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Q&A with Alice Savoie

French type designer and researcher

I am Alice Savoie, a French type designer currently based in Frankfurt, Germany. I design custom typefaces for branding and editorial projects, and I collaborate with various type foundries over the development of new retail typefaces. I also recently completed a PhD on type history at the University of Reading (UK), and I teach type design at postgraduate level in Amiens and Nancy, France.

Royal Docks by Alice Savoie
Bogartes by Alice Savoie

How did you get started in typeface design? What is a turning point in your professional career?

My interest in type design rose progressively during my graphic design studies in Paris. I was lucky enough to be taught by some great teachers who were really passionate about type and shared their enthusiasm with us. As I started getting more seriously interested in type in the early 2000s, I attended a course in Paris at the ?cole Estienne, where I was taught calligraphy and where we started drawing our first typefaces, initially by hand and later in FontLab. After this undergraduate course, there wasn't really any further option in France to pursue an education in typeface design at the time, which is why I moved to the UK in 2006 to attend the MA Type Design at the University of Reading. It was a very intense year and after taking that step, there was no going back. A few months after graduating from my MA I received a job offer from Monotype in London and started working there full-time as a type designer. At the end of 2010 I decided to set up my own studio so that I could pursue my ambition to do a PhD and combine design work with research.

What is your ideal work environment? Do you prefer to work in your design studio all day long or prefer to mix a few activities?

I really enjoy the flexibility and freedom of running my own studio and of being able to alternate between design, research and teaching. I usually dedicate one week a month to teaching, and spend the rest of my time working from my studio in Frankfurt's Banhofsviertel area. I also travel regularly for workshops and conferences, or to undertake archival research, so have learned to work in trains and hotel rooms. I always make sure to regularly spend a few solid days in the studio, which is where I get most of my design work done, however I find that other activities such as teaching and attending conferences are very stimulating for my working process. They also help me structure my time, and so in that sense they are essential to my working process.

The Brill by Alice Savoie
Ysobel Display by Alice Savoie

Where does your work inspiration come from? (Do you believe in 'inspiration' at all)?

I do believe that we get influenced by our environment and that we can draw inspiration from it: the place we live in, the people we meet, the things we read… I personally draw inspiration from my surroundings – when I travel to new places, or when I walk down the street I will tend to notice interesting or unusual letterforms. My eyes always get drawn to type. It is a kind of bug that many type designers have I believe! Unsurprisingly, I am also very interested in history and will take any opportunity to visit collections and archives related to graphic design and typographic history. Old ephemera collections and type speciments are a goldmine, and these places are always immensely inspirational.

Where are your favourite places in your city or outside?

I tend to travel quite a lot because of my work, and luckily I've always really enjoyed train rides. I find that they often provide a good opportunity to relax, read or simply watch the landscape passing by, but I can also get quite a lot of work done during a train ride. There are not many distractions so I can focus. When in Frankfurt, I love to take a bike ride around the city, or simply go for a walk around one of the two parks close to my house. I also regularly try to visit the French city of Lyon, which is beautiful and always holds really good exhibitions and festivals. It is also the home of a great Printing Museum, which I always make sure to visit when I am in the area.

Who are the typeface designers you admire most?

It is alway hard to pick, but I really admire the work of W.A. Dwiggins and Roger Excoffon. Among contemporary designers, I love many of the typefaces designed by Cyrus Highsmith, Franti?ek Storm (Storm Type), and Alejandro Lo Celso (Pampa Type). I just admire the way they have managed to develop their own personal style, and yet manage to create some really versatile typefaces.