As he told Eye on Design, Vocal Type “is a type foundry for creatives of color who feel they don’t have a say in their industry. It’s for creative women who feel that they have no say in their industry. This is for the creative who is tired of being ‘inspired’ by the same creations from different people and wondering why.”
Seals has always followed a path when it comes to design: he’s been practicing cursive writing since he was in kindergarten; sold $3 graffiti-style business cards to classmates when he was ten or eleven. In high school, he drew tattoos; and at 20, he promised himself that at 25, he would be an internationally renowned designer. What he is now, having founded his eponymous design studio straight out of college and Vocal Type just a year later.
As part of D&AD’s Dinner With online event series, Seals was interviewed by D&AD Chairman and Pentagram London partner Naresh Ramchandani. The chat was both fascinating and genuinely helpful in its practical advice for designs and was titled “Protest, Typography and the Fight for Justice – Tré Seals on a Practice Rooted for Purpose”. Here we have extracted some of the nuggets of wisdom it contains.
I’ve watched my parents run their own business for 30 years. This entrepreneurial spirit was already in me. And from a very young age, I remember my father telling me, “If you want to achieve something, you either have to do something that no one will do. And that was kind of an inspiration for everything I did.
About the process
As for my process, it kind of has different starting points. For example, I can start with a movement, maybe I have a movement that I want to highlight, but I don’t know exactly what the end result will look like. I dig into this movement and find a specific event that is really inspiring that relates to this movement.
From there, I’ll try to find a typography that several people relate to. That’s one thing with all my work: it’s never a sign that a person has done; maybe it’s a sign carried by 100 people or a banner because it reinforces this idea of unity. Once I have identified all of this, I will try to find an activist associated with this movement. As for the percentage of drawing and what I do on the computer, it varies from project to project; it depends on how many letters or characters I have access to from the original source material.
On his career in design and typography
I did this internship in 2014, and my boss kind of pushed me to explore typography more. They asked me to draw a 12 foot high wall chart on the first day. And then from there, he had me hand-write posters, do a typographic logo for a brand – he saw it was in me. Even as a graphic designer, my logos are rarely illustrative. Around 2018, I was working on another brand identity job, and I was so bored. I reached out to my client and asked, “Would you mind if I made you a custom typeface?” Because I just didn’t feel like what I had was working. , I want to do typographic design.
As a graphic designer, I work with all kinds of people. But as a typographer, it’s a different feeling. When I worked with branding clients, they always wanted something very professional. It was very rare for me to find a client who was willing to choose something different.
How to develop a style
When I was in college, I went to this career seminar where they had a panel of business owners. One said that every customer, like every industry, has its own language. It is not important for you to be fluent in all languages, but at a minimum understand these languages.
As for the approach, I am convinced that everything happens for a reason. So every design decision, from typography to color to layout, must have a reason.
From the relationship of design to social issues
There is either too much information on a topic or not enough. I feel like a lot of designers I’ve met don’t know where to go to get this information. I’ve been surprised by the number of designers I’ve met who have never heard of the issue of diversity in design: you don’t hear much about it outside of things like a showcase of people’s work for combat this problem. I would love to see more articles on things like how can designers create a more eco-friendly world? I would love to see more plays and more conversations around the issue.
Also, I think some of these issues are very broad and actually hard to get a full understanding of. I think that’s really important because the climate crisis is something you can’t control. The more knowledge you have about a topic, the more engaging it is.
On the transition from graphic designer to typographer
One thing that I experienced as a typographer when trying to get into the industry was that other typographers were so open and so friendly and eager to reach out to grow the community. So I would just say contact as many character designers as possible.
On how students should approach gaining experience in the design industry
I feel like in a time when we get so many emails and almost no mail, that’s probably the best way to sell yourself. People still love him. For example, when I was a student, I had a wax seal made for my last name and sent letters to people.
Get interested in things outside of design: anything non-design can be your biggest influence.
The things that have helped me focus, especially during the current pandemic, are taking a 15 minute break every hour just to get up, stretch, go outside for a minute, just breathe some fresh air. I want to take these moments of clarity to really invigorate you and help you think through all the issues that arise. I watch the clouds when I just feel stuck.