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Jason Tselentis: You Know the Type

Written by in Profiles

Book Review: Type, Form & Function (Rockport Publishers) {Note general disorder of Jason’s bedroom in this image. Make sense?}

{Contributed by Emily Potts}  Jason Tselentis is a type nerd— and I mean that affectionately. He’s passionate about typography: the ins and outs of kerning, letterspacing, sans and serifs. If the topic is dingbats, he’s your man. Jason just finished a must-have, comprehensive new book on typography in design, Type, Form & Function (Rockport Publishers). It embodies a love of type that can be traced back to his childhood.

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Jason says calligraphy was required by the Franciscan Sisters who ran his grade school. They learned from master calligraphers—they would not rest in peace until they had passed their cobbled passion onto the youths in their trust.

“While the nuns were teaching me calligraphy, my father brought home our first computer: a Timex Sinclair. Primitive machine by today’s standards, it lead to many others: a Commodore 64, Apple IIE, and then the Apple Macintosh. The Macintosh opened up to me a world of letterforms. With it, Aldus Freehand and Illustrator, I could not only select fonts, I could also draw them.”

A type nerd was born. And what is type if not the mortar of literature? The young type-o-phile became a bibliophile.

 

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While working on Type, Form & Function, Jason communicated with avid type designers around the world, including many he has admired for years: “It was a treat to interview Zuzana Licko and learn about the approach she takes when designing a typeface. And I met some designers, those who are not part recognized members of the so-called canon, who greatly advanced my knowledge of typography in application.”

Jason teaches design and typography at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C. where he encourages full immersion into the craft. “Much of the experimental work where they’re making a display face out of meat, bacteria, or even balloons possesses vigor and risk,” he says.  “You’ve got to ‘play’ with type. You’ve got to use it, work with it, treat it lovingly. You’ve got to layout massive amounts of text—be it on the printed page or on a website.”

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Only then do you develop a passion for it. Only then are you able to transition typography from a purely functional role into one that facilitates the art of communication. To that end, he is a nerd enabler:

“I tell students that it’s okay to be a type nerd. Love type.  Love words. Fondle them.  Massage them. By the time they graduate, I hope my students not only have a foundation in type design and application, but a hopeless obsessive-compulsive addiction to letterforms,” he says. “You need to be willing to name your first child Caslon. You need to have a dog named Stencil.”

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