03 Jun 2019
Andrea Tinnes is a German type designer, typographer and educator based in Berlin. Her design practice is focused on client-based as well as self-initiated projects. Through her own label, typecuts (founded in 2004), she publishes as well as promotes her typefaces and typographic projects.
Andrea will be speaking at the third #tptalks session on Thursday 27 June 2019 at Le Tank. Registration will open on 18 June 2019!
Nowadays it’s much more difficult to start your own design business, because you might face both high living costs and precarious work conditions.
This year typecuts is celebrating its 15th anniversary (congrats!), but you started working as an independent type designer almost 20 years ago. How was it? As a woman, do you feel it was much more difficult than it could be nowadays?
Andrea Tinnes I wasn’t even aware that typecuts has its 15th anniversary before you asked this question, so many thanks for reminding me :-)
When I started almost 20 years ago in Berlin, I felt that starting out as an independent designer was actually kind of easy for me; when I moved to Berlin I quickly found a studio collective in my neighbourhood and from the beginning I had commissioned and well paid work from a design studio in Munich on a regular basis. Back then rents were still really low in Berlin, so I had the privilege to devote my remaining time to working on typefaces and self commissioned projects. I actually think that nowadays it’s much more difficult to start your own design business, because you might face both high living costs and precarious work conditions. However what I really appreciate for today’s young female designers are the global networks of female practitioners to support and promote each others work.
But you don’t work exclusively on type design. How do you usually divide your time between graphic and typography design projects?
Since I’m a full-time professor the question for me is actually how to divide my time between teaching and self-commissioned work. I always try to balance and treat them equally so one won’t take over the other but it’s definitely not easy. As for my design work I have mostly worked on self initiated project for the last couple of years; that’s because with my teaching commitments it’s very difficult to tackle commissioned projects. Since the beginning of 2016 I have been working on the “Library of Shapes, Texts and Structures”, a visual research project and personal toolkit with a collection of typefaces, shapes, texts, structures and typographic imagery (until 8 June 2019 on display at A–Z in Berlin). It encompasses actually both typeface design, typography and graphic design. So to answer you question: nowadays I don’t really divide my time between type design and typography, there’s an interdependence between them and both always inform each other.
(…) To inspire students with my own fascination with type and typography in order to turn them into type aficionados.
You have also a long career in teaching type and graphic design. Which are your main objectives as an educator?
My biggest goals are to inspire students with my own fascination with type and typography in order to turn them into type aficionados as well as to teach them to be critically engaged citizens with a unique visual voice.
I highly enjoy teaching and I’m very enthusiastic about the subject matter I teach. So I try to be be a committed team player, a curious interrogator, a critical questioner, a challenging motivator, a contagious enthusiast, a helpful supporter or just simply a “jolly fellow”.
Besides teaching all aspects of type and typography I want to encourage students:
to use imagination
tu use process as a method
to explore methods and tools
to approach from many directions
to accept coincidences
to explore extremes
to follow intuition
to work beyond the limits
to make choices
to be curious
to be courageous
to be critical
to be doubtful
to be self-disciplined
to be independent
to be visually literate
to be aware of details
to think cross-disciplinary
to be open-minded
to be not afraid to fail
to be interested in the obscure as well as the mundane
to think beyond the obvious and expected
I took Jeff Keedy’s type design class and it got me hooked on type.
Do you remember when did you decide to conduct your career to the letter world? What made you choose that?
When I started my graduate studies at CalArts, I took Jeff Keedy’s type design class and it got me hooked on type. After graduation I worked as design assistant for him for one year, so that’s when I actually hit the path to typeface design.
When you started, who were the teachers or professionals who had the greatest impact upon you?
I was highly influenced by many of the CalArts Design community and their approach to type and typography: Jeffery Keedy with his very critical analysis and judgements (and with encouraging me to investigate into type and type design), Ed Fella with his passionate exploration of visual narratives, Gail Swanlund with her joyful formmaking and Anne Burdick with her critical writings.
For the last couple of years, my major influences were the people I work with at school: colleagues, assistants and above all the students: interacting with them and learning from them as well as looking at design with the fresh eyes of a first year student.
What drives you to make new typefaces?
The joy to create my own tools and instruments.
What is your favourite way to start your day? What is the first thing you do when you sit down at your desk?
I always need a cup of coffee and a good breakfast while reading the newspaper.
Do you prefer a permanent/dedicated workspace, or do you like to keep mobile (i.e. cafes, outdoors etc)
I love to work in my studio space (which I share with my husband), but I also highly enjoy working on my train rides (I’m commuting from Berlin to the art school in Halle always by train).
Favourite kind of music to listen to while working? (or absolute silence)
I always like to listen to music while working. It’s mandatory for me. I have a really diverse taste in music; apart from my own music collection I like to listen to my favourite internet radios such as Dublab, KXLU, Soma.fm and byte.fm.
I am always on the look out for new typefaces. (…) What grabs my eye is usually both original design concept and craftmanship.
As a user of type, are you always on the lookout for new typefaces? What are some things that grab your eye the most when you are searching? (e.g. marketing copy, in-use specimens, OpenType features, glyph set, language support etc).
As a teacher I have to be always informed about new typefaces, so as a matter of fact I am always on the look out for new typefaces; one of my favourite places to look is “fontsinuse” but I also follow many typeface designers on twitter and instagram. What grabs my eye is usually both original design concept and craftmanship.
Thank you very much, Andrea!
– Interview by Gina Serret.