, her work has been selected for renowned typography exhibitions and she has participated in various typography conferences and events around the world. When she’s not drawing letters, she’s probably dancing to the rhythm of 90s pop.
When did you first get interested in letterforms?
I liked drawing a lot when I was young and my dad dreamed about me studying fine arts. As a teenager, I was the one who drew letters and made posters for me and my friends. We also did graffiti and tags, so sprays and markers especially shaped my idea of how a letter is built. I wanted to become a type designer before I even knew it was a job, and letters drove me to study graphic design in the first place. After many calligraphy workshops and studying, when I finished my degree I enrolled in the Typeface Design Specialization at the University of Buenos Aires. I decided I was going to become a type designer no matter what.
I wouldn't be the person or designer I am if I hadn't lived or studied where I did, if I didn't have the friends and colleagues that I had and have. The designs, the letterforms, and everything we create are part of a broader context, of social and cultural thought, of a cut out of the world. I’m grateful for having met, studied, learned and worked with people who have taught me as much as they have questioned me. Much of what I do today stems from restlessness, confusion, and insecurities. On the brink of crisis, ideas emerge. I try to force myself into the uncomfortable, trying to not repeat formulas or apply the same process from one typeface to another. I change what letters I draw first, or the concept behind them. I constantly challenge myself to leave my comfort zone. If I do not get nervous or do not have doubts about what I am doing, I look for a way to push myself to feel that — to surf into the unknown. It is not thinking about doing something "experimental" beforehand but really having a more playful process.
I also love music, movies, books, food, and wine as much as I love typography. The shapes of the letters and the excuses behind my fonts have to do many times with ideas of the things that surround me: a song, a book, a conversation, a pet. Everything affects my way of seeing, thinking and making typefaces. I can imagine that my “cocktail” of ingredients is different from anyone else’s just because we are each unique individuals.
I would love to talk about two of them, I don’t want to say that they are my favorites…but they are. My first solo typeface, Síncopa, started as my graduate project specializing in Typography Design at the University of Buenos Aires. I spent a few years and tears to finish it and I felt like I was ready to launch it as my first commercial font. But I was constantly finding things I could change, fix, improve, and I couldn't let it go. Alejandro Paul from Sudtipos pushed me to just finish it. The project was inspired by the queens of jazz: Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, and Ella Fitzgerald. I wanted to emulate their bold voices and distinctive personalities in the strokes, shapes, and eclecticism of the lyrics. The project contemplated one more variable that remained in the drawer of the eternal WIPs, named after Sarah Vaughan. The letters emerged, mutated, and names were exchanged until they finally settled into what they are today. The system is called Síncopa (spanish rod for syncopation), for the unexpected, jerky, or unconventional rhythms in music. Syncopation transforms a regular metronomic rhythm into something that makes us feel, move or dance. In the letters I tried to explore the contradiction between stability and dynamism, between rhythm and silence. It was my first type design project and I learned so much. While the whole process was full of crisis and doubts, I grew and realized that I really love to do this.
The second typeface, and my all time favorite is Tomasa. In this project I managed to bring a lot of shapes and flavors of letters that accompanied me throughout my life to a typographic system. I think Tomasa reflects a lot of me — of the versions of me from all these years: the Fer who made graffiti, and the one who listens to rap and reggaeton, with the Fer that takes many calligraphy workshops. All of that was in my head when I started Tomasa. And it was really "easy" to do it. Don’t get me wrong, it was a lot of work! But it came easy for me to distinguish what felt honest with the project and what was not while I was working on it. Álvaro Franca said one time that he “did not expect for it to work as a system”, but surprisingly it does. I suppose that is the essence behind Tomasa: it is built with randomness, errors, and “things that shouldn't work”. Perhaps it is tainted by some stubborn or not so great solutions, but it is undoubtedly my greatest pride.
“I think Tomasa reflects a lot of me — of the versions of me from all these years: the Fer who made graffiti, and the one who listens to rap and reggaeton, with the Fer that takes many calligraphy workshops.”
I think that owning your own work has its advantages and disadvantages. You have complete control of what happens, you build a name while building your own “foundry rules”. You decide the scope of the work you want to do, pitch yourself the ideas and ways to do them. You have to force yourself to learn a little from everything and be very willing to make mistakes, change your mind, move forwards and backwards. You force yourself to learn how the production of the font is done, how to promote it, how to put together a EULA, to do administrative tasks and to spend hours answering emails. As a control freak who wants to understand and question everything, running this company is the best way to live in peace with myself.
Is a lot of work, especially if you are in or from Latin America. But the happiness I feel with each achievement does not compare to anything else. It is constantly growing, it is constantly moving between pending things, urgent things, and things that I want to do. Sometimes there is a lack of time and there is plenty of desire, sometimes it is difficult to find the balance and the drive to continue if the financial reward is commensurate with the effort. But again, I wouldn't trade it for anything. In adversity I always find the support of working with colleagues and friends and looking for spaces to share and grow.
“To those who are thinking of starting their own foundry, I would say to look for their own strategies instead of trying to copy solutions or ways that seem to work for others. If you do not understand the logic behind them, they will hardly be useful. Growth must be organic. Slowly but surely, you will consolidate what has been done at every step and without rushing to get to where we believe ‘success’ lies.”
How was your experience studying typeface design at the University of Buenos Aires?
I studied graphic design because I love letters. I’m curious about the formal theoretical material as much as the experimentations around letterforms. When I pursued my Masters in Typeface Design it all made sense: the theories, ways of thinking, looking and making letters… it was true happiness. I met and learned from people who shaped my way of seeing and understanding typographic work such as Rubén Fontana, Darío Muhafara, and Alejandro Paul. I found a place where I can experiment with shapes and have fun with creating letters that form a system. Designing a typeface has the wonderful duality of working on known shapes and at the same time the arbitrariness and freedom of being able to dress however I want. I have to manage the limits of legibility and shape recognition and think of a system that should be highly stable between forms full of peculiarities. When I was a student, Rubén Fontana told me that when I got older my letters would grow up too. I’m not sure if that was what he meant, but I started to see letters as living things that grow, change, modify just like whoever draws them.
I have been teaching for over a decade, and I can’t find a space that’s richer or more exciting than a class or workshop that combines the desire to learn with the desire to share. I love designing as much as I love teaching or mentoring, and I maintain a constant synergy between both parts. The experiences that make me grow, the mistakes I make, and the lessons I learn from my work influences everything including what I teach or share with my students. At the same time, the concerns, doubts, and processes that I experience from my students or mentees impact what I think, what interests me, what I do or how I do things.
I don't think I have many truths but I do have many opinions, so teaching allows me to keep questioning what I know and what I don't. There is a huge difference between designing a typeface and teaching how to design a typeface. Teaching is being willing to immerse oneself in someone else's will and perspective, over which I have no control. Teaching is accompanying the process by asking a lot of questions, with possibilities and not with exact answers. Teaching classes makes me go through styles, solutions, ideas that I might not have done if I made the decisions myself. Beyond formal or technical questions, teaching also forces me to think more, to stretch myself, to twist myself into a knot of arguments that may or may not have a logic that I understand. It is fundamental to me that students’ projects are their own and that they convince me in the process that there is something there to work on. And as a designer I try to force myself to do the opposite, to become like a “student” among friends and peers. I seek to be the one with certainties and to be questioned, to be forced to justify what I do. Although afterwards, I admit, I do not always apply everything that they advise me to do — that is also the grace of making decisions and I expect the same from my students and mentees.
In the future, I hope to see more expressive fonts, not necessarily rare or experimental, but expressive. The great challenge is to understand that each work is unique, that each person has a very different vision, context, and background. The best thing one can do is take that as a starting point to see, use and draw letters without worrying about the market, popularity, fame, followers or making money from it. We all have to draw the same letters, because letterforms are what they are, but we can spice them up with our own recipe to make them. Personally, I put a lot of myself into my projects. They are full of emotions, ideas, doubts, interests and random things I have in my mind when I am working on them. So I would like nothing more than for others to get a kick out of my typefaces and be curious about them, to investigate them, to criticize them, and even hate them, for the sake of contributing to a diverse landscape of creation around letters. A little pretentious perhaps, but in a good way, right?
A few years ago, I gave myself the freedom to do a lot and without pretense. I became more serious about what I did just for fun. The turning point was changing the vision I had of what I do and my ideas or projects. I owe much of this outlook to the people I’ve met who have nurtured how I understand the discipline. I realized that my work is as valid as anyone else’s. It's not just about believing it, it's about working hard and taking risks while gaining confidence. The next steps for my career is to try to dedicate myself exclusively to type design without the complements of other jobs to make a living. I think it's time to consolidate everything I've achieved and learn to find a way to be able to dedicate myself full time to type design and make a more complex mature version of me.
Krutika Shah is an award-winning communication designer from Mumbai, India and is currently based in Sydney, Australia. She works as a user experience and visual designer, and enjoys exploring type design and typography in her free time. In 2019, she graduated with an honors in Communication Design and a specialization in graphic design. Outside of design, she is passionate about all things related to arts and culture like painting, languages, traveling, photography, and food. She is also a qualified French language tutor and teaches it to kids in her spare time. In 2018, she was an intern at Mota Italic, an experience that further invigorated her interest in type design. In 2020, she was selected as a mentee in the Alphabettes mentorship program where she designed her first Gujarati typeface. In 2021, she was invited as a speaker at Typewknd. where she shared her journey with Gujarati type design.
When did you first get interested in letterforms?
I believe my interest in letterforms began when I was exploring Word Art on Microsoft Word during computer classes in primary school. I was really fascinated by the concept of letters having different looks. I would play around with different words by adding cool textures, shadow effects, and colors. In school, there was also a lot of emphasis on having good handwriting, especially when it came to cursive. I would find myself scribbling my name in different styles on the last page of my notebook during boring lectures. I was formally introduced to typography and type design in high school by my art mentor. I remember reading up a lot on what exactly is this field of design out of sheer curiosity. My interest in letterforms deepened as I was more exposed to type design during college.
In retrospect, I believe that living in a country like India and being surrounded by so much visual, lingual, and cultural diversity has subconsciously shaped my interest in letterforms too. I enjoy the different stylistic shop signs while walking on busy streets, staring out of my car window, and when traveling to rural areas of Gujarat. Only after discovering ‘type walks’ during my design school years did I realize that all of these childhood experiences of mine have inculcated a deep fascination for letterforms and type design, even before I knew what they really were.
How does your background and community shape who you are as an individual and designer today?
I ethnically identify as a Gujarati. Growing up in a family with strong Gujarati roots and culture, there was a lot of emphasis to speak in Gujarati at home, even though the language of my education was English and Hindi. Frequent yearly trips to my native place in Kutch, Gujarat, which is located in western India, has helped me stay connected to my cultural roots. I was taught how to read and write the script by the elders of my family. At home, I was surrounded by a lot of Gujarati literature in the form of newspapers, magazines, old recipe books, and novels. My parents frequently took me to watch Gujarati theater plays and films. My family background, my culture, and my mother tongue have had a big influence on my visual and semantic vocabulary. I am proud of my cultural heritage and a lot of my personal work reflects nuances of it. I remember the first ever type design exercise I attempted in college was to make a Gujarati version of the Lego logo. At that moment, I was so happy to realize that I could combine my creative skill sets and my cultural interests through type design and make work that excites me.
In 2020, during the pandemic, I applied to the Alphabettes Mentorship program with an intention to design a Gujarati typeface under an experienced mentor’s guidance. I was matched with Shuchita Grover, who is an experienced typeface designer and has worked with type foundries like Ek Type and Typotheque, and on multiple font design projects of Latin, Gurumukhi, Kannada and Oriya scripts. Her approach to learning about type design emphasized a lot on research, reading and understanding the history of the script. There was a strong focus on learning the anatomy with the right terminologies and acquainting myself with different works already done in the field.
In addition to doing the initial warm up exercises that focused on visual analysis of the script, I got the opportunity to learn how to do Gujarati calligraphy, something that I was always excited to learn. The objective of learning calligraphy was to understand the writing system, the structure, and the movement of the letters. I got to try some traditional instruments like bamboo reed pens, and I actually handcrafted the nib specific to Gujarati writing. The goal was not necessarily to perfect my calligraphy skills but to make observations like how the letters are shaped and where the weight in the letterform falls.
In the design phase, my mentor had proposed a set of exercises like letterform and stem width explorations so that I would have a library of stylistic options to pick from. Out of my many explorations, I picked the one that intrigued me the most – a high contrast, bold, italic display typeface with very narrow counters and futuristic look and feel. The most fun part of the design process has been the multiple form iterations for each letter and vowel signs. My mentor’s support and guidance so far, even after the mentorship duration ended, has resulted in a continued progress in developing this typeface. It is still a work-in-progress and unnamed design and I am so excited to produce the font soon.
I grew up with a lot of strong influences of art, culture and travel at home. My mother signed me up for art and drawing classes at a young age of eight, out of her passion for the arts and crafts. She is an artist by nature, and wanted her children to learn to express themselves through the medium. I have always enjoyed painting, going to art galleries, watching theater plays with my family and understanding another person’s perspective through their art. This has shaped me to become curious and eager to learn new things and take on challenges.
From the early age of sixteen, with the support of my parents, I started traveling independently on cultural exchange programs because I wanted to broaden my horizons. My travels sparked a deep interest in languages and different scripts. Moreover, schooling in India provides the option of learning four languages at a time (English, Hindi, the state language, and a foreign language). I started learning French in high school as an elective, and I fell in love with it. As a designer, my work reflects my interests and who I am as a person. However, type design is so close to my heart and directly combines my love for creating drawings and my passion for linguistics.
I have attempted the 36 days of type challenge on Instagram thrice now, in 2018, 2021 and 2022. My all time favorite is the 2018 one which is based on the theme of American and European art movements. I illustrated each letter of the Latin alphabet with the visual style and symbolic elements of an art movement, usually starting with the same letter. I tried to use different mediums to create the letter ranging from handpainted compositions to digitally rendered textures, to achieve the iconic look and feel of the art movement. Each letterform included a brief explanation of its inspired art movement.
The letter ‘I’ representing Impressionism was featured on the official 36 days of type account under their daily features. My three favorite letters from the series are A for Art Deco, E for Excessivism and T for Tachisme. You can see the whole project on my personal website.
What hopes do you have for the type industry at large? How do you see yourself playing a role in that vision?
I hope that the type industry continues to be rich in diversity and accessible to newcomers and amateur type enthusiasts like me. I believe that the industry is shaped by a strong community of type practitioners who are dedicated to their craft and skillset. It is also a welcoming community that is passionate to support new talent. Thanks to the efforts of type design educators around the globe, there is a growing interest in young Indian designers to design for popular and non-popular Indic scripts. I am proud to be a part of such a community that is inclusive and constantly trying to encourage representation of diverse cultures.
“Thanks to the efforts of type design educators around the globe, there is a growing interest in young Indian designers to design for popular and non-popular Indic scripts.”
Personally, I want to be able to continue the reputation and legacy of this creative industry in my own way. I want to contribute to its growth by making more work and sharing my journey with fellow enthusiasts, like I have already started doing on my personal blog. I also wish that I can reach a certain level of expertise in my type design career so that I can confidently mentor budding type designers of the future.
There are lots of exciting changes happening that are keeping me busy. I have moved to a new city and country, in Sydney, Australia and am slowly trying to build my social and professional life. As for my type design work, I am working towards completing the design and font production of my first Gujarati typeface, which is yet to be named. The goal is to publish it soon, work on more typeface design projects, and eventually be able to build a sustainable career in type design. I am determined to create new avenues for my growth in the type design industry by proactively seeking opportunities of collaboration and mentorship, like the Malee Scholarship. For my overall design career, I want to continue to challenge myself and grow into a more versatile designer by exploring new emerging design fields. With my recent move to Australia, I am excited to experience and find my place in the design industry.