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How did you discover your love for design? I wanted to work in animation, but I went to study design due to a lack of animation courses in Rio de Janeiro at the time. Throughout university, I focused on learning animation by taking all the elective classes in animation, cinema and drawing that I could find. In the meantime, I was developing a growing interest in design, but it wasn’t love just yet! On the advice of a teacher, who later became my boss at my first internship, I participated in Milton Glaser’s one-week summer course at the School of Visual Arts in New York. He invited Louise Fili to give a talk, and she shared her photos of lettering found on beaches in Italy and the work she had done that had been inspired by them, and it was like a light went on inside me. I have been pursuing typography ever since.

What did working at the Dalton Maag type foundry teach you about branding? Most of what I did at Dalton Maag was custom work, often working with design and branding agencies that used Dalton Maag to develop the type for a brand. The experience taught me how type can convey a brand’s voice, and how even small changes in a typeface or wordmark can really alter the perception of a brand. For example, I remember working on a wordmark for the English National Ballet, which was being rebranded by The Beautiful Meme. They were using Aktiv as a brand typeface, which has a Swiss modernist vibe, but they wanted the logo to have a more English feel, so I changed the g, and it had a big impact on how the logo looks. Through Dalton Maag’s multinational clients that required multiscript type families, I also learned about how global brands can speak with a consistent voice in different locations.

How does your expertise in typography influence your approach as a graphic designer? The most honest answer is that typography is no longer scary. Once I figure out an idea and the direction of where I want a branding project to go, I feel confident in selecting typefaces for it. Or, if an idea requires me to do a hand-lettered logo, I can just start sketching and testing how it might work. Or, if I’m on a tight deadline, I feel confident that I can make something look decent with type. I wish I could give a deeper answer about communication or the spirit of letterforms, but for me, being confident about using type gives me more freedom in my design process because I trust the type to do its job.

What are the best tips you’ve gleaned from your fellow Alphabettes members? I am constantly learning from them! It’s incredibly inspiring to have access to the thoughts and work of so many talented and accomplished women. Aside from learning from their expertise and research, I’ve learned how to come out of my shell and speak out, and how to support others as I grow. I love the Alphabettes blog so much.

What’s one brand that’s using type in an exciting way today? Perhaps “exciting” isn’t the right word, but I really like the custom type made for Chobani by Berton Hasebe, in collaboration with Christian Schwartz of Commercial Type. The rebrand has a strong story, and the typeface fits in it so well. It’s an example of quirky, odd-looking type that is actually well crafted, evocative of the nostalgic era the brand was going for, and so soft and yummy looking, which fits great with yogurt. Even though Chobani’s serif is nostalgic, it looked quite fresh when it came out. I think it sparked a trend too; I’ve been seeing 1970s-style, fat, rounded typefaces pop up on dark green from time to time.

Being confident about using type gives me more freedom in my design process, because I trust the type to do its job.”

What differences have you seen between the creative communities in Rio de Janeiro, London and New York City? Things have changed since I left Rio in 2007. Back then, Rio had great creative energy, but the design scene was somewhat amateurish. There were some people doing incredible work, but Rio doesn’t have a strong culture of design, and being a designer often meant having to explain what you do and why hiring a designer is not the same as hiring someone’s cousin who scored a copy of Photoshop. There were several cases of large companies and even the government launching rebrands, logos, medicine prescription guidelines and signage without the help of professional designers.

Having to defend the very existence of design as a profession was an issue I did not encounter in London. There, the culture of design was established. But in Rio, there was a stronger sense of a design community, where people gathered around the few events that happened. In my experience, in London, everything felt scattered. There was a plethora of events, but I did not personally find a design community until I started studying type and discovering places like the St Bride Library. New York, on the other hand, seems like the best of both worlds: a great design community with many events and learning opportunities. A special shout-out to the Type Directors Club, which made me feel at home since the first time I attended one of its events.

What’s one branding trend that you think is overrated? The whole geometric sans logo trend can make brands look pretty boring, especially in tech, where so many brands do it and nothing really stands out. I also have a pet peeve of “purposely bad” typography, from naive handwritten logos for fashion brands to underdesigned, brutalist websites. I don’t have a philosophical stance against “bad” type, but it’s so difficult to get it right, and it often feels like sloppy craftsmanship disguised as a style choice.

What’s the most exciting type trend you’re seeing today? I am curious to see how Variable Fonts opens up new avenues for experimentation in typography. I am excited about Arthur Reinders Folmer’s experiments in animation and illustration using variable fonts—following Arthur’s type foundry on Twitter is a joy! And a trend I really love is inverted-contrast typefaces, especially for text, such as Nina Stössinger’s Nordvest or Alejandro Lo Celso’s Atahualpa.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? That a career is not like school! When you’re looking for work, nobody is going to carefully lay out all the applications and go through them to make a careful selection; it’s not like a teacher grading papers. I wish I knew sooner that I needed to learn how to introduce myself to strangers, talk to people, appear confident, make and keep contacts, and put myself out there. This is something I started doing way too late, and I am now trying to catch up and learn all these skills that, in hindsight, I should have been honing from the start.

Luisa Baeta is a graphic designer with a background in type, now mostly working with branding. She was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, studied and worked in London for almost a decade, and now she lives happily in New York. She is always looking for opportunities to combine typography and branding and try new things that take her out of her comfort zone. She is also a member of Alphabettes, a showcase for work and research on lettering, typography and type design.

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