“My affinity for type design is definitely a fundamental element in my practice,” says Juliette Duhé, a French graphic designer based in Montreal. “I like to configure my own work constraints and develop type systems in every project.” Experimental and the product of in-depth research, the typefaces Juliette creates form the basis of her work across visual identities, web design and publishing in the fields of visual arts, music and cultural events.
While often the outcome for Juliette is 2D, her approach to typography is closer to that of a sculptor as she embraces the physical nature of type. “I’ve always been fascinated about the way graphic design can make ideas circulate between physical and digital objects,” she tells us. “During my master’s, I did a research into graphic design digital reviews, in which I highlighted the shift from printed matter to online publications, and the mutations that involves. This thesis brought inspiring creative perspectives that I still develop today in my type design practice.”
One such project that embodies these ideas is titled Reading Shapes, Writing Sculptures, in which Juliette created a typeface by introducing the material and physical properties of a sculptor’s working processes. “To frame this project, I worked from the American sculptor Richard Serra’s verb list, published in the journal Avalanche in 1971,” she outlines. “I selected the four actions words ‘to stretch’, ‘to pair’, ‘of tension’, and ‘to bounce’ from it, and I tried to exploit the potential of the material and physical properties of them to create a typeface.”
The result is full of energy and represents a fascinating and unique approach to creating letterforms. Rather than considering type design as “a drawing of the inside and outside lines of a character,” Juliette explains, she thought about each letter’s shape through sculptural codes. This brings a physicality to the forms and actualises Juliette’s perceptions of the shape of a letter. “[I] consider the character – not as a readable sign –but as an abstract form to find and experiment,” she adds. Importantly within the project, process is given equal weight to outcome, evidenced through the three posters Juliette produced. They highlight how she manipulated physical objects to create the letterforms and express how she traversed 3D to 2D.
This way of working is indicative of Juliette’s approach to design; she favours research and experiments with the very tools at her disposal. In fact, she reinvents them. “Working with my hands and being in contact with tangible objects is also an activity that I would like to develop further in my practice,” she adds, “but I find it difficult sometimes to introduce such experimental process for commissions.” One thing she does make sure to employ on commissioned projects, however, is research, embracing typography from the outset and therefore embedding the medium into everything she creates.
“I would like to dig further into the question of materiality in type design and develop a series of typefaces around it,” Juliette responds when asked what lies ahead for her. Further down the line, she aspires to start a type foundry where she could exhibit her creations as well as the typographic work of others, concluding: “I aim to defend environmental causes, inclusivity, and cultivate a diverse community of type supporters.”
Juliette Duhé: Volume (Copyright © Juliette Duhé, 2021)
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor.