KeepUpWithHER Juliette Cezzar

Juliette Cezzar's most recent book, published in October, 2017

Juliette Cezzar's most recent book, published in October, 2017

KH: Could you tell us a little about your journey into graphic design?

JC: I came from architecture, which has always been famously bad in terms of gender relations. When I was in architecture school, I felt pretty sure that unless I was married to another architect, it was going to be really difficult for me to have my own practice. And I just did not like that.

After school, I drifted slowly towards graphic design, and even when I was working at MoMA in 1999, I thought I was just taking a break from architecture. I was just going to do some graphic design work, and then go to architecture school again and get back on the horse.

It was around that time actually that I encountered Sharon Poggenpohl’s version of the AIGA Career Guide from 1993. When I read through that book, it showed me a field that seemed to value what women thought and what they did. And looking over the fence, it seemed to me like a place where I could be autonomous, and not be a pioneer. Whereas in architecture that definitely was not true.

So the book played a really big role in the fact that I did decide to go to graduate school in graphic design, and make the decision to switch careers into graphic design instead of architecture.


What attracts you to the format of the manual?

I can write a book, for example, about what's happening in publishing, which five people will read. Or I can write something that looks like a manual for doing it, get across the same idea, and get it across to a lot more people.

I've always loved the idea of the Trojan horse.I prefer to say “no, no, this is nothing; this is just how you fix your bookshelf.” In Moby Dick, Melville says over and over again that it’s just a book about whaling. But then it winds up explaining something much bigger than that through that medium.


What was a common thread between the people you interviewed?

So many of them were learners, and it’s really clear from everything that they said that they were always looking for new situations in which they didn’t know everything.

And there’s a huge difference between somebody who habitually walks into a place where they don’t know what’s going on, and a person who only follows a path where they know they’re going to be A+ all the way up.

Are there any perceptions about the graphic design industry that you’d like to correct?

It was not even on my radar in high school or early college because it just didn't seem like a particularly intellectually engaging thing to do. People have been told that graphic design is a thing that you do if you’re not good at math, that it’s not a smart field, that it’s easy, stuff like that. There are a lot of people who could be in this field and be really engaged by it and really love it who are probably doing things that are not as engaging, and not as confounding as design is.

If people could see that it was not the stereotypical picture of the young woman at the computer with the Pantone swatches in front of her with a Wacom tablet, with the man helpfully hovering over her shoulder, that would be awesome.


Do you hope your book will attract more women to the field?

We have no issue attracting women into the field. My thesis class is 100% female. There are plenty of women who think they should be designers to fulfill their creative destiny. There is no end to them, actually.

Rather than a question of who to bring into the field, what I hope is to send a message for people who are already in this field. I want them to know that they can design a place in it, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to abide by or follow anything. They just shouldn’t have to.

Graphic design is kind of similar to architecture in a way: we show one or two examples of women who won the game, but we don’t really acknowledge all the women who work in the field all the way through and value the work that they do in quite the same way as we do somebody who gives talks, and has profiles and monographs and awards.

We don’t separate enough being recognized from just being good. They’re two different skill-sets, those two things.


Any final reflections?

My feminism is all about freedom. I want to be free to do whatever I want to do. That’s it; I don’t really care about much else.


For more on Juliette's book, check out this piece by Eye on Design


KeepUpWithHER Nadine Chahine


Award-winning type designer, Dr. Nadine Chahine, shares her Eureka moments, unrelenting pull to type design, and creative process.

Dr. Nadine Chahine is the UK Type Director and Legibility Expert at Monotype, where she plays a key role in the design and development of new typefaces, in addition to research focused on various relationships between typefaces and legibility.


What is the first thing you designed that you were proud of?

Every project brings with it a sense of completion, and if done well, satisfaction. But there is a very special feeling reserved for the first time you are able to make the blurry images in your head crystalize into a working typeface. A typeface is a series of symbols that need to come together to make words. You can draw all the letters you want, but if they don’t click together, then the design is just not there yet. And in that instance of Eureka, there would still be a lot of refinement to do, but you know that the DNA is now complete. I remember the first time I had that feeling was when I was doing my MA at Reading, and that feeling hit me like a truck. The rush was so high that I remember afterwards laying on my bed staring into space, unable to go to sleep or to contain my happiness. It’s so potent, when you are able to get the images out of your head and into real life. Like meeting a long lost friend that you had never met. It was the first time I had ever felt that, and it’s the kind of high that keeps you addicted to design and the joys of losing yourself in the world of black and white.

Why is type design important for you, and when was the first time you realized this?

Type design is my compass. It’s what I love to do and it’s guided me to a life that I love to live. By now I can’t imagine not designing. I sometimes go through months where I am kept busy by other projects but it calls me back. Every time. I’m not sure when it became clear to me, but by my third year at the American University of Beirut (AUB) I was already set on having this as a career path.

Have you ever considered calling it quits? If so, what kept you going?

I would never stop designing typefaces. In those months when I don’t design, I start to change, to become restless, to fidget. And then I get back to design and I am alive again. It’s like giving water to a withering plant. I promise myself to remember that when I start losing my energy, that it means it’s time to design again but I always forget and I have rediscover it every time. Maybe I should tattoo it?

Who are your favorite designers, and where do you go for inspiration?

There is a special place in my heart for Hermann Zapf, Adrian Frutiger, Gerard Unger, and Jean-François Porchez. I’ve learned a lot from each. But the top spot is for my mentor Samir Sayegh. Outside my parents, he’s probably the most influential person in the whole of my life. He was my teacher at AUB and he’s the one who introduced me to Arabic typography. He’s a visionary and a guiding light for so many of us. As to inspiration, it’s always Beirut and how I wish it to be.

What is, in your opinion, the ultimate blunder in type design?

Probably not testing the typeface to make sure the design works in its intended function. The design is in the details, and a typeface needs to fulfill its purpose. It’s not about how good the letterforms look like on their own, but how they come together to make words.

When in the day are you most productive, and in what environment do you work best?

At night! I love designing when everyone is asleep and the best time is between 11pm and 3am. Unfortunately, one can’t really do that in an office environment so I don’t get to indulge in that often. But I do love to listen to loud music when I work. The ideal place is to design at home, and in pj’s!