Beatrice Warde Scholarship awarded to Tasnima Tanzim for her thought-provoking work

The Beatrice Warde Scholarship rewards young women embarking into the design world. This prestigious scholarship honors and celebrates the ‘the first lady of typography’ Beatrice Warde – a champion of type education throughout her career with Monotype and the first female member of the Type Directors Club.

The Beatrice Warde Scholarship, co-sponsored by Monotype and the TDC, is based solely on merit and is awarded to one female student whose work demonstrates exceptional talent, sophistication and skill in the use of modern typography.

This year, a winning applicant was selected by the all-female Beatrice Warde Scholarship Committee, consisting of the TDC Scholarship Chair Gail Anderson (School of Visual Arts) and TDC Executive Director, Carol Wahler; Nadine Chahine and Gwen Steele (Monotype); Shelley Gruendler (Type Camp International), and Fiona Ross, (University of Reading).

We are proud to present this year’s scholarship to Tasnima Tanzim from the Rhode Island School of Design in New York, USA. We caught up with Tasnima to ask her about her design ambitions, inspirations and to learn more about her fascinating work.

Please tell us a little about yourself and your work?

Hello! I’m Tasnima, I’m a 20 year old New York based designer born in a small town called Jhenidah in Bangladesh. I’m currently a 4th year Graphic Design student at the Rhode Island School of Design. I am also working toward a concentration in Nature Culture and Sustainability studies alongside my main focus. Art & Design has been part of my life since before I could formulate opinions, so I wasn’t too surprised when I picked it up. I define design very broadly, which allows me to explore many forms and functions.

How did you first get into design?

I moved to the United States when I was 10, so not knowing how to communicate properly really got me thinking about communication at a very early age. I used to sit in my 5th grade classroom and copy text, even if I couldn’t understand, and then draw next to them based on things I did understand. Basically, I designed and systematized my notes without even knowing what I was doing, but my teacher picked up on it. She suggested I could be an artist and I liked that idea. I continued art classes through middle school and would pick at my art teacher’s brain as much as I could. She suggested I look into specialized art high schools and I ended up at the High School of Art & Design in midtown Manhattan. I began an illustration major, but soon realized I had way more in common with the work the graphic design department was doing so I marched on over and declared myself a graphic designer. I think I’ve always had it in me, but it took a while to figure out that I was actually good at this and enjoyed it wholeheartedly. 

Your work is incredibly varied from graphics, print and typography, to installations, photography and even product design. How would you describe yourself as a designer?

I used to call myself a graphic designer, but as I get older and begin exploring my interests more, I find myself mixing design disciplines. I was terrified of it at first because not fitting under a description can literally cost me my career but I learned to embrace it. Trying to fit myself under one specific description made me frustrated and restricted me a lot as a designer, so I began call myself a multidisciplinary designer because it’s more open and willing to change.

I wouldn’t say I have a particular style, but I do embrace the temporal boundaries of design. I think as time progresses so should design. Design is a part of culture so as culture evolves so will my design. A design I might have worked on last year, might not be the best solution this year and I’m accepting of that and willing to work with it.

Can you give us an insight into your creative process?

Every project has it’s own process but I usually start with the research, sometimes I can take too long with it, but I try very hard to understand the project and what its asking me to do. After that I either get a rush of inspiration and ideas and I’m writing and drawing things for hours or a total blank page and then comes the collaboration.

I work way better with others around me so I will run concepts and ideas by other designers, my user, or whoever is around and then it evolves from there.

In your work you explore the continued need for print publications when content is already available online. Why do you think this is still important?

It’s so cliched to say there is something just so special about print, but there is!!! There is a tactile quality to print that I don’t think I can ever find on the screen. When I get pdfs of readings from professors I always print it so I can make my marks on it and own it. There is ownership in print.

I also love that no matter how hard I try to make sure the grid matches perfectly, and the text aligns on every page, at the end of the day when humans interact with it, it’ll change and tell another additional story. I love flipping through the page numbers on a thick book to see if they’re aligned because they never are! There is a beauty to that human and machine error, or originality that I don’t think should ever be eliminated. 

What do you hope to bring to the world of design or the industry? Is there an aesthetic you feel is totally your own?

I question the world of design and industry a lot, especially with the current political climate in the United States and around the world. I’m still trying to figure out my role within design and what I can bring to the table, but I definitely want to try and broaden the definition of a designer and their influence.

My thesis is also based around this concept. I have been taught western design all my life; it’s the only thing I’m truly familiar with. I respect it a lot don’t get me wrong! But I am beginning to question it. My thesis, which is an investigation into the role of Graphic Design in the Bangladeshi immigrant community living in Jackson Heights, New York, is going to be the beginning of the questionings. I’m hoping to introduce these new rules, and “other” aesthetics of design to my immediate community, to encourage them to break out and investigate their own cultures, communities. There is so much out there! But I think I might adopt this new aesthetic into my work but I’m sure that’ll change as time passes.

We love your Important Notebook project. Can you tell us a little more about this and the creative process behind it?

It all started from Abbas Kiarostami’s film "Where is my Friend’s House" which follows the journey of an 8 year old boy. It’s not a complicated narrative, and it doesn’t try to be. The boy in this film, must first find, and then return his friend’s notebook, which he took by accident, otherwise his friend will be punished by expulsion from school. The idea of following a friend’s story really inspired me so I started asking my friends to assign me an investigation of their lives. Friends were asking me to find out things ranging from how they came out to their parents, to the names of their dogs. I was given a few clues to begin my journey and I gave myself the restriction of an hour for each person. I know! I know! Very weird, and experimental but I guess I found this to be a good way to know my friends.

So the point of this assignment wasn’t to find the answer but to go on a journey with a clear intention. The end result mattered little, and the journey became the narrative. I had a lot of trouble figuring out what form I wanted the narrative to take, but print seemed practical. A lot of the research into their lives was done through the web, and anyone could easily go on their own journey and try to figure out the answer to the questions my friends asked me. So I recorded my process as a single narrative and printed them. Each person was assigned a colour in the book but the pages were shuffled to shuffle the narrative, so each reader could go on their own personal journey with a single person. That singular journey became forever changing, and forced the reader focus on their process rather than the result. 

Who or what inspires you?

Just ordinary people around me inspire me the most I think. I could sit for hours and just listen while someone tells me their story. When you really listen to someone, you can feel a connection, whether or not you can relate, understand or agree with them is irrelevant. It brings me so much joy when someone feels heard and respected. Listening to people’s stories, observing their expressions, and finding out who they are inspires me the most.

What is your favorite or proudest piece of work created to date?

I would like to believe I haven’t made my favourite or proudest piece yet. But since you say to date, I’ll admit, I’m pretty proud of this podcast I’ve been working on called We Talk A Lot. It’s not perfect in any way yet, the branding still needs a lot of work, the sound editing needs work, but I put a couple of episodes up on my website, and received a lot of positive feedback, and criticism from listeners. I could work on it for hours on end and keep improving on it and that’s why I’ve really been enjoying the process of working on it, and feel pretty positive about sharing it.

If you could work on any project large or small, what would it be?

It’s been my dream project for years now, but I would really love to work on establishing a studio. It’s a huge step, but I think I could start it in a digital space. Once I give it a title and write my intentions down, I’m sure I can keep it going. My dream is to make this a more open and fluid environment where designers aren’t defined by their degrees, and it’s all based on collaboration and mutual effort. The designers working in this studio will also have to agree to teach or lead free local community workshops, this way our doors are always open to our neighbours, and we become a part of the community. The ideas are still all on paper, but over the years the purpose of this imaginary studio has become more grounded and detailed, so I’m going to work keep at it and hope for the best!

Learn about women in the type world

In her article, New Wardens, Amy Papaelias explores the legacy of Beatrice Warde. She speaks to four leading female designers and educators to see how they are taking on the role of contemporary champions of type.