A Revolution in Type Design—An Interview with Lizy Gershenzon


Written by guest writer Melissa Delzio

Melissa Delzio and PSU Graphic Design students: Morgan Marshall and Kayla Winter interview Lizy Gershenzon of Future Fonts.

Lizy Gershenzon has an ambitious goal: to democratize the way type is designed. The company she co-founded, Future Fonts, was started with the idea that font design should be more accessible, and designers should be able to showcase works in progress, acquire funding and feedback and release their fonts in stages.

As an Instructor at Portland State University, I asked a few students to join me in interviewing Lizy via a video app. We discuss the impetus of Future Fonts, who her favorite type designers are and her advice for aspiring type designers.


Lizy was part of the 5x5 speaker series at the WeMake DISRUPT conference.

Watch the Fun Unfold with Tommy Perez

I think you get so much from making the physical piece, the imperfections, the charm. All that character and love that gets transferred from your hands to the paper piece is something that’s extremely difficult to translate in a rendering.
— Tommy Perez
Adidas Ultraboost Animation

Tommy Perez is a multi-disciplinary maker, with a heavy emphasis on the multi. Illustrator, designer, lettering artist, animator and paper-folding savant, there seems to be no limit to what he can do. What always stays the same, however, is the playful, colorful and endlessly impressive nature of everything he creates.

Tommy will be a keynote speaker at the Wemake Disrupt conference, and we are so excited to have him. We had the chance to ask Tommy a few questions about his inspiration, his process and of course, paper.

MB: Can you tell us a little about your creative journey so far?

TP: My creative journey has taken a bit of a turn from what I initially thought I was going to be doing. I'm super stoked with where I'm at right now, but coming out of art school I thought I'd be doing traditional graphic design; branding, publications, packaging and stuff like that. I got pretty burnt out in my first job out of college and started a little passion project for myself on the side. I wanted to stay creative and keep challenging myself and I knew I wanted to make things with my hands again. So I started a silly paper craft side project that eventually turned into the career I have now!

MB: What do you think the benefits are of using physical paper instead of digitally rendering something similar?

TP: I kinda struggle with this, the reason I got into making the stuff I make is because I was really inspired by 3D art. I loved it so much but I didn't (and still don't) know any of the programs, so I decided to try and make it out of the medium I knew, paper! I think you get so much from making the physical piece, the imperfections, the charm. All that character and love that gets transferred from your hands to the paper piece is something that's extremely difficult to translate in a rendering. However, I have been told numerous times that my stuff looks like renderings, so there's that haha!

MB: What is the most complicated piece you’ve worked on? Why?

TP: Every project has its own unique problems and solutions so it's hard to pick just one. But if I had to it would be this 'April Showers' piece. It's a full size umbrella with paper raindrops surrounding it. I'm not a photographer by any means and photographing shiny plastic objects is a pain in the ass to get right. Also at the time it was the largest piece I had created, I painted my entire wall blue because I didn't have a seamless big enough. There were just so many variables, the floating raindrops, the suspended umbrella, my daughter's hand coming in and holding it. It took some time to create the piece but I'm really happy with the challenge and how it turned out.

MB: What does your planning and process generally look like for an animation piece?

TP: I try to plan everything out before I make and shoot anything, especially if I'm doing an animation! I start out storyboarding how I want the animation to unfold, doesn't have to be 100% but it's usually pretty tight. Once that's all figure out and I've made everything it's shooting time. If I'm shooting with my friend, Patrick, we rehearse all the steps/movements multiple times before we begin shooting. The rehearsal helps to avoid multiple takes and just makes things easier overall. After everything is shot, I take the photos into Photoshop for editing and animating.

Tommy Perez Animation

MB: What do you look for when you’re picking out paper for a project?

TP: It's usually a mess of paper spread out everywhere haha! I like to cut little swatches of different colors and create multiple color palettes. I know i have the ability to shift colors in post production, but I always try to get as close to the approved color as I can.

MB: You have such a playful, fun style - did that come naturally to you or did it evolve over time?

TP: Thank you! I think it's definitely a bit of both. It took a bit of time, experimenting and learning to let my voice come through in the work I make. I truly believe that if you're having fun and are passionate about your work that all of that comes out in the final piece. People will definitely pick up on that!

MB: I like to imagine that you have a library full of paper burgers and colorful props you’ve made for your work. What actually happens with all your paper creations at the end of a project?

TP: Haha I'd love to live in that world! A lot of the pieces end up in being stored in plastic bins. The stack is getting a bit out of hand, but I've moved a few times, so that has helped keep the amount down. I'm a big fan of reusing things whenever possible, gotta create that content. Some of the pieces also go to the client, which is awesome because they get this cool little keepsake from the project!


MB: What or who are you drawing inspiration from recently?

TP: I try to draw inspiration from everything around me. I like to follow artists outside of what I do; chefs, illustrators, writers. I don't really follow many other artists who make stuff out of paper, not because I'm not a fan (I am!), I just don't want to be "too inspired" by their work and created similar things.

MB: What can you be found doing when you’re not working?

TP: Spending time with family and friends, skateboarding, reading, and always making something even if it's not 'work' haha!

MB: Why do you make?

TP: I make because I have to.

The Power of Illustration - Loveis Wise

When making art, use the things that you love to create to help you find your voice. Your power is there, you just have to use it!
— Loveis Wise

Loveis Wise is a freelance illustrator currently based in Philadelphia. She is a master of creating colorful, inclusive worlds through her art that challenge the status quo and radiate with an undeniable positivity. She has worked with a ton of amazing clients including Wieden+Kennedy, Buzzfeed News, Cartoon Network and so many more - not to mention making history as the second ever African American woman to illustrate a New Yorker cover. WeMake is so excited for her speak at Disrupt, and had the chance to ask her a few questions beforehand. Check it out.


MB: Can you tell us a little bit about your artistic journey up to this point?

LW: I started freelancing as a junior in undergrad at The University of the Arts and worked with some amazing clients like The New Yorker, The New York Times, Cartoon Network, and L'Oreal to name a few. My artistic journey as an Illustrator taught me to release self-doubt, practice self-care, and be prepared to tackle anything at any moment.

MB: What are some of the themes you find yourself drawn to?

LW: Femme-energy, inclusivity, body-positivity and I'm always attracted to symbology so themes like spirituality and dreams always find their way into my work as well.

MB: How does advocacy play a role in your work and in your day-to-day life?

LW: I found my place in Illustration by creating images that I didn't see much of as a kid who was really into art, so it became important for me to talk about subjects in black culture, my struggles as a femme-identifying person, and also to make work that people could see themselves in.


MB: The colors in your pieces are so strong - what inspires them?

LW: I love pulling reference from film, different palettes I love together, or even art that has shaped me as an artist.

MB: Is there a type of project you would like to do more of? If so, what kind and why?

LW: I'd love to do more mural pieces or packaging design because I love seeing things I make function in the world.

MB: Do you have any tips for artists trying to find their creative voice?

LW: When making art, use the things that you love to create to help you find your voice. Your power is there, you just have to use it!

MB: What is your creative process like, and how has it changed over the years?

LW: My process involves sketching until I find the right idea and digitally painting over that sketch in Photoshop. It has changed a lot over because it used to be much more complicated. I was once a traditional painter using oils and gouache but working digitally saves me a lot of mess and time.


MB: What is a project you have worked on that you found particularly memorable?

LW: I would say the most recent would be working with L'Oreal for the NYC Pride March and creating a poster for the event and marching in it. It was amazing because as a black and queer person, I have memories of attending Pride in my hometown, Washington,DC, with friends who weren't accepted by their families or peers and all we had was Pride to feel joy in ourselves. So to be able to participate and create a piece that speaks to that memory felt like a full circle moment for me.

MB: What or who do you find yourself inspired by lately?

LW: Lately I've been thinking a lot about my roots and drawing inspiration from nostalgia. I've also really been inspired by artists like Toyin Ojih Odutola, Elizabeth Catlett, and Chris Ofili to name a few.

MB: Why do you make?

LW: Because it's all that feels right.


Space Exploration with Katy Ann Gilmore

I like that about art. Any interests that you have, no matter how seemingly disparate, can come together in what you make.
— Katy Ann Gilmore

Katy Ann Gilmore is a multi-disciplinary artist that brings together the worlds of mathematics and art. She pushes the boundaries of what you can do with shapes and intricate line work and transports you into spaces where dimension takes on an entirely new meaning. I can confidently say she makes me think math is way more cool than I would have ever believed was possible. We are so excited to hear more about her life, work and love of non-Euclidean geometry at the Disrupt conference - in the meantime, we had the chance to ask her a few questions. Check it out.

MB: We are so dang excited for you to come to Portland! Is there anything you’re looking forward to doing while your here?

KG: I’m excited to be up there! In general, I’m looking forward to seeing murals around the city, meeting all others involved in WeMake, and maybe getting out for a short hike or walk around the city!

MB: Can you tell us a little bit about your creative journey up to this point?

KG: I grew up making things, but in the rural Midwest, I didn’t really have an idea of what it meant to make art professionally. I’ve been keeping journals since I was 8, so it’s fun to look back and see how many times I wrote that I just want to “make things” for my job. I feel so incredibly lucky that I get to wake up and do that each day!

I was always making things, and I studied both art and math in undergrad. After graduating, I still wasn’t sure about the feasibility of art as a career, but I moved out to LA 7 years ago for grad school. I didn’t have a car, money, or a large space to work. That really limited me in materials and flexibility. I found that I had to make my studio wherever I was, so drawing was a perfect medium to explore. I took projects with me and worked when I could. I was working full-time at the same time, so I’d also use my lunch break to draw. Then, as life began to stabilize, I started working in more 3D/installation terms.

The same cycle happened again when I quit my full-time job in late 2014. I started focusing on drawing again as I didn’t have a dedicated space to make art, and started to use Instagram as a tool to push small drawings for purchase. I really credit those times focusing on drawing for providing the foundation for my mural work today. My work and drawing eventually began to mature as I started bringing in ideas and interests from the past about perception and the ways we engage with the environments around us.

Now I’m balancing between working on murals and studio work for shows. It’s a really fun mix, and I love that murals and installation projects are a part of it!

Katy Ann Gilmore

MB: Your work is such a great combination of logic and creativity - how do you manage to bring the two together?

KG: Art and math have always been big parts of my life. I was always making something growing up, and also had a pretty heavy interest in buildings and architecture along with mathematics. The higher up in mathematics you go, the more abstract it becomes. You’re not so much dealing with numbers as concepts and problems. I really loved that, and particularly fell in love with non-Euclidean geometry. It’s been fun to see them naturally intertwine as I pursue ideas that seem interesting to me. I like that about art. Any interests that you have, no matter how seemingly disparate, can come together in what you make. Focusing on both has led to a natural expression of ideas through what I make.

MB: Is there a project that you’ve worked on that is particularly memorable? What made it special?

KG: I really loved working on my mural last summer at Facebook Los Angeles. I worked on it for a month, and it was fun to commute out to their office near the beach. I really enjoyed the vive of the offices, and had a great time making the mural. It was a marathon of a challenge, and I’m so happy with how it came together.

MB: You work in a lot of different mediums - drawing, murals, 3D installations - how does your planning and process vary between them? What stays the same?

KG: For all mediums, I usually start with pretty messy and initial ideas in my sketchbook. I take a sketchbook with me wherever I go, so when these ideas come (I tend to get a lot while driving, on a walk or hike, basically during any monotonous activity where my mind wanders), I draw them out. From there, I pick the winners to develop into nicer sketches. This is where they could deviate according to medium. At this point is when I figure out the details of how I’m actually going to make it. Once I figure that out, it’s the most satisfying and meditative part for me, seeing it all come together after so many steps.

It’s a big planning process, so I’m simultaneously in the stages of sketching on piece, working on a finished piece, or drawing in Illustrator to keep work flowing.

Katy Ann Gilmore

MB: If you could collaborate with one person on any project, who would it be and why?

KG: I would love to collaborate with Phillip K. Smith III. I think his work is so intelligent and interesting.

MB: We have to know - what happened with your Nissan Maxima!?

KG: That was such a fun project! The car wasn’t really in great running shape without some major intervention, so after documenting it well, I kept the hood and the spoiler, but got rid of the rest of the car.

MB: What are you drawing inspiration from lately?

KG: Lately, I’m finding inspiration from taking time to read, hike, and recharge. I’m taking time to slow down and think about what I’m making, which I think has been important for my work. Specifically, I’ve been going back and reading about the mathematical study of topology (the study of properties of spaces that are preserved through twisting or stretching of that object or space).

MB: What do you find yourself doing when you’re not working?

KG: When I’m not working, apart from spending time with friends, I’m usually hiking or boxing.

MB: And finally, the official WeMake question: Why do you make?

KG: I’ve always felt an internal compulsion to make. I can’t remember a time where I wasn’t drawing, painting, or tasking myself with some project. I find that I’m most myself when I get into the zone and work through ideas in this way.

DWPDX sketchXchange with Jordan Metcalf

I believe different process’ lead to different results and so following the same process is only likely to result in similar outcomes.
— Jordan Metcalf

By Morgan Braaten

It’s almost time for Design Week Portland 2018, and we could not be more excited to share what we have in store! WeMake will be putting on three events over the course of the week, starting with a sketchXchange at the Portland Art Museum with designer and illustrator Jordan Metcalf. The talk will be moderated by Luke Choice, otherwise known as  Velvet Spectrum, and will take place on Tuesday, April 17. Get your tickets soon, and remember that the first 100 people at the event will receive an exclusive 9”x9” print designed by Jordan exclusively for Design Week Portland. As always, all proceeds from the event benefit arts education in Portland.

WeMake had the chance to ask Jordan a few questions about his work, his inspiration and his recent move to Portland, which you can check out below.

MB: We are so happy to have you in Portland! What drew you here, and how are you liking it so far?

JM: My, now, wife and I had been talking about moving for the adventure and opportunity of living somewhere new for ages, and after visiting the US and spending some time in Portland a few years ago I felt like it was a good fit for what we were looking for. I began the long tedious process of applying for a special skills green card visa and it got final approval in early 2017. We had to come to the country to get the green cards within 6 months of approval, or we’d have to re-do medical tests and some other things, and so we decided to just take the leap and commit to the move. So far it’s been great, it’s a pretty friendly, safe and creative city with beautiful surrounds, good people and great food so we’re excited to be here.


MB: Every designer has a unique origin story. Can you tell us a little bit about your professional journey up to this point?

JM: Without getting into too much detail, I started out doing print, web and eventually directing motion graphics, working full time at studios, but quickly getting bored and moving on. All the while I was doing illustration, experimental lettering sketches and small freelance jobs on the side. It was before social media and design blogs were a thing and was at the very early stages of the re-emergence of lettering as a design trend, so I wasn’t really aware that the stuff I was doing for fun had any purpose or value at all, it was just a release for me. Eventually I decided to go it on my own and thought it was worth putting these little lettering pieces online and completely leaving out all the commercial work I’d been doing up until that point. I think it was more lucky timing than anything else because I had put it all up on Behance when it was still a much smaller platform and the work got ‘featured’ when that still meant that everybody arriving on the site would see it, and it was at a time when a few lettering artists were gaining traction and the ‘trend’ was taking root, so I quite quickly landed a few international projects with Nike and that created a knock on effect I guess. The more experimental lettering work I got the more it became what I was known for and eventually became what people primarily saw my work as, but I’ve also done lots of other design and branding jobs over the years which I really enjoy.

MB: What is your creative process like, and how has it changed over the years?

JM: I have never really adhered to any particular process, I’m not sure if it’s because the type of work I’ve done over the course of my career varies quite a bit, or maybe it’s the reason the work varies. I believe different process’ lead to different results and so following the same process is only likely to result in similar outcomes. I definitely have a number of different process’ that I’ve developed to make specific types of work and so use each when appropriate. But it’s arbitrary to believe everything needs to start with a pencil sketch on paper or any other way. Tools change and develop all the time and I’ve always enjoyed embracing new tools and methods and figuring what they can add to the mix.


MB: What is a project you have worked on that you found particularly memorable and why?

JM: The early Nike work I got a couple months after going freelance. It was incredibly surreal to be random kid sitting in his small apartment in Cape Town, South Africa with a company the size of Nike willing to give me money to mess around and experiment. The world feels like it’s become smaller now, and I’ve worked with many big companies and realised they’re all just comprised of normal people at the end of the day, but at the time the distance and scale of a company like that casting it’s eye on just me, however insignificant the projects probably were in the greater scheme of the Nike brand, felt like nothing I should expect to have deserved or received at any point in my career. But with that impostor syndrome also came a great confidence boost in letting me know that the things I was excited about had value and could lead to a career that I could somewhat define and make a living off.

MB: You have an incredibly diverse style, and are great at matching the personality of a piece to fit a particular brand or project. How do you set out trying to identify the best fit for any given piece?

JM: Design is a service industry and I’ve always felt that it was important that my work be adding value to the people and companies paying for it, so making work that was appropriate first and cool second has always just been part of my approach. But there isn’t a 100% foolproof way of figuring out and making work that is “right” for a job. I just try to understand the problems, and figure out what I think might work best within what I can offer. I believe that there are a myriad of appropriate solutions for most jobs, but there are also very obviously inappropriate ones. So I guess it’s trying to avoid the patently wrong solutions and trying to do something that is considered and communicates as best it can.  

MB: What or who do you find yourself inspired by lately?

JM: I have a broad range of inspiration, but lately it’s been a lot of the people I’ve been meeting since moving to the US. There is something inspiring about getting to know the people and companies behind the work that removes the abstraction and disposability that the internet creates. Amazing illustration, design, film, photography etc doesn’t just exist, there is always a hand and a mind guiding it and I find humanising work often makes me put in the time to really look at it and appreciate it.

MB: What are you doing when you are not working?

JM: What everyone else does I guess. Trying to live well, eat well, be good to people and not die.

MB: Why do you make?

JM: I heard this idea once that the people can be split into 2 groups, producers and consumers, and I think it’s roughly true. I’m not sure any of us get a choice which one we are, but I’m happy to be making things not just consuming them.

sXc with designer and Illustrator Jordan Metcalf 
moderated by designer and letterer Erik Marinovich

Door open at 6 pm. The talk starts at 7 pm.