Kyle Read: The Creative Type

You’ve had nightmares about him: the twenty-something creative professional just waiting to overtake you. He’s younger, faster, hungrier, more tech-savvy, has fresher ideas—and you have to move at double speed just to keep up with his seemingly endless font of imagination and energy.

Kyle Read is that guy. But talking to him is like a nice dream: truly enjoyable, thought-provoking, and creatively inspiring. This graphic and typography designer is the definition of up-and-coming, with active projects ranging from brand direction to digital lettering, a pure talent for sketching, and a New York City design career that’s about to explode. Originally from New Jersey, Kyle got involved with ADC this summer when he hand lettered certificates for the winners of the 92nd Annual Awards, along with member Jen Mussari. ADC talked with him about the future of typography, the importance of collaboration, and his penchant for working with food.

ADC: How did your involvement with the ADC come about? How has your membership benefited you as an artist?

Kyle: I’ve known about ADC since I was in college, at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and watching all the news coming out of ADC in New York was really fun, especially since I was down in Georgia. The lettering job actually happened on Twitter, which was a crazy experience! They put out a call saying “are there any hand letterers out there?” and I guess I was one of the first twenty-five to apply. I wasn’t a member, but I definitely wished I were. But I was in Ohio, so being a member of the ADC would have been cool, but I wouldn’t have been able to go to any events!

Now that I’m a member and working in New York City, it’s constantly something I can refer to for inspiration in terms of the events they have going on. I like being able to be a part of a club that has stuff to go to and to do—it’s easy to be a member of a club and then not do anything, but ADC does a good job of getting you out and networking. I also love the library, where they have every single ADC annual since the beginning. It’s incredible, and the ability to just go there and look up anything I want is pretty special.

ADC: Your website, kylrd.com, went live just in time for this interview! It showcases both your analog work, like your sketches, and digital work like your website designs—the beautifully constructed website is itself an artwork. How do you negotiate the analog and digital pulls of your talents?

Kyle: It’s definitely a constant battle of trying to get away from the computer, because I am on it constantly. But I like client work for that reason: it gets me away from the computer initially, since my process is all analog from the very beginning. I like to draw and sketch and really ideate away from a computer. I go to a coffee house, relax for a little bit, and use the computer just as a tool. It’s good to do research, and Pinterest pinboarding and all that stuff is good and fun, but ultimately, for work, I love starting in analog and being able to draw. Hand-drawn type is always a starting point for me.

ADC: Tell us about theType@Cooper Extended Type Design Program, from which you just graduated.

Kyle: When I was in college I had an affinity for type but I didn’t really know what to do with it. After I’d been working for a couple years outside of school, I realized that typography was constantly the thing I was referring to in order to start my work. So I became really interested in type design specifically. At Type@Cooper, I realized that type design is really a core discipline that I want to be in and it was great because there were all these different designers from all over the city there along with you, learning as much as they could. I have a certificate in type design now and it feels pretty good!

ADC: You were the recipient of the Society of Typographic Aficionados Catalyst Award at this year’s TypeCon in Portland. How do you envision the future of this particular niche of the creative industry?

Kyle: The type design world is going through a bit of upheaval right now, especially with the web design advances that go on almost every month. It’s constantly evolving, very quickly, and a lot of people are trying to jockey for space and figure out how to market themselves in this new landscape. The Ampersand conference coming up next month here in New York, for instance, is all about web typography. So the future of type design is definitely going to be based on how well type designers can adapt to the changing medium. Everybody has had to do it, from Guttenberg to modern newspapers—and type has always been resilient. We’re entering the next phase of asking, “how is type going to support all of the designers out there that need good design and good type?”

ADC: You’re also currently the VP of Branding for Flagpole Swim. What are the daily tasks and challenges involved in the brand direction for such a new company?

Kyle: Constant communication with my two partners, the fashion director Jaime and the business director Megan—sticking to a calendar and making sure that we are growing the brand piece by piece. If there’s collateral that we need, we stick to that schedule, but crafting a brand image is the main task. And developing your voice: how does your brand not only stand out, but also identify itself beyond just a logo? We’ve shown at a couple of trade shows this summer, so we’ve gotten to build the brand and then show it off a bit, which is exciting. You will be able to purchase swimwear at the beginning of 2014 and we are also talking to a variety of retail outlets from Barneys New York to great little boutiques around the city. We collaborate on business matters and on what we think our stance is PR-wise. And I’m in charge of everything visual and brand-building: the website, all of the collateral, emails. Twenty years ago it used to be that a brand was a logo and stationary. Now, a brand is much more involved than that.

ADC: What inspires you to create? What is your fundamental motivation?

Kyle: What gets me out of bed in the morning is the fact that there are so many incredibly talented people out there who are up before me! There is such a huge and amazing community of people, especially here in New York City, that I know if I want to be a part of it, I have to be competitive and driven enough to be there, but also to act as a community member amongst all these people. I’m constantly trying to be social, and to keep making those connections.

I’m inspired when I see other letterers and designers doing fearless work. That inspires me to say “Ok, I really can do whatever I want.” That’s something that a lot of people are scared to do: to say “no rules, let’s not edit right away and just go for it!” It’s a pretty brave thing to do and I admire people who do it well.

ADC: Food and cooking are recurring sources in your work, such as your 3D typeface installations. How does your passion for food affect your work?

Kyle: I think it started when I was in high school. I would always go on long road trips and we’d always have pretzels in the car. I realized that I could spell every single letter of the alphabet with a pretzel; I could just make it. Finding alphabets in weird ways like that became an entertaining hobby for me. I love to cook and bake—I’m definitely a dessert guy and a huge chocoholic. So anytime I can get away from a computer and do something with food, baking, cooking, and type—that’s relaxation for me.

I have a lot more type projects coming down the pipeline that involve food. There’s another really great artist that I’m starting to collaborate with named Danielle Evans, from Columbus, Ohio. She does the Tumblr Food Type and she’s done stuff for Target. We’re both just obsessed with making type out of food, so we’re starting there, bouncing ideas off one another. Challenging yourself to put an alphabet into media or materials is just a really fun challenge.

ADC: You were recently in Japan. It’s a common trope that artists experience aesthetic awakenings that change the course of their work after visiting the country, from impressionist painters to contemporary fashion designers. Can you relate?

Kyle: I had definitely heard that, too—that artists always come back from Japan with this creative refreshment. And I have to say that it’s kind of true! Culturally, Japan has this eye for simplicity and efficiency and a kind of scaling things down. I think that in America, it’s really easy to get into the excess and the extremity of anything, from projects to just…basic life. So Japan definitely helped me see that personally in my life, as well as design-wise. I’m interested in seeing just how stripped-down, simple, and to the core you can get with projects now. It was a creative reset of the compass for me. I actually lived in Japan for about 4 years when I was a really small kid. So I started my life there. This trip wasn’t so much an inspiration-finding trip as it was an attempt to get out of New York, the craziness, and client work for a while. I was there for a month, bouncing around different locations in Japan, so it was definitely a long enough time to be used to and to get into the culture. I did have a couple of meetings with type designers there and got to really see some of the Japanese type design world. They were all so nice, and incredibly welcoming, and they love giving you things!

ADC: Do you have any pet projects you’re working on?

Kyle: My Moleskines have become my new best friend, like a story of where I’ve been in the last five years. I fill about four to six every year and it’s just a way for me to be uninhibited with the page—where I can just draw letters and no one is going to judge it. That sketchbook process is crucial to not only how I work, but I think everybody needs some kind of outlet like that. I never thought of them as something I would even show to people when I started; it was just for me. But over the last few years, I’ve been posting them and getting great responses from people, so I would love to eventually have a gallery show. Something where the Moleskines are just up on the wall, maybe five, six, or seven years’ worth of sketches. It’s kind of a cool collection just to have, so I don’t know, but hopefully we’ll see what we can do with them later. I’m just going to keep chugging away for now!

ADC: That sounds like a gallery show we wouldn’t even need the free liquor to enjoy! Now we’d like to get your answers on some more personal questions. Think of this as Inside the Actor’s Studio but for designers.

Kyle: I’ve always wanted to be on Inside the Actor’s Studio!

ADC: First and most important question: serif or sans serif?

Kyle: Great question! I used to be sans serif, now I’m all about serif.

ADC: What is your favorite letter of the alphabet? And your favorite number?

Kyle: That is such a tough question. My favorite letter of the alphabet has to be an upper case R. I just think it’s really beautiful proportionally and it offers a lot of potential for flare and expression. Favorite number….I will publically say 3 but secretly say 9. 3 is just fun, and pretty easy, but 9—I have the hardest time drawing 6s and 9s. But when done right, 9 is gorgeous. I have done this—I’ll just go to the H&FJ website and I just look at their numbers collections and type 9 and look at all their 9s. It’s pretty nerdy.
ADC: What would be your dream profession if you weren’t a designer?

Kyle: I would love to have been a fighter pilot. When I was a kid I really wanted to be a fighter pilot. But I’m too tall—can’t fit in the plane—and I have glasses, so that’s over. Otherwise, I would love to be a pastry chef. I think that would be really fun.

ADC: And you could still do your 3D food typeface!

Kyle: Yes! I would probably still have the same hobbies, haha.

ADC: Well, we are selfishly thankful for your vision problems then. You’re too good a designer to have been a fighter pilot. What’s next on the horizon for you?

Kyle: Constant collaboration with people! That’s why ADC is great, because they are cultivating a community and that’s so important. I’m always looking for new projects to do with talented people. I have lots of designer friends here in the city and there are so many projects that I want to do. I’m constantly looking for new ways for lettering to be expressed in the design world. My mission statement for the next couple years is: do more lettering! Always do more.

If you want to help Kyle accomplish his mission, contact @kyleread. Check out his Instagram to behold his eye for everyday beauty and the design highlights from his trip to Japan. Follow his blog Reason to Read for a glimpse into the vast catalog of material currently inspiring him. And be sure to look out for Kyle at upcoming ADC events!

If you’re a member and want to share your story, upcoming event, or a new project, contact membernews@adcglobal.orgfor more information!