What did you learn at TypeParis? (10)

How was TypeParis for you?

Who is better to talk about it than our alumni? So we asked them some questions. We published the results of our discussion with two TypeParis19 attendees, Mark Zhu and Olga Vasik to share their stories with you!

You want to apply but are not sure yet? You are wondering what conditions must be met, beyond the official description proposed on the Summer page? You can conclude that the attendees final typefaces designed at the end of the six weeks, are of such a high level that it seems impossible to achieve in such a short period of time? In fact not. The reality is quite different: the participants come from a variety of backgrounds, with or without experience in typeface design. So, whatever your level, you will learn a lot.

94 students from 32 different countries have already attended to TypeParis, and it could be your turn. This year TypeParis23 marks the eighth anniversary of the type design programme launched in 2015. Feel free to contact our alumni directly via their People page, to ask about some specific details about their 6 weeks in Paris.

Why you decided to apply to TypeParis?

Mark Zhu I had previously studied graphic design and done a lot of calligraphy, and had only just discovered the field of typeface design. I thought this discipline combined my various skills and interests perfectly, and wanted to give it a go, so I was looking for opportunities to get proper education in type design. I believe I found TypeParis mainly through online searches, and did compare it to other similar options. Eventually, the curriculum and activities of TypeParis seemed more diverse. Also, as I had studied French before, Paris sounded like the perfect location.

Olga Vasik First time I found out about the Summer programme was through the Dave Coleman blog post, and he described the program very accurately, so I got curious. Few years later I saw a post about this amazing scholarship opportunity on Alphabettes instagram account and applied.

“My main idea for building the portfolio was to showcase how type played an important role in my design practice.”
– Mark Zhu

From left to right: Olga and Mark.

Building the right portfolio?

Olga Vasik Believe it or not, I had zero doubts that I would be selected for this scholarship, like I was 100% sure that this opportunity is mine and it’s not like I’m super confident and decisive person, just sometimes you know things, but anyway I was super happy when it was confirmed. Every year I get a few requests from ladies who want to apply for the scholarship on how to put together a proper portfolio to be selected, but the thing is I made mine the very last minute before the deadline and didn’t put in much effort to it, because I think that the quality of the projects you submit matters most, not the overall look of the portfolio.

Mark Zhu As I did not have much type design experience at the time, my main idea for building the portfolio was to showcase how type played an important role in my design practice, and that I was eager to learn about type design properly. I included many of my previous works that involved letters and type: calligraphy, letterpress, and other graphic design or printmaking works that featured type prominently. Then, to add some more actual type design content, I also self-initiated a basic typeface project to include in the portfolio. At the time of applying, I was completely not sure what to expect. In the end, the acceptance into the programme was definitely a confidence boost for me.

“TypeParis team and their approach are amazing, I love the fact that group bonding is a big part of the Summer programme.”
– Olga Vasik

Mark Zhu multi-script typeface project.

What do you have learned?

Mark Zhu The programme was intense. I was constantly exposed to new information on different aspects of typeface design: historical background, drawing techniques, project development, presentation strategies, and much more.

I believe my experience in calligraphy made it easier for me to understand type design, but at the same time I also learned that calligraphy and type design are quite different. The curriculum definitely helped me transfer my skills in calligraphy into type design. The atmosphere was very supportive and motivating. The instructors were always available to help, and I especially appreciated the sense of camaraderie shared with my classmates.

Olga Vasik I’ve learned a lot of new things and not only about letters but also about myself. I had never thought of the letters as a system before and I got a deeper understanding of relationships between letters. Working with the glyphs app was completely new to me, I also realized that my taste is far beyond my skills. I have a very detailed post about what I’ve learned on my instagram [read]. TypeParis team and their approach are amazing, I love the fact that group bonding is a big part of the program. If I had a chance to do the programme once again I would do it.

“I still keep in contact with my classmates, and we have video calls from time to time. We also try to visit each other when we get the chance to travel.”
– Mark Zhu

What are you doing now?

Olga Vasik In my daily design practice I mostly do custom lettering logotypes and lettering prints for clients. As my creative side hustle I study variable typography animation using Glyphs and DrawBot, type design and typography based art. I Haven‘t released any typeface yet, I find it very challenging to fully produce a typeface on my own, but I keep designing typeface ideas in my sketchbook and Glyphs, like creating a full glyph set of letters, hopefully I will release something someday soon.

Mark Zhu After TypeParis I continued my education in typeface design, working towards becoming a full-time type designer. In 2020 I completed the MA Typeface Design course at the University of Reading, where I learned how to approach multi-script type design. Currently, I’m finishing up the EsadType postgraduate course in Amiens, while also working for Black Foundry in Paris. I still keep in contact with my classmates, and we have video calls from time to time. We also try to visit each other when we get the chance to travel.

“The real magic of TypeParis are the friends we made along the way.”
– Olga Vasik

For this poster, Olga Vasik was inspired by the song of Reginald Omas Mamode IV “In Search of Balance”.

Your advice?

Mark Zhu If you have doubts about application or portfolio, don’t hesitate to reach out to alumni. I think many of us are more than happy to share our experiences and advice, and you would have time to improve your portfolio if you are not certain. Also, before starting the programme, think about what you hope to learn/achieve through this course. The six weeks fly by really fast, and it‘s easy to get carried away by all the new things you would discover. I think have some predefined goals would help guide your project and maximize your learning.

Olga Vasik In three points: 1. One thing I regret is that I didn’t have a clear idea of the typeface before the program, I don’t perform well under pressure and I like to draft and ruminate over ideas, and for me there wasn’t enough time during the programme to do it, so I would totally recommend to start exploring your typeface ideas before the programme, collect your references, sketch ideas, figure out what do you want to create, because this course is very intense, and you wouldn’t have much time to search for the right idea you totally like. 2. If you are not familiar with Glyphs app, study its key features before the programme. 3. Plan a longer stay in Paris, at least a few extra days or a week after the end of the programme [Editor’s note: In 2023, the Summer23 programme‍ starts on 6 June 2023, and the Now23 conference included in the tuition-fee will take place on 3 June, so it’s best to arrive before then!], to actually see Paris.

Learn more about TypeParis courses and conferences!

Type & graphic designers interviews
Attendees feedback series

Summer23 programme
Now23 conference
Apply to TypeParis Summer course!
The deadline for applications is 14 March, every year.


Thanks to Monotype for being our steel sponsor for TypeParis23
February 15, 2023
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