Rich Tu: Just My Type

It’s Typography & Lettering Month at the ADC and with the help of our friends at Monotypewe’re showcasing the many ADC Members who make their mark with letterforms. Whether they’re designing brand new digital fonts for the world to use, or creating free-flowing calligraphy to adorn a wall, these artists know that there is more to written words than just their meaning.

Next up is someone who’s been a part of the ADC community for quite some time; a Young Guns winner, jury member, et al. His name is Rich Tu and he’s flexin’ in Portland on the design team at Nike. While we miss him dearly in NYC, his work continues to make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. Rich Tu is one of those rare talents that makes me believe in art because he takes what he sees around him and turns it into something that has never existed on earth before. Peep some of his favorite work in the gallery below and read our Q&A to find out what his type is.

Rich Tu



How did a formal education help you? Can you tell us something you learned from those days that you still use in your work today?

I was trained formally as an illustrator, which is essentially to be trained as a storyteller. That means that in every facet of design that I partake in, I am constantly asking “Why?”. Decisions do not exist in a vacuum, and even when something is seemingly arbitrary, it is in reaction to something in my life. No matter what I do, I’m always taking you on a journey.

What are some words you use to describe your typography style?

Expressive, free, unpretentious.

Did you always want to be a typographer?

I have always viewed myself as a creator and storyteller primarily. My typography is a conduit for my storytelling, and helps me communicate a mood, feeling, time period, etc. As long as I need to express thoughts that are separate from my vocalization then I’ll be a typographer as well.

Briefly explain your creative process. How do you know when a thing is “finished”?

I usually hate everything I do for a couple of weeks after I’ve done it, so I trust deadlines to tell me I’m done, otherwise I’ll work something into the ground. Even for personal I work I impose deadlines to help increase my efficiency.

What is your favorite practical typeface?

Gotham. It’s cliché, but its great.

One you use for everyday? Why?

Futura, and if you know me it’s pretty obvious why.

What are some other typefaces or fonts you are loving right now?

Franklin Gothic because it feels like a good espresso. Typonine Stencil because it feels like that polo tee I’m waiting to take out of the closet. GT Sectra because its G.

Serif vs. Sans Serif: who wins?

Horatio Sanz for the win.

What are your must-have tools?

Illustrator and Photoshop for the most part. Although I do love a good marker pen.

For someone that doesn’t understand what you do, how would you explain it?

I create a story through letter forms. Sometimes I create from scratch and sometimes I curate. When you look at something I’ve done, I hope you feel a sense of history, and backstory. Either way, I hope you’re enjoying what you see.

What’s a question you get asked when you tell someone, “Oh, I do typography”…

“Oh you drew these letters? DAAAAAAAMN.”

Tell us about a favorite project to date and something exciting you are working on.

When I did the cover to NPR’s annual calendar I was really excited because I knew they had an exquisite level of taste. I worked on that project for weeks, after hours, painstakingly rendering a lot of 3 dimensional elements and trying to get it exactly right. I loved the results and had a piece that got distributed all over the country.

As far as current projects, I’m always excited at my current job. I love sneakers, and going to work is like going to church. I’m stoked.

What would be like a dream collab or client?

Jeffrey Deitch and The New Museum.

Fill in the blank: “When I’m not being a yung type god I am ________”

Slaying my Saturdays as Brunch Lord Assassin III.

What have been some of the challenges in making this a viable career?

Getting out of my own way. I spent a lot of time earlier in my career second guessing myself and my personal taste. I realized that at the end of the day, I have to be ok with myself and live my life in order to even enjoy the fruits of my labor. Once I stopped impeding my own creativity, then the ideas really came to life and I was even more productive.

Any advice for the type novice?

Get over yourself.

Who else’s lettering/typography work are you loving right now?

Juan Carlos Pagan, Ricardo Gonzalez, Faust, Jordan Metcalf and Raul Alejandro.

Given the nature of the Internet and everything being so accessible, and in the “digital democracy” we live in, have you ever felt ripped off or like someone emulated your style ? How did you deal with it?

I have felt like that and in the end I didn’t care, because life is too short to be upset about someone being influenced by your work. I’m not limited to one idea, or one aesthetic so maybe that person did me a favor. If it’s permeated a consciousness then maybe it’s time to move on.

What do you love most about doing what you do?

Making things that have never existed on earth before.