Last year, we got to collaborate with type designer Trine Rask on the visual identity design of D.TAILS, a Danish e-commerce consulting agency specialized in all things Shopify.
Trine is a type designer trained at Type & Media in The Hague. Currently running her own studio, she works on corporate and retail typefaces, logotypes, restoration and other tasks related to letters and fonts.
Dimitra: Hi Trine! Welcome!
How did you get into type design?
Trine: I was studying graphic design in Denmark and type was a mysterious thing we were selecting and using without learning how to alter it. I didn’t like the idea of »writing« a logo instead of drawing it, creating it from scratch. And then I met the fantastic team from Type&Media at KABK in the Hague and went there to do a Master in type design.
D: Any particular qualities that you admire?
T: I admire craft and how, through your craft, you process and develop your work. To use a theory you have to check it, work around it and refine your thoughts through that process. You never know if an existing principle is related to a specific technology, context, habit or style till you prove it right or wrong, again.
D: Tell us a bit about your job as a type designer. How is your typical day at work?
T: I spend all my days drawing/redrawing letters for logos or typefaces. I review my work in the morning, take fresh decisions based on the task and make a status. I sometimes work for agencies, while others directly for a client or for me, doing retail work.
Type design can be long term work. In this manner, I prefer to work with a specific context and someone who both knows how to use type and define the context while I design and produce the typeface.
D: How has technology changed the nature of type design?
T: Digital type design is easy, fast and very accessible. But it doesn’t give you the knowledge, the experience and the trained eye. You must decide to review your work, spend time improving it and reaccessing it. You are not forced to this enhancement period but high speed is bad when you are learning and trying to comprehend.
D: Which are your main influences? Any suggestions for us to check out?
T: From the beginning I was influenced by the Danish craftsmen Thorvald Bindesbøll (1846-1908), Knud V. Engelhardt (1882-1931) and Claus Achton Friis (1917-1999). Italian and American type designers. And individuals like Jeremy Tankard, Matthew Carter, David Berlow, Jean-Francois Porchez, Underware, František Štorm. I also admire Kris Sowersby and David Jonathan Ross. I like that they both embrace and challenge history and technology.
D: I know that you have also been a professor for typeface design. Which are the challenges when teaching?
T: The challenge is the length of the courses. I have three weeks to teach type design to graphic design students at dmjx. I skipped the other academies because the courses were even shorter. It takes more time to learn a craft.
D: Last year, you worked with Lazy snail, designing a custom typeface for the visual identity of D.TAILS. This project even won a Red Dot Award. Getting to create a visual identity requires a certain synchronization of all related parts. How was this kind of collaboration?
T: The collaboration with Lazy snail was a dream. I was involved from the beginning, they let me follow the design process and get familiar with the different concepts. Then it was up to me to express the concept in type design and make a draft that would be reviewed alongside the actual context. They didn’t order a specific typeface, they didn’t try to define the typeface, they spoke their language and I spoke mine. And the result was even better.
D: You already know that Lazy snail works between Greece and Denmark. I guess that transforming a typeface for different languages can be quite tricky. What would you suggest if we wanted a typeface that works both for Greek and for Latin characters?
T: Scripts (alphabets) are different and some of them share shapes, some don’t. Fifteen to twenty years ago you could find price winning typefaces that would force Latin shapes on ex. Cyrillic and Greek. Fortunately this has changed now and there is much more awareness on and respect for the native of any script or language. Type design now can even help revive local dialects and languages of minorities around the world. And we understand now that simplicity in ex. Latin and Arabic scripts is different. It’s more important that the pen (the kind of stroke) and the degree of complexity/detail is the same than the actual reuse of shapes.
D: Typeface or font? What’s the expert’s view?
T: Typeface/type design is related to the shape, how it looks. Font is the software, the glyph set, the OpenType-features, how it works. As long as you don’t call it a typography, I accept both.
D: Do you prefer designing typefaces for packaging, display or script?
T: I like to switch. Display often gives more freedom, text has a lot of requirements for reading and legibility. Packaging is the perfect mix of freedom and communication- usually contains a lot of text that needs to be read while small sized.
D: What are you working on now?
T: I'm working on a playful custom typeface for a commercial project and a typeface for street signs, within a corporate type family. Both collaborations are with a person who knows about packaging, advertising, commercial trends and infrastructure, sign production and political processes, much more than I do.
D: Do you have any specific goals or dreams for the future?
T: I want to develop my craft. My dream is that type design becomes a very normal thing and gets integrated in visual design, graphic design, branding etc. It shouldn’t be added in the end, but developed alongside. It should be tailored, with good quality features. There’s a race of producing gigantic superfamilies, but that’s not the hard thing. The real challenge is to be clever and precise. And then the cost can be reasonable as well.
I also hope that we will rescue beautiful logotypes by mastering the craft to update them, before they all get replaced by sans serifs for the sake of social media.
D: Thank you for your answers! Take care and keep on designing!
Check more of Trine’s work here