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A Revolution in Type Design—An Interview with Lizy Gershenzon

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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.


CHECK OUT THE VIDEO BLOG HERE

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

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Mastering Audio, An Interview with Amy Dragon

Each year an engineer can constantly grow and change in their craft as they engage with new pieces of music, audio gear , and discover new way to approach a sonic goal.
— Dragon

Written by guest writer, Rowan Bradley

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R: How did you get started in audio engineering?
A: I started audio engineering in 2013 taking the more traditional route of a studio assistantship.  Senior Engineer and my mentor, Adam Gonsalves at Telegraph Mastering, was looking for an assistant to train and I had the amazing honor of being selected.  I had no formal sound engineering education, but had spent roughly 12 years in classical piano training eventually moving on to orchestral percussion before leaving musical performance behind.  At a time when a ton of my friends were starting bands, I found that despite being a proficient musician, performing created a great deal of anxiety in me and I began allocating massive amounts of time exploring all things musical and supporting others musical endeavors.  It so happened that the early foundation of music theory combined with a sincere obsessive love of a wide variety of music genres that gave me a terrific foundation for mastering.  From 2013, under the guidance of my mentor, I spent countless hours training, observing, reading college audio text, visiting recording studios, vinyl manufacturing plants, and eventually practicing basic mastering skills and learning the art of cutting master lacquer discs.  I began mastering and disc cutting for my own clients around 2015 while continuing to develop my audio engineering skills.

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R: What does your process look like? How has it changed over the years?
A: My process is one of transparency and precision.  Mastering is truly the final stop in the audio production process before an artist's work is manufactured and sent out into the world.  There's a tremendous amount of responsibility in that role and I am always striving to honor the artist's sonic goals without leaving my discernible fingerprints on their art.  I strive to be invisible while making a series of tiny clean audio shaping manipulations that end up summing to a track that is professional sounding and truly finished.  One of the greatest assets to my work is the room I work in and the quality of the audio gear I get to use.  Since I started at Telegraph, we've acquired many new fantastic pieces of equipment as well as undergoing acoustic upgrades designed by Andreas Nordenstam in 2015.

R: What do you like most about mastering and audio engineering?
A: Aside from listening to music for my job, I think what is amazing about this field of work is that each project is completely unique requiring a totally customized mastering approach. Each year an engineer can constantly grow and change in their craft as they engage with new pieces of music, audio gear , and discover new way to approach a sonic goal.  I believe I will be learning and working in this field until my ears fail me.

R: Can you think of a creative project that changed the way you think about your work?
A: I had the amazing good fortune of woking at Cascade Record Pressing while learning how to be a master lacquer cutting engineer.  Being able to master a record, engineer the cut for the lacquers, then personally examine the stampers that are made from those lacquers, and evaluate the test pressings at Cascade accelerated my skills in disc cutting lacquers exponentially.  I can recall a challenging electronic project I worked on and was experimenting with a few new techniques for cutting a record with predominately inorganic sounds. I was a bit nervous about what would happen to the fidelity once electroformed and pressed into vinyl.  It ended up sounding incredible and I learned where I can push some of the limitations of the vinyl format to achieve a better sounding record. 


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R: What’s it like working in the music industry in 2018?
A: It is a wild time to be working in the music industry.  The last 20 years have seen a huge disruption in the status quo of major labels and they way the music industry has historically operated.  With the advent of music file sharing and the rise in power of online and streaming music entities, a huge fragmentation occurred with a shift to a more decentralized industry.  As a result, a DIY scene has emerged that is no longer a subculture and is it awesome.  Artists don't necessarily need a major label to tithe to and can afford to self release their own album right into mainstream sources.  Coupled with the renewed energy into vinyl, artists have a physical art that they can sell to fans again.   I think this has ultimately resulted in more music being created and released into the world.

R: Any new music you’d recommend people check out?
A: Our regional music is always so brilliant.  The hip hop community in Portland is just blowing me away right now.  Check out the label EYRST or Wynne for a taste of the PNW sound.  Silent Season is a label out of Vancouver BC and is a gem in the electronic scene; I love everything they put out. Additionally, a compilation I mastered, "Raised By Women" showcases female artists in Portland and is going to be released in October by Dazzleship Records; proceeds will go to a local domestic violence agency, Raphael House.

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R: What are you looking forward to?
A: We are in the initial stages of a new studio build.  We are working with Thomas Jouanjean of Northward Acoustics.  It's a dream come true to have the honor of working in a room like this and I'm absolutely thrilled to have that resource available to the Portland music community.

Amy Dragon was part of the 5x5 speaker series at this years WeMake DISRUPTS conference.

Telegraph Mastering

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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.

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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!

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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.

Lettering Love—Design Week Recap

This was our 7th year celebrating and supporting Design Week and it was one to remember.
— Yvonne Perez Emerson, Founder/Director
IPRC helped folks make their own screen print at our lettering show, 26.

IPRC helped folks make their own screen print at our lettering show, 26.

From a talk at The Portland Art Museum to a workshop and gallery show in our headquarters at Tillamook Station, our Design Week Celebration was full of Lettering Love.

WeMake typically has some sort of design in-action take place during Portland Design Week. For our first five years we did a little thing called Put A Bird In It, and then Pin That Shit. As part of our mission to give back to the community the Lettering Exploration was no exception.

We want to thank everyone who came out to support and celebrate Design Week with us. We are happy to say that we raised $6000 for arts education that helps to support underserved youth in our community. Our benefactors this year include:


Caldera Arts $2,000

Caldera is a catalyst for the transformation of underserved youth through innovative, year-round art and environmental programs. Caldera serves Oregon youth from both urban and rural communities with limited access to educational and economic resource opportunities. Our programs nurture individual creativity to ignite self-expression and transform the way young people engage in their lives, families, and communities.


Friendtorship $2,000

Friendtorship is built on a foundation of creative collaboration and strong personal friendships. The program aims to increase access to design and arts learning for underserved high school students, empowering them to engage in experiential creative processes that better their communities. The personal relationships that develop between the university and high school students are fundamental to the active engagement that drives the program.

Creative collaboration and positive relationships are the pillars of our program.


School House Supplies $2,000

Schoolhouse Supplies is an award-winning nonprofit that supports public education in Portland by giving students and teachers free classroom supplies.

The program serves classrooms in need by operating a volunteer-run Free Store for Teachers, which is stocked with supplies donated by the community. The mission is based on the belief that every child deserves school supplies and has the right to a quality education.


This brings the total of giving to arts education over the last 6.5 years to just over $100,000! We think this is incredible and it’s because of you that we can make it happen. 

I would like to personally thank everyone who helped this year. High -fives all around! If you volunteered THANK YOU! To our super talented sXc speaker Jordan Metcalf and moderator Eric Marinovich (who flew in on short notice to cover for Luke Choice, who got stuck out of the country before the event, yikes!) THANK YOU!  To the Portland Art Museum for graciously being our host three years in a row, THANK YOU! To the amazing Jessica Hische for coming to celebrate and share her knowledge so freely at our lettering workshop, and to all of the awesome artists who contributed their time, and talent to be in the 26 show. THANK YOU!

But most importantly I would like to thank our team, without their tireless commitment we could not have made it happen. THANK YOU! Alise Munson, Cinnamon Williams, Morgan Braaten, and Rowan Bradley. Lastly, I have to thank my husband Nathan Emerson. Nathan is a 4th grade teacher and rushes back to The Station every time we have an event to serve up drinks and smiles, but he also hangs lights, and art and supports me through everything. THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

What a blast this year was! Be sure to check out the photos from the events and if you haven't picked up a print from the show we still have a few left! Grab them here.

Until next time, always be making!

Yvonne Perez Emerson, Founder/ Creative Director

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Photos by Rowan Bradley & Yvonne

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
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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.

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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.

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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.