Over a period of ten weeks, a group of talented and highly motivated students from all over the world gathered in a virtual classroom during a global pandemic and an ongoing fight for racial justice to study display type design.
What can display type teach us about the current moment?
Display type is designed to make an unapologetic statement. It can be elegant and bold, and speaks to us loud and clear without holding back. Simply put, display type wears its heart on its sleeve.
In a world where marginalized voices are silenced, undermined, and ignored, speaking up against injustice and building up the confidence to simply be oneself is a courageous act.
In this class, we embraced the messiness of history, the plurality of stories, and the power that type and typography have to make our own unique voices present and visible.
Drawing on their vast range of interests both related and unrelated to type, the students infused their work with their personality while learning the practical skills needed to navigate the constraints of designing a system of letters.
Each student, through their own diverse perspectives and backgrounds, shared with us a world of possibilities and multiple approaches for studying, designing, and thinking about what display type is, has been, but most importantly, what it could be.
The result is a beautiful group of typefaces each with their own personality, speaking in their own voice, moving at their own rhythm, and tuned to their own tone.
As the instructor of this class, I’m incredibly humbled and proud of the work you see here as it shows a lot of potential, growth, and a fresh take on the various forms that display type can have.
I hope you enjoy this class exhibit and I encourage you to check out more of the students’ work, follow them on social media, and hire them for your next type-based project.
If you’re interested in learning type design
I invite you to take my upcoming Principles of Typeface Design: Display Type class through Type@Cooper.
And if you want to continue learning, check out the Type Crit Crew, an initiative that I started to help you get in touch with experienced type designers.
About the Instructor
Juan Villanueva is a typeface designer, letterer, and educator in New York City.
He grew up in Lima, Peru and Clifton, NJ. His heart is in both places and his work reflects both languages and cultures. Juan is a typeface designer at Monotype working on library designs including Helvetica Now and Walbaum as well as custom projects for global brands such as Google, Microsoft, Tencent, Entertainment One, and many others.
He’s taught graphic design at the Cooper Union Summer Art Intensive Program and currently teaches typography at the City College of New York. He’s a member of AIGA NY, serves on the board of the Society of Scribes, and is the founder of Type Crit Crew, an initiative to make type design education more accessible and inclusive to students anywhere in the world.
He holds a BFA in Graphic Design and Illustration & Animation from Montclair State University and graduated from the Type@Cooper Extended program. He is always taking workshops to improve his skills and most recently, he studied at the University of Reading’s Type Design Intensive focusing on non-Latin scripts and typography.
You can find his latest type & lettering experiments through the links and samples below.
Huge thanks to Lynne Yun and Kevin Yeh of Space Type Continuum for sharing the base code that I used to build this site. Check out their amazing work!