Creative Characters Ep. 4: Tré Seals.
Our guest in episode four was Tré Seals, founder of the type studio Vocal Type. Seals describes Vocal as “a type foundry for creatives of color who feel that they don’t have a say in their industry … for the creative women who feel that they don’t have a say in their industry … for the creative that cares about telling the stories of the people we serve and not the false history of the industry we work in.” All of Vocal’s typefaces are named after prominent advocates of social justice, including Marsha P. Johnson, Bayard Rustin, and Carrie Chapman Catt.
“One of the reasons I started Vocal was to minimalize the use of stereotypical fonts,” Seals adds in the episode. “So for example, let’s say you see an article about a black person. Normally you would probably see a black weight font used to describe this black person. Or like how almost every East Asian restaurant has a similar brush script logo, harkening back to old East Asian painting. I would prefer a company to use one of my fonts instead of resorting back to those stereotypes because at least there’s some level of authenticity in that choice.”
Seals details his experience of having not one, but two brain tumors as a child, and how art emerged as a coping mechanism during that time. “I remember going to art therapy while I was in the hospital and how it relaxed me and made all the pain and fear and everything go away,” he explained. “Ever since then, drawing and writing, whether it’s type or illustration, just kind of helps me solve all my problems.”
He traces a direct line from that experience straight through to his present career, including his first attempt as an entrepreneur in middle school, graffitiing kids’ names on index cards for a few bucks. “I was supposed to be running the school store at the time” he joked. “Kids were coming to buy like hacky sacks and erasers, and I would say, ‘Hey, you want to want me to graffiti your name on an index card?’”
The vision for Vocal Type goes well beyond type design. Seals wants Vocal to become a resource for people fighting for equal representation in all facets of life, but especially the design and creative fields.
“I want the Vocal Type website to not only be a place where you can buy fonts, but … a one-stop resource” for diversity and inclusion education as well, he told us. “Either you can come to me for thoughts or questions on diversity and inclusion, or I can point you in the direction of people who are more experienced than I am and who have been in the industry longer,” such as the Creative Reaction Lab, Project Inkblot, Visible Alliance, and the Revision Path podcast, as well as designers and artists including Rich Tu, Juan Carlos Pagan, Wael Marcos and Jon Key, poly-mode, Jerome Harris, Lynne Yun, and Monotype’s own Juan Villanueva.