The designer Mint Tantisuwanna is this year’s recipient of 2023 Malee Scholarship. Established in 2019 by Sharp Type Co and named after its co-founder Chantra Malee, the award provides financial support to empower women of colour as they pursue a career in type design. Mint will receive a $6,000 grant and a six-week mentorship programme with the foundry.
Based in Bangkok, Kornkano ‘Mint’ Tantisuwanna is a type designer and lettering artist who has worked for the firm Cadson Demak, before starting her own freelance practice creating typefaces and custom lettering. She was chosen not only for her “incredible talent and passion”, as stated in a release, but her desire to make design more widely practised and accessible; she’s taught many young designers at a number of universities and hopes to start her own foundry one day. “Type design in Thailand is not considered a typical career path, but Mint wants to break this convention and raise awareness and promote a growing generation of type designers in her home country,” the release continues. “We don’t doubt she will make great strides in the field.”
Mint’s passion for type design began early in life. Before she had had any formal introduction to the medium, she was playing games related to words in primary school. “I remembered passing papers in class with a kind of game I invented. I’d pick a random word and write it down,” says Mint in an interview with Sharp Type. “I’d ask a friend nearby to write the exact same word, but with one rule — write it differently. We would pass back and forth until we ran out of ideas.” But when her friends at some point tired of the game, Mint found her obsession maintaining.
Later, Mint studied communication design at college, but struggled to find her niche. It was only when her friends pushed her towards typography. “Once I learned what type design was, I felt that I discovered a career that has to do with all my personality and likings combined,” she tells Sharp Type. Its not been an easy path, as Mint says that “growing up in a Thai, family-run tire shop, art and design is the furthest thing I could be doing”. But persistence and passion have kept her going. “I have always felt the pressure to prove myself to my family that I can manage to do what I love and make a living, like a typical Asian kid who isn’t a doctor or an engineer. Ever since I realised type design was probably my thing, I knew this isn’t going to be an easy journey.”
Three finalists have been announced as the scholarships runners-up. This includes Shaqa Bovand, designer and lettering artist from Iran who works for F37 foundry and whose calligraphic designs stating “Women, Life, Freedom” went viral and were adopted by supporters of the Mahsa Amini protests; Hyeyun Min who is a self-taught multidisciplinary designer, part of an AI-powered start up and MIT’s design community; and finally, María Laura Olcina, an Argentine designer whose work is dedicated to educational and social issues in her home country.
Kornkanok ‘Mint’ Tantisuwanna © Sharp Type, 2023
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.