What’s It Really Like to Do a Type Design Internship?

We asked Jonathan Bruun (DK) all about their experience as a type design intern at AllCaps.

Jonathan Bruun introduces us to AllCaps (@allcapstype), a design studio focused on publishing typefaces, through his perspective and experiences as an intern. Jonathan has been working for four months between AllCaps’s studios in Berlin and Lausanne, mainly focusing on the design and development of their upcoming typefaces. In this interview, he reflects on his experience of doing a type design internship so far.

What's it really like to do a type design internship? an interview with AllCaps's intern. Image: Logistik sketches
Logistik sketches

ZLM: Welcome, Jonathan. First, I’m curious to know, what has your experience of AllCaps’s collaborative practice been like?

JB: From getting the team together for an archive visit, discussing concepts and ideas, to collectively proofing and making corrections, I feel like AllCaps is centred around a collaborative approach that is very much present in almost every step of developing a typeface. This also goes beyond just the internal team of AllCaps and in general, a lot of different people and collaborators are involved to ensure an efficient process and a well-made and reliable typeface. Asking for input and testing a typeface in different environments is a way of verifying if a project makes sense from a broader perspective and not only within the studio.

With AllCaps members being located in different cities in Europe, the collaborative nature is of course different from your typical graphic design studio and the day-to-day is also driven by a lot of independent work. Personally, not sitting in a big office surrounded by a dozen senior designers has given me the opportunity to take more responsibility and develop a self-reliant workflow, which has been a really healthy challenge. 

What's it really like to do a type design internship? an interview with AllCaps's intern. Image: Logistik (originally Transfer) in Actual Source’s Shoplifters 10
Logistik (originally Transfer) in Actual Source’s Shoplifters 10

ZLM: What defines AllCaps as a studio? Do you feel there is a specific voice or style per se?

JB: Without being limited to one specific style I would argue that each typeface shares a similar connection to historical research while also being attentive to the current climate of graphic design. At AllCaps, a lot of thought and research is put into evaluating whether a typeface is contributing something new to the already overflowing selections of typefaces. Trying to develop a relevant concept for each project is a way of shaping sketches into a unique and well-rounded product. 

Reflecting on my own practice and trying to answer the question from the perspective of a more inexperienced designer — being too analytical can also decrease motivation. If you just started getting into type, I think the most profitable approach is to be curious and explorative and not become captivated by the thought of instantly developing a specific voice or purpose. 

What's it really like to do a type design internship? an interview with AllCaps's intern. Image: Reference spotted in the streets of Zürich (pic by Malte)
Reference spotted in the streets of Zürich (pic by Malte)

ZLM: How have you navigated approaching discussions and feedback throughout creative projects in a positive way?

JB: During my time at AllCaps, I have experienced how feedback can be integrated as a natural part of the process and that continuously exchanging between creating and evaluating is a very effective way of achieving progress: Discussion or disagreement isn’t necessarily a setback but can instead turn out to be an important step on the way to a better solution.

Working with graphic design, I think it’s natural to become overly invested in your projects. I often find myself forming some kind of personal relationship with the stuff I’m working on—especially typefaces—and sometimes critique and too many changes to a project can become discouraging. However, I think it’s important to acknowledge that feedback and critique isn’t disapproval of personal style or skill set but first of all, should be seen as a method for improvement. Especially for younger designers like myself, I would highly encourage them not to shy away from conversations and feedback but instead actively seek out an extra pair of experienced eyes.

What's it really like to do a type design internship? an interview with AllCaps's intern. Image: Logistik Open Bold
Logistik Open Bold

ZLM: What have been your favourite projects during the internship?

JB: Looking back at the last 4 months, I would definitely highlight working on an upcoming AllCaps release designed by Malte Bentzen (still in progress). Having been working primarily on small-scale stuff and self-initiated typefaces in the past, this project really provided me with a lot of important knowledge about what goes into developing a larger typeface family. There’s something really rewarding about watching a basic character set turn into different weights and styles and in the end, become an (almost) finished product. 

With this particular typeface being rooted in the era of photosetting, the project was also like a quick history lesson: Having the opportunity for me to go back in time, analyse different sources and try to explore which characteristics and details from past material would pass the test of time. From my experience, developing this typeface was really all about finding a relevant connection between past and present. 

What's it really like to do a type design internship? an interview with AllCaps's intern. Image: Malte Bentzen’s office in Lausanne
Malte Bentzen’s office in Lausanne

ZLM: What is your method of development for new fonts, and has this changed over the course of the internship?

JB: When I first started working with type, I quickly had to make the realisation that not every thought or idea is going to work out on paper and that you have to keep an explorative mindset and constantly test out stuff before something eventually will stand out. 

With that being said, I also think it’s crucial to be patient and don’t throw away sketches and ideas too quickly. During this internship, I have learned that developing a typeface takes a lot of time and care and that a project occasionally will need a healthy break before showing its full potential. 

In the end, I guess designing a typeface is all about finding a balance between intensive work and slow and steady development? Something I’m still trying to figure out. 

What's it really like to do a type design internship? an interview with AllCaps's intern. Image: Spread from Jonathan’s internship report
Spread from Jonathan’s internship report

ZLM: Lastly, what should we look out for from you in the future?

JB: Going back to Copenhagen in a couple of weeks, I will definitely try to bring the experiences and insights of the last 4 months with me and hopefully turn them into new initiatives and projects back home. Also really looking forward to the hopefully near-future release of the typeface I have been working on with Malte Bentzen.

From AllCaps in general, I know there are a couple of exciting typefaces in the melting pot getting closer and closer to release. Look out for that!

ZLM: Thank you, Jonathan and AllCaps!