Type design students regularly labor for months over a font: they’ll present it, receive feedback, and then it’ll get tucked away and left to gather dust in a digital drawer. For German designer and recent Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences graduate Charlotte Rohde, this seems like a wasted opportunity.
“Amongst design students, it’s so dull to use Helvetica for the thousandth time, and most of us don’t even have the license,” she says. “I wanted to create a network for my fellow students at Düsseldorf, where we could reach out to other classmates for the fonts that we’ve all created. Typefaces are tools for other designers, so they should be used.”
Rohde set up Type Club as a platform to showcase work by her cohort, presenting various designs and interviews with up-and-coming people in the field. Most of the featured works are headline fonts—and not necessarily all perfectly kerned nor mastered. They’re gleefully rough around the edges, with an angsty, expressive energy about them.
Düsseldorf students can contact one another for fonts using the platform, and Type Club also sets out to promote its featured designs way beyond the institution’s walls. “Just the other day, a student at the University of Arts Berlin used one of my fonts for her poster design,” says Rohde. Four Type Club typefaces are also featured in this year’s Typodarium calendar from Slanted. Similar platforms created by university students, like ECAL typefaces and Typo Club from Bern’s University of the Arts, also set out to encourage the use of student fonts beyond a local network. What’s special about Rohde’s platform is her attention to ensuring an equal gender balance on the blog: among the young female interviewees online are Daria Petrova, Inga Plönnigs, Pauline Le Pape, and Isabel Seiffert.
“It cannot be said enough until the industry changes: there are loads of women making amazing typefaces, it’s just they’re not the ones we see at conferences or read about online,” says Rohde. “People see an Instagram account filled with expressive typefaces and a lot of black and white design, and they immediately assume I’m a man. They’re then surprised to learn that I’m a woman. Type is not an all-boys club, and so we have got to change the way it’s represented and talked about.”
Rohde’s own type design is expressive and sharp—“form follows feeling,” she says. Of particular interest is her flashy, vivid Serifbabe and whirling Calyces. Some of her fonts are infused with feminist thinking; others are intuitively formed and less conceptually anchored. “Design doesn’t necessarily have to have a feminist concept to do feminist actions,” says Rohde. “Whenever someone asks me for Calyces and they’re creating a feminist project, I give it out for free.”