Get to know this young designer and her contemporary approach to type design
Marion Bisserier is a French designer, raised in Amsterdam and currently based in London. She recently graduated (with honors) with a BA in Graphic and Media Design from the London College of Communication. She is passionate about type and its potential to visually convey meaning beyond language. She also enjoys writing on typography and graphic design.
We talked to her to discover more about her successful type Good Girl, her work experience in important design studios, creative process and practical advice for anyone interested in type design.
Can you identify the moment where you were ready to become a freelance designer?
During my studies, I decided to take a year out where I was lucky enough to complete placements, including a six month internship at Pentagram in London and three months at Artworklove in Paris, before taking part in Fraser Muggeridge’s Typography Summer School. When I graduated from my course only last July, I was still curious to continue exploring different studios and keep learning from various design philosophies to figure out what kind of environment felt right for me to grow in.
For me being a freelancer at the moment is simply a way of being exposed to different ways of working rather than an end to be an independent designer or a solo artist per se. In fact, from my experiences at Artworklove, Pentagram and A Practice for Everyday, I’ve learned that I love working with people and being part of a team the most.
Being so close to the world of typography and developing a sensitivity around it… Has that helped you develop as a graphic designer?
Massively! I believe that the conversation between type and graphic design is mutually beneficial in fact. In my case, I found that my experience in letterpress acquired at LCC played a significant role in how I approach design as a whole.
Thinking of type as a loose square piece of metal whose place you need to physically work out in relation to other blocks on a press of a limited size, it really encourages you to consider every single detail and notice how each adjustment can alter your result. I realised that the creativity of a graphic designer doesn’t end at choosing a typeface, but on the contrary it starts when you are considering and questioning all the other parameters involved in type like leading, tracking or even redesigning a specific character– because why not?
In that way I think typography and type design truly opened the range of possibilities and control I have when designing an identity or a book for example. For these reasons I want to aim my practice towards this overlap and discover what other wonderful things this sort of marriage of type and graphics can bring.
Are there any recognizable traits in typography designed by women?
From my experience and from the typefaces I’ve used, I don’t believe there are any distinctive characteristics in the form nor in the technical sophistications. Perhaps the lack of female representation amongst our type design references may fool us into expecting that when a woman designs a typeface, it must express a certain femininity, whatever our definition of that might be.
I am lucky to have worked with creative directors who are all women and whose methodologies I found to be fundamentally different from one another. I am hoping that the more credit we give to women in type design, the less we will expect their designs to speak about their gender.
What kind of projects and/or initiatives would you recommend to a person who’d like to work in type design?
If you’re starting out and living in/near a city, a good idea is to research events where typographers or type designers might be showcasing their work or giving talks like TypeThursday or Typocircle for example. It’s a nice way to meet people in the industry, ask them questions and even share your work with them.
I know it may sound daunting to approach people at first but in my experience type enthusiasts are always happy to give feedback or direct you towards more references. Another thing I’d recommend is to get into the habit of collecting older type rather than just focusing on contemporary typefaces, whether that’s checking out an 19th century wood type specimens or simply paying attention to ghost signs when you’re walking in the streets. Their analogue nature usually holds a lot more beautiful imperfections that could give life to a new project.
What are your recommendations for designing successful typography… one with the reach and echoes of “Good Girl”?
First of all, think about the context where your typeface might live in and what you want it to achieve. You may want to design a body text typeface to set your favourite novel in, in which case a high-contrast and eccentric design might be too distracting or not render very well below 12-10pt.
In the case of Good Girl, the typeface was about protesting and being usable at a large scale, hence why it’s so black and condensed. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you run loads of tests of your typeface in the situation you are intending it for.
How can a young typographer avoid copying or relying heavily on other artists?
Yes, it can be hard to distance yourself a little from what other creatives are doing especially when you’re still trying to find your place as a young designer. The social media era we live in constantly invites us to look outward for inspiration, which is not necessarily a bad thing as this allowed me to connect and collaborate with brilliant people I otherwise would have never met, such as Femme Type for instance.
But sometimes I find that frequently checking out other designers’s work on Instagram brings me to compare myself to their success and cause me anxiety which will only work against my productivity and creativity. So I try to be kind to myself, stop scrolling Pinterest or Insta, and let my own concept naturally lead the work rather than being precious about imitating a specific visual trend or aesthetic.
What sort of inspiration do you seek when you start a new project?
My inspiration tends to come from a wide range of sources depending on the nature of the project, from novels to exhibitions to conversations, but is never predominantly graphic or even necessarily visual. I don’t really keep a moodboard of "cool" typefaces or closely analyse trending graphic designer’s work. I sometimes look at fashion or architecture to see how other designers in their own field have solved a problem I’m interested in and try to imagine how I would translate these solutions in my own graphic language.
In the case of Good Girl, the project was mainly driven by conversations I initiated with women in type to break my own misconceptions on the topic. I think not being shy or overprotective to share your initial ideas with a trusted creative network plays a big part in both multiplying your research points and having individuals who hold you accountable for your progress.
What software, devices or other specific tools do you use when designing type. Do you sketch by hand first?
In the initial stage I always sketch by hand as I find it much more immediate when it comes to quickly visualising an idea that is hard to describe verbally. In general I believe drawing is a good habit to develop as a designer because it encourages you to explore rather than obsess too early on about rendering a perfect circle. It’s also a great way to understand proportions and the natural flow of a curve.
Once I’m happy with my sketches, I move on to Glyphs to clean them up with my graphic tablet. The software is quite intuitive to use when you’re already familiar with vector-based Adobe softwares and the support forum online is excellent.
Who are your main influences?
I like the work of designers who are blurring the lines between different graphic disciplines and enjoy pushing the boundaries of type. A few designers who are doing that right now in my opinion are Wie Wouters, Hansje Van Halem and Benoît Bodhuin.
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