April 23, 2017

Pride, Work and Necessity of Side Projects: Amy Papaelias Co-Founded Alphabettes.org to Promote Women’s Work in Type Design, Typography and The Lettering Arts



What are you working on—on the side?

I help run Alphabettes.org, a network and blog that promotes the work of women in type design, typography and lettering. Alphabettes is very much a collective and collaborative effort. Members of the network run different initiatives such as developing ideas and articles for the blog, organizing events and activities at conferences, and organizing and maintaining the mentorship program. Our lack of structure can sometimes be chaotic, but it also allows for more flexibility and spontaneity. Despite being hardcore craftspeople and unabashed nerds, we also try not to take ourselves too seriously.

Other recent projects include co-editing (with Jessica Barness) “Critical Making: Design and the Digital Humanities”—a special issue of “Visible Language,” and I am currently on the organizing committee for the upcoming AIGA Design Educators conference “Converge: Disciplinarities and Digital Scholarship,” June 1–3, 2017, in Los Angeles.

How do you manage to work
on your side project(s)?

These projects happen in between teaching, family and everything else. I’m also a serial collaborator. I love working with really smart, kickass people. These days, I find it’s a lot more difficult for me to be productive when I’m the only author on a project. Collaboration, and the fear of letting down people I respect and admire, forces me to make time. Also, thanks to having had two kids on the tenure track, I’m pretty tolerant of existing in a constant state of sleep-deprived multi-tasking.

Why have a side project

In my talk at the Type Directors Club last year, I made the comment that I don’t have side projects, I have a research agenda. I see my work with Alphabettes as part of my scholarly interests at the intersections of culture, typography and technology. For design educators, the line between side projects, scholarship and practice are blurry. I thrive on the ambiguity and feel very fortunate to, whenever possible, bring this work into my teaching.

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Diptych courtesy of Amy Papaelias—Portrait by Tom Smith.

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Read more about the joy of side projects.


This series, devoted to side projects, is delivered in association with Chicago creative agency 50,000feet—dedicated to helping brands and businesses soar.


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