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Q&A Carolina Laudon

On 1 June 2024, the Now24 conference will take place in Paris. On that day, more than a dozen graphic design lecturers, art directors and type designers are expected. Join to attend talks by international speakers around graphic design, web design, motion design, publishing, visual identity, communication and type design. If not already done, register now to take advantage of the best rates.

It seemed interesting to us to make you discover the profiles of our guests. Discover Carolina Landon’s interview.

Biography Carolina Laudon is ATypI’s former president. She is an independent type designer and holds an MFA in Graphic Design from the School of Design and Crafts at Gothenburg University and has a broad university education in several disciplines, such as web development, literature, Artistic Research and Intellectual Property Rights. She works at her design studio, Laudon Design AB in Gothenburg and specializes in corporate typefaces.

Interview

Describe your day?

Carolina Laudon I am a genuine morning and routine person. I prefer to start the day with reading the day’s news online and a cup of coffee. When I arrive at my design studio downtown, I always have a “clean desk” from the day before. I like to chat with my colleague Jürgen, discussing life and all things small or big. As I sit down at my desk, I am super nerdy with my agenda, prioritizing tasks and gaining a clear understanding of how my day will unfold. I consistently switch off my phone, and addressing emails is something I reserve for later, typically around lunchtime. Engaging with social media during working hours is strictly avoided. I like to work the whole day in a deep focus state.

Have your work habits changed notably as a result of the pandemic?

Carolina Laudon After the lockdown I have worked more remote, using online collaboration tools and virtual communication. The uncertainty surrounding the business environment led me to a cautious approach, and I found myself reevaluating priorities and focusing on essential tasks. The slow recovery of the business meant that I had to be more strategic in planning and resource allocation. So, my work habits shifted towards a more agile and responsive approach. The experience highlighted the importance of resilience and adaptability in different challenges. Thank goodness for the new AI tools. So, I have been fostering a more proactive and prepared mindset for the future.

Favorite kind of music to listen to while working?

Carolina Laudon It varies depending on the type of activity. I like to work in a deep focus state. Music is a great companion during certain tasks, such kerning a typeface, or drawing on paper. It can help in working in a flow. Otherwise I appreciate the value of silence, especially when engaged in tasks that require a high level of concentration, such as writing and finance work. In addition to music, I’m an avid consumer of audiobooks and podcasts. They have become integral parts of my other creative practices, offering intellectual stimulation during times when I can’t read. I am part of a book club that only consists of painters and artist that only listen to audio book while painting. At this moment I am listening to a book written by Victoria Belim. Otherwise I like to listen to historical narratives on P3 Historia, conversations on the Lex Fridman Podcast, or neuroscience on Huberman Lab on Spotify.

Do you read news?

Carolina Laudon I like to stay updated by reading news on a daily basis. However, the current global situation, particularly concerning climate change and conflicts, can be disheartening. Despite this, I find it crucial to stay aware of world events. However, as a type designer, I like to focus on font engineering documentation, so I delve into specialized resources online. I keep myself updated on the latest developments in typography, font technology on developer sites including Google and Apple etc. And all sorts of articles on variable fonts and CSS and also listening to talks on ATypI’s YouTube that I might have missed. During my presidency at ATypI I spent a lot of time reading the bylaws and legislative forms for Californian NGO. The law is important too.

“My goal is to empower aspiring designers and contribute to the diversification and enrichment of the design community.”
– Carolina Laudon

What do you do to evade yourself from work?

Carolina Laudon I’m a dedicated gym/spa member with a passion for CrossFit, salsa dancing, and swimming. Although I find these activities highly beneficial, I must admit that motivating myself to practice yoga takes a bit of effort. Additionally, I enjoy hiking with my sister whenever the weather allows. Sweden offers numerous picturesque trails, and thanks to the Right of Public Access, we can explore trails freely. This year, we even tried sleeping in hammocks and were unexpectedly greeted by a curious young moose, a moment that truly startled me. Apart from my physical pursuits, I maintain a daily painting practice, dedicating approximately two hours after work to create while immersing myself in a podcast or an audiobook. This routine serves as a therapeutic outlet and a means of creative escape. Outside of these activities, I relish spending quality time with friends over a glass of wine.

What is your ratio of self-initiated typefaces vs. typeface for clients?

Carolina Laudon My focus has primarily been on bespoke typefaces for clients. This might seem unconventional, but it has been my established business approach. I consider myself more of a collaborative designer than an expert designer, emphasizing the importance of understanding and meeting the client’s specific needs. Crafting bespoke typefaces allows me to solve unique design problems for each client, contributing to the development of their distinct visual identity.

While I may not have the luxury of exploring self-initiated typefaces, my design passion for client projects includes a comprehensive approach to the entire design process, from the initial conceptualization to the final execution, paying attention to detail from tail to nose. This ensures that the final typeface aligns seamlessly with the client’s goals and resonates with their audience. Despite being more strategically inclined, I tend to implement tactical solutions in my designs. This approach allows me to adapt and provide practical solutions within the broader strategic context. 

What do you think of this trend of free fonts (or “Open source”)?

Carolina Laudon Open Source fonts has for sure brought about significant changes in the typography landscape, impacting type designers, foundries, and graphic designers alike. This movement has both positive, negative with nuanced implications for the industry. On the positive side, the accessibility of open source fonts represents a democratization of design resources. It allows students access to a wide array of quality typefaces without financial barriers. This is particularly valuable in educational settings, fostering creativity and skill development without burdening students with additional costs. The presence of open source fonts complements the commercial and bespoke typeface market. While commercial and bespoke typefaces can offer a unique and crafted aesthetic, open source fonts provide a cost-effective alternative for various projects, serving as a valuable addition to a designer’s toolkit. However, there’s no such thing as truly free; there’s always a cost involved in one form or another. 

It’s crucial to acknowledge that open source typefaces do not replace the distinctive voice and identity that a bespoke font can deliver. A bespoke font, tailored to a specific client or project, goes beyond aesthetic considerations; it solves a unique design problem and contributes to the brand’s individuality. When a customer opts for a bespoke font, they are investing in a solution that addresses both economic and functional challenges specific to their needs. Choosing between open source and bespoke fonts becomes a matter of aligning design goals with the intended voice and identity. Just as customers carefully consider their choice of a logotype, selecting a typeface, whether open source or bespoke, requires a thoughtful evaluation of the shared voice and identity. The unique problem-solving capabilities of bespoke fonts remain indispensable for those seeking a truly distinctive and tailored typographic solution.

What did you learn from your time as president of ATypI regarding the typographer community?

Carolina Laudon My perspective is definitely shaped by the fact that type design is a multifaceted experience that extends beyond design. ATypI has played a crucial role in this journey, not just as a network for designers world wide but as a hub of knowledge with a strong focal point. During my time as a delegate, board member, and president, I made a conscious decision to engage in the tasks beyond design within the organization. This decision provided me with an insight into the industry and the evolving dynamics of the type market. 

One of the key lessons from my time as president was the realization that our community is venerable but hold together by a very strong shared passion for typography, that goes far beyond any concerns about cost and revenue. So many fellows have put in long hours of voluntary work. Much of my work consisted of leadership, a process that, with AI has become more streamlined. This, in turn, creates space for more collaborations—a trend I predict will shape the future of the type market.

While the industry is progressing, challenges persist, particularly in the areas of representation and cultural understanding. The international nature of ATypI serves as a valuable tool in addressing these challenges, fostering a global dialogue that enriches the typographic landscape. ATypI continues to be a beacon for knowledge and community, guiding the way as the industry evolves and adapts to new challenges and opportunities.

Do you remember when you decided to pursue your career in design?

Carolina Laudon Certainly, I remember the moment when I decided to pursue a career in design. Growing up in a family of engineers and programmers, I wasn’t initially aware of the challenges that awaited me in the design profession. Nevertheless, the allure of design proved irresistible. Choosing design felt more like the profession found me rather than the other way around. Looking back, I often ponder whether I could have taken a different route, perhaps a faster track via Hague or Reading. However, I am content with where my journey has led me. There’s a certain satisfaction in realizing that sometimes it’s not us who choose our paths, but the paths that choose us.

Interestingly, I found out through research that my family has a history of female entrepreneurs involved in photography, design, and shopkeeping—essentially, small business owners. This revelation adds a fascinating layer to my journey, explaining my inclination towards independence in my career. I never have to worry about being fired, as I am my own boss. Despite the challenges inherent in the design profession, I am grateful for the opportunities it has presented. The decision to pursue design might not have been a conscious choice, but it has become a source of fulfillment and purpose in my life. It’s a testament to the unpredictable and often serendipitous nature of our career paths.

Who were the most impact on you?

Carolina Laudon One individual who had a profound impact on my route as a designer was my professor HC Ericson at HDK at Gothenburg University. His strong opinions and fantastic design skills, particularly in typography, left an indelible mark on my approach to design. Engaging in lengthy discussions with him not only broadened my understanding of design but also forged a valuable mentor-student relationship.

Early on, I had the opportunity to do an interview for CAP&Design about the work of Jean François Porchez. Our too long conversation provided invaluable insights into the intricacies of the design business. Porchez’s thoughts and ideas continue to resonate with me, and I still cherish the knowledge gained from that conversation. I may even share some glimpses of our discussion at an upcoming event.  

Do you still sketch–draw on paper?

Carolina Laudon Yes, in my creative process, I always start by sketching on paper using a lead pen or ink pen depending on the project. While the sketches may not be aesthetically pleasing, they serve as a repository for ideas and thoughts, akin to note-taking in the early stages of a project. For some reason working with my hand is connected to my thoughts. By touching a paper, the tactile action, I get ideas. In the early days of my career, I dedicated a significant amount of time to pretty paper sketches, but over time, my approach has evolved to be more design-focused on paper.

Transitioning from the analog to the digital design work, I have developed my own structured digital workflow. Before delving into a font development program, I work with various tools and conduct extensive user experience (UX) research. This meticulous approach allows me to validate my ideas before moving into the more technical aspects of the design process.

The combination of paper sketching and a disciplined digital workflow has proven to be an effective method for me. It ensures a balance between creative exploration and the precision required in the digital design space, ultimately contributing to the success of my projects.

“Understanding the motivations for design will transform passion into tangible skills.”
– Carolina Landon

Do you have words of wisdom for young practitioners?

Carolina Laudon My advice would be to begin by delving into your own purpose and objectives in all parts. It may sound cliché but it usually sets the direction to success. Understanding the motivations for design will transform passion into tangible skills. However if you aiming for type design, then start digging where you are because that is a totally different field of design than graphic design and art direction.

So, start actively seek internships, engage in projects, participate in events, and collaborate with peers to gain hands-on experience. Learn the tools of the trade, staying updated on industry trends is also important. Develop a design mindset, refining your ability to discern detail, comprehend visual hierarchy, and prioritize user-centric design. Approach design problems thoughtfully to set yourself apart as an exceptional designer. Embrace critique and feedback as catalysts for growth. Feedback is a gift, not a punishment. Be open to both positive and constructive feedback, analyze it, utilizing it to refine and enhance your work. Stay curious and committed to continuous learning, recognizing that design is a constantly evolving field. And also sensitive to trend and the contemporary surroundings.

Lastly, be resilient. Design, like any creative pursuit, comes with challenges. Embrace setbacks as opportunities for learning, using them as stepping stones toward improvement. Remember, the path to becoming a successful designer is unique, but with a clear understanding of your motivations, it will serve as a guiding compass toward a fulfilling and impactful career.

What is the message you want to convey during your talk at Now24?

Carolina Laudon The message I aim to convey during my Now24 talk is one of inspiration, particularly directed towards young designers, especially those who feel they belong to underrepresented groups. I hope to encourage them to consider pursuing independent design careers, showcasing the possibilities and rewards it holds. Additionally, I plan to share insights into Swedish design, illustrating our unique approach and shedding light on the challenges we face. Overall, my goal is to empower aspiring designers and contribute to the diversification and enrichment of the design community.

What speaker wouldn’t you want to miss at Now24?

Carolina Laudon I wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to hear Victoria and Vitalina Lopukhina speak at Now24. I’ve been following their work for years, and I find their insights and perspectives intriguingly interesting. Their unique approach and contributions to the field make them speakers I’m genuinely excited to hear from at the event.

Thank you very much, Carolina!

– Interview by Jean-Baptiste Pernette

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January 23, 2024
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