Typography Spotlight: Juan Carlos Pagan

ADC Young Guns 11 winner learns best in an academic environment

We’ve come to the end of the third week of ADC and Monotype’s Typography Month! What’s been your favourite piece so far? Oooh, tough decision, huh? And there’s still a lot more to come!

Just like last year’s Photography Month and Illustration Month, ADC Typography Month features a daily Typography Spotlight, highlighting ADC Members and Young Guns who love working with words and letters. Some of the names are already famous within the design community, while others will be new for you to discover, but all of them are card-carrying ADC Members from around the world.

Closing out the week for the Typography Spotlight is an ADC Young Guns 11 winner who has been forging a name for himself as a designer in an advertising world who found typography along the way and hasn’t looked back.
JuancarlospaganJUAN CARLOS PAGAN
New York, NY, USA


Where did your interest in typography begin? It’s generally not something kids in kindergarten aspire to be. When did you discover that you could actually make a living out of it?

I became interested in typography during my sophomore year of College. I began digitizing typefaces I couldn’t afford in order to use them in my design classes. One of my professors caught wind of this and suggested that I learn how to digitally draft letterforms the correct way. So I took a class with the James Montalbano and I haven’t stopped drawing letters since.

How much of your ability is self-taught versus through schooling?

I tend to learn best in academic environments. So much of what I have learned has come from the amazing professors that I was fortunate enough to have during my education. I’ve certainly picked up a thing or two on my own, but the foundation was set through my studies.

How would you best describe your style? How did you foster that style? Do you tend to lean towards one type of lettering?

I wouldn’t say I have a style; in fact I actively avoid having one.

“…sometimes it’s tough convincing large clients that investing in good typography can actually add value to their brand.”

Walk us through your usual type design process.

I really don’t have much of a process. Sometimes I sketch first then jump on the computer. Other times it’s the other way around. If I’m being terribly honest I mostly toggle back and forth from hand sketching to digital until I feel like I’m in a good place.

What is your favorite ‘practical’ font, one for everyday use?

There are so many wonderful typefaces for so many good practical purposes. I know that sounds like a cop-out but it’s true.

Do you have a favorite letter of the alphabet when it comes to experimenting with design?

I really enjoy drawing a double-story ‘g’. It’s a tricky, and very demanding character to design. There’s so much information that has to be managed, and considered. But it is fun to draw, and truly rewarding when you get it right.

Who wins in a fight: serif or sans serif?

Bruce Lee.

The obvious difference between an illustrator and a letterer or typographer is that the latter works mainly with words and letters. Name a not-so-obvious difference between the artforms, one that certainly applies to you.

Typeface design specifically has a lot to do with systems thinking. The way one form sits next alongside a whole host of other forms defines whether it’s successful or not. I feel like this is a fundamental difference between the two disciplines.

What other artistic passions do you have? Where else do you find inspiration?

Inspiration comes from everywhere — books, conversations, movies, and paintings. Everything I see is in someway a source of inspiration.

Which professionals do you look up to the most in the typography/lettering world?

I’ve always admired the work of Craig Ward and Christian Schwartz.

What is the most challenging thing about your career?

I’m the Design Director at Deutsch New York, and sometimes it’s tough convincing large clients that investing in good typography can actually add value to their brand. One of my tactics is to actively avoid the topic altogether, in hopes that I can sneakily sell them on some wonderful type. Sometimes the topic is simply unavoidable.

At the end of the day, what do you love most about being a typographer or letterer?

I love the fact that most of the rules regarding typography have been defined for a very very long time. I truly love the fact that as a typographer I’m allowed to put my own little twist on something old, and carries with it one of humanity greatest achievements, written language. I find this both challenging and extremely humbling.