What did you learn at TypeParis? (8)

How was TypeParis for you?

Who is better to talk about it than our past alumni? So we asked them some questions. We published the results of our discussion with two TypeParis18 attendees, Sebastiaan Van de Venne and Poe Cheung 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 home page? You can see that the attendees final typefaces designed at the end of the five 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.

76 students from 25 different countries have already attended to TypeParis, and it could be your turn. This year TypeParis20 marks the sixth anniversary of the type design programme launched in 2015. Feel free to contact our past alumni directly via their People page, to ask about some specific details about their 5 weeks in Paris.

Why did you decide to apply to TypeParis?

Sebastiaan Van de Venne: I can’t recollect specifically how I encountered TypeParis but if I had to guess, it was via Julien Priez. I met this calligraphy-god multiple times via an High On Type event. It was through these events and with a pat on the back from Julien that I decided I was going to spend the better half of 2017 focusing on my portfolio and my application. The programme sounded like a dream. To be able to spend 5-weeks with like-minded people and surrounded by teachers with years and years of experience was an easy sell to me. The relative short (and intensive, but back to that later) period was doable with work and I just knew it was going to be a kickstart into something new after that!

“The programme sounded like a dream. To be able to spend 5-weeks with like-minded people and surrounded by teachers with years and years of experience was an easy sell to me.”
– Sebastiaan Van de Venne

Poe Cheung: During my first year of studying in my university, I took the typography course and I learned the basic knowledge about type, mainly typesetting. I expected I could learn more at that time, but there was not much chance for me to dig deep into European type design in Hong Kong. At the same time, I wanted to have a proper type design education before my internship in Europe. And my prefer duration is more than one month. Then, I found TypeParis, a perfect 5-weeks intensive course with professionals and experienced instructors!

From left to right: Poe and Sebastiaan.

Building the right portfolio?

SVdV: For my portfolio I had a good idea of what I wanted to show. I knew I wasn’t a type designer but I had become passionate about calligraphy. Besides, I now had a big foot behind the door telling me that I needed to become better in it. Studying the content of TypeParis had put out I came across the name of Dave Coleman. I had seen some content of him online already and through his Instagram-feed, he seemed more than approachable so I decided to ask him for advice. He actually was nice enough to share his own portfolio with me which I think was a very kind gesture. What it made me realize is that this portfolio needs to show YOU. If you are passionate about anything type-related and you show your knowledge and expertise in it you will come across the best. Submitting my portfolio and finishing the application was the best feeling ever. This mostly came because my goal was to apply, not necessarily getting into the programme. This was a weird realization afterwards because I had my mind set on making this awesome portfolio that in the months leading up to it I never stood still for the idea that I might get selected. Needless to say I encountered every emotion after hearing the good news I was spending my summer in Paris. As somebody who taught himself calligraphy, my selection was a stamp of approval showing that my work and growth were on the right path.

“I didn’t have many typographic projects specifically. My portfolio also included my visual record because I wanted to show that I was really interested in typography.”
– Poe Cheung

PC: Building a right portfolio is really difficult for me. I don’t know much about type design. Most of my works were in Chinese (mostly book design) and I didn’t have many typographic projects specifically. My portfolio also included my visual record (photos of interesting type that I discovered in Hong Kong) because I wanted to show that I was really interested in typography. I was pretty nervous while I was waiting for the notification. I was so happy that I got in!

What did you learn?

SVdV: In general, I feel like I have learned how to go from a place of inspiration to design. How to translate your decisions into elements that make up a typeface. Type design is very difficult and still is to me. Everything needs to be “same, same, but different”. Still following?, me neither. This especially hit me hard when we came to alternate styles and I was working on my bold version. For sure it is a lot of fun designing thick, fatty and black letters but those damn glyphs made me tear up multiple times. In the end I believe that you gain a new sight and critical eye for type and all the work, details and beauty that are in it. This will translate back to your work afterwards big time!

“You will never be alone because the tutors are very patient and willing to answer all your questions.”
– Poe Cheung

PC: It was not that hard to learn about typeface design with no background like me. The course started from the very basics like learning calligraphy and wouldn’t skip any step you need to go through. You will never be alone because the tutors are very patient and willing to answer all your questions. I learnt plenty of things during the course. Besides some technical stuffs like how to digitize your letters, drawing letters by hands is one of the important step I learnt. It helped me to understand about the basic form and structure of a letter and fit them into one system. It gave me an overview of the possibility of the typeface and helped to decide the main feature of the typeface. I enjoyed drawing letters a lot.

Sebastiaan’s work: stencilled logo design for a baker specialised in sourdough bread.

Your expectations versus the reality?

SVdV: I had no idea what to expect but it became very clear that I was in for big treat. The Sunday before we started we gathered with a few people from the course to meet over dinner somewhere in the 11th. The vibe there was already so comfortable that Paris for 5 more weeks were beginning to look like heaven for me. Over 5 weeks I bonded with these people and I consider most of them family now. The programme is hard work and Jean François is clear about this from day 1 but you will love every bit I promise that. The talks and all the trips made me fall in love with type deeper and deeper but in the end it was the people around you that made it all the better!

“The programme is hard work and Jean François is clear about this from day 1 but you will love every bit I promise that.”
– Sebastiaan Van de Venne

PC: The whole experience was better than I expected though I read all the previous TypeParis weekly reports and attendees’ sharing before I go. The tutors were really patient and passionate. And I learned and saw much more than I expected, like the beautiful antique books, impressive collection of Roman inscriptions and precious type specimens in Lyon. My trip in Paris end up with the 2018 FIFA World Cup final. What an unforgettable ending!

What are you doing now?

SVdV: I am still working on setting up my own typographic design studio. I have the ambition to work more with type-design but have yet to make the time to fully commit to this. I hope to end up somewhere in between a graphic and typeface designer and use all my calligraphic and lettering skills to make this work. Big hopes but aim high and shoot low! The class of ’18 is my family. The have seen more annoying selfies of me going around on Whatsapp group chats than they probably signed up for in the beginning but somebody has to take on that role in the family. Some of them I still speak on regular basis and I was fortunate enough to see them when I returned to Paris for TypeParis19. The garden party of that year was definitely in the highlight reel of 2019. I can’t stress enough how this programme has enriched my life for the best. Both in professional ways but mostly by meeting these amazing people.

PC: After TypeParis18 I started my career as a graphic designer in a studio in Berlin. I was happy that I could apply the type knowledge and skills that I learnt in TypeParis for designing logotype. The Hoko typeface that I designed during TypeParis was used by a Berlin-based artist for his exhibition in Shanghai. I keep learning about type. During my time in Berlin, I learnt about Dutch type with Jan Middendorp and traveled to Leipzig for the exhibition of Jan Tschichold. After a year in Berlin I backed to Hong Kong as a freelance graphic designer. I still keep contact with some of the classmates. Some of them are very productive, that I really appreciate. I am often surprised by their new works!

Your advice?

SVdV: If my answers above haven’t convinced you yet, you better experience it for yourself! But feel free to shoot me some questions if you feel like you want to hear more about my crazy Parisian stories. Oh, and don’t start the programme by designing Italics, I’ve made that mistake for you.

PC: Work the harder you can during the 5 weeks. Spend more time after the graduation to explore Paris with your new friends. You will never know when will be the next time you guys meet.

Learn more about TypeParis courses and conferences!

Type & graphic designers interviews
Attendees feedback series
Apply to TypeParis Summer course!
The deadline for applications is 14 March, every year.


Thanks to Adobe and Adobe Fonts to be our platinum sponsors since 2015.
February 21, 2020
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