June 6, 2021

Type Crit Crew Founder, Juan Villanueva, Harnesses the Appreciation, Education and Diversity of Typography

What are you working on—on the side?

In April of last year, I founded Type Crit Crew, which is a free resource for type design students to meet 1–1 with experienced type designers for virtual critiques. Our goals are:
  • To make type design and type designers more accessible and approachable to students of all levels from anywhere in the world who are serious about honing their skills
  • To do our part in making our field more inclusive and diverse
  • To spread our love and passion for type
This initiative started during the pandemic at a time when education was making a huge shift online. As someone who is deeply interested in education and aware of the obstacles that exist to get into the field of typeface design, I saw an opportunity to make education more accessible, to connect people and to make a positive contribution to my field. Type Crit Crew is a very simple idea, it’s basically a spreadsheet, and its power comes from the community. Its existence is a statement that the type design community wants to be more accessible, inclusive and supportive of up-and-coming talent from all over the world. This is something I wish I had access to while I was studying type. I’ve been able to connect with so many students from all over the world through Type Crit Crew. I’m really grateful to the students that use the platform to reach out and to the instructors that continue to volunteer their time.
Another side project is the Display Type BIPOC Fund which is a fund that offers scholarships for BIPOC students to attend my Display Type Design class at Type@Cooper. I started this fund when I began teaching at Type@Cooper, where I’m an alum. I’m very grateful for the experience and the education I received there. My teachers and mentors had a huge impact on the way I teach and work as a designer.
I started teaching type design in the summer of 2020, during a global pandemic and daily protests fighting for racial justice. I did it not only because I wanted to share my knowledge in type with others but also because I saw an opportunity to do things differently. As a BIPOC type designer teaching type, I want to see more type designers of color and change the landscape of the field by giving BIPOC designers a seat in my class. But that’s only part of it. Through my syllabus, I want to reframe what an education in type design can be by bringing in the human component of the practice and showing how the skills can be useful and empower people to express themselves. Shameless plug → Check out our class website at displaytypedesign.com
The last side project I started at the end of April of 2021 was Typefaces as Cultural Objects which is a collection of typefaces by Latin American Designers that honor and preserve Latin American culture and heritage. As a person from Latin America living in NYC, there is almost no Latin American representation in design education, and even less so in type design education. Through this side project, I want to make visible the work that Latin American designers have been doing in the area of type design, so that students today have more diverse references and designers to look up to and engage in conversation with. I’m starting with 11 projects and have a few more to add to the list and the goal is to make a resource that others can contribute to and use.
All of my side projects are part of and inspired by the larger group effort from the global community. Because of this I want to highlight initiatives like BIPOC Design History, Letrástica Communidad, Times New Woman, TypasType, TypeThursday (Bogota, Barcelona, Mexico, New York and others), the Alphabettes Mentorship Program, and my friend Lynne Yun’s own Type Design School BIPOC scholarship, to name a few.

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

Before I launch any project, I’m very conscious of the time-commitment these things might take and, in theory, I strategically plan for them to be not so high maintenance. In practice, I put in hours mainly on the weekends but sometimes during the week in the evenings as well.
Even though the team at Monotype, where I work full-time as a type designer, is remote and the hours are somewhat flexible, I try to have a clear division between my job and my personal side projects. This is really important, since apart from my side projects, I also teach and volunteer on the board of the Society of Scribes.

Why have a side project?

For me, it’s a way to give back to the creative community that I’m a part of. Ultimately, all of my projects are the types of initiatives I would’ve liked to see when I was a student, or the types of things I want to see happening now. They’re about highlighting other creatives, uplifting designers, opening doors and hopefully creating a more inclusive, collaborative future. I’m an introvert, but I know that making oneself visible and being vocal can help others feel seen and perhaps inspire them to follow their own paths.

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Diptych courtesy of Juan Villanueva.

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