Following up on your suggestions, Alexis Taieb aka Tyrsa is our first guest in a series of type interviews on Typeverything, where you’re asking the questions. So let’s start! 

Tell us a little bit about yourself!

My name is Alexis Taieb, aka Tyrsa. I live in Paris, France. I studied at Gobelins, and became a graphic designer. After my art school, I started being interested in old typography and I learnt to draw letters like they used to do before we had computers.

Today, I try to mix both knowledges, the dynamism of graffiti and the rigour I learnt from classic typographers.

So you have a background in graffiti. How do you think it shaped you as a lettering artist?

I started graffiti 14 years ago, and I guess everything started there for me. I was drawing my own letters, destructuring them to make them as dynamic as I can. Sometimes I didn’t care about legibility.

Now it’s a different process. I try to be understood by everyone, and I really care about readability. But it’s almost the same approach, I mean I spend hours on letters, on drawing the perfect shape.

Graffiti made me understand so much about letters. Things you can’t understand only from old typography references.

Axel Bouaziz: Who was your first client and how did you get the job?

I had my first client, as a graffiti artist, when I was 16years old. It was a french bakery, and they asked me to paint their name on their store shutter. The funny thing is that they paid me with cookies. Everytime I passed ahead the bakery, I could take a cookie for free, it was great for me at this age, my friends was so jealous! ahah!

As a graphic designer, I guess my first client was friends who organized parties in Paris, so I made all the flyers for them.

Schmidt Ionuț: What tools do you use ?

I like to use a lot of different tools on my visuals, sometimes it’s pen, like the Sakura Micron, it’s really pleasant to use cause you have few different sizes, so you can do small details or big lines, sometimes I use pencils, even color pencils. I often use Sharpie when I have big surfaces to fill. And I like to experiment with watercolor sometimes too.

I guess it really depends on the visual I make, on the clients I have. Sometimes you’re lucky to have clients who trust you and encourage you to try any tools you want. And sometimes clients already know what they want you to do.

Diego Neves Rockenbach: Could you explain your creative process?

I always start with quick sketches. For me it’s the most important part. I take few A3 sheets and i try a lots of different letters, compositions, I write few ideas on it. I feel very free and inspired this way, much more with a small moleskine.

Then, I send this board to my client, and we agree on the direction he wants to take, choosing the one he likes the most, and then I make the final file.

If it’s a personal project without any client, I try to make something more spontaneous, and it allowed me to experiment different tools.

Angelo Mangano Did your educational background helped you a lot for your typographic skills or it’s more practice who allowed to do what you do today?

I didn’t study typography in art school. And I was really frustrated. But thanks to my graffiti background, that’s the thing who interested the most. So I bought some books to understand the basic rules, and then I started to study the work of legendary typographers for me.

So I think art school helped me for a lots of things but not for typography, I learnt that by my self.

Andrei Robu: What type of clients do you like best? Why?

For me the perfect client is the one that comes to you telling you that they love your approach, your work, and trusts you so much that he will let you do whatever you want without giving you almost any revisions.

A lots of clients looks like this at the beginning, but after you start working you realise that he’s starting to give ridiculous feedback just to feel he’s part of the process.

In a perfect world clients would have to really respect your work.

Andrei Robu: How much time do you spend on average on a hand drawn artwork? How many directions do you initially present the client?

It always really different, sometimes I feel so happy with a type I’ve done in 2 hours, and sometimes not satisfied with the one I made 3days to make.

But for me, the harder and longer process is the one for the sketches. I sometimes spend 2 days on sketches only. For example the type Fier Comme un Coq I made with color pencils, I had 3 different sketches: a quick one, a second one for the structure, and a last one perfectly finished. And then with my light tablet I can start working on the final visual, and this way, it’s easier to be clean, with perfect shapes.

I spent 2 days on sketches, and 2 days on realisation for this visual for example.

That’s why I hate when I have really short deadlines I guess! haha!

Diego Neves Rockenbach: What kind of advice would you give for who’s just starting in lettering?

Don’t be afraid to spend hours and hours on and only letters. That’s what I learnt with graffiti, you have to spend a lot of time on a letter to find the perfect shape, the perfect dynamic.

I also advice to be very curious and to look for everything that have been done on typography, even if it’s not part of our universe. Look for the classic typographers, guys like Herb Lubalin, Frutiger, Doyald Young… and also everything around you, street signs, store front, store identities, even architecture…

Just be curious!

That’s it! Thank you! Follow Tyrsa on Twitter or Facebook.

Let us know who would you like to interview next either on Twitter.