Typography Spotlight: Mads Jakob Poulsen

ADC Young Gun 8 winner believe that "typography is a vessel"

Wow, can you believe it’s already Wednesday? We’re halfway through the first work week of the year! Of course, it also means we are halfway through the first week of Typography Month, our showcase of all things type and lettering presented in partnership with Monotype. 

Just like last year’s Photography Month and Illustration Month, we have a daily Typography Spotlight, highlighting ADC Members and Young Guns who love working with words and letters. Some of our featured artists are professional letterers and typographers, while others consider their work with words and letters to be just a component of a larger design focus. In all cases, these are card-carrying ADC Members, supporting our mission to elevate the craft.

The next Member in our Typography Spotlight is an acclaimed Danish-born designer and ADC Young Guns 8 winner who prefers his type to be minimal.


madsjakobpoulsen_portraitMADS JAKOB POULSEN

New York, NY, USA
347 403 6084


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?

My interest started very young, I remember doing arabic lettering in silver on a book report about Islam in something like 7th grade. I always spend more time on the covers of my reports than the content, or 50/50.

A couple years later I got into graffiti and this is really what tought me the techniques of drawing letterforms, negative space, shapes, legibility etc. This naturally led me to becoming a graphic designer.

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

I had some classes in typography but I never specialized in it. I would not call myself a typographer per se. Working with typography is still something I have done in almost every design project I have worked, more or less, so learning by doing. And learning from collaborators, some of the type work here has been done with the help from people like Todd Simmons, Mike Abbink and Bold Monday.

How would you best describe your style? 

My style is very minimal, I definitely tend to lean towards very simple sans serif typefaces, with just a bit of character.

Walk us through your usual type design process.

I will start on paper for sure, digitalizing is the hard part, a letter that looks perfect as an idea, a sketch, can be impossible to get right digitally.

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

People either love it or hate it, but I love Helvetica. I love it for the strength it can lend to a brand and for how much you focus on what the word/brand name actually says and not the typeface. That’s what people forget; typography is a vessel that brings you words, language and communication. Thats why a very uniform typeface like Helvetica is so versatile.

I’m also into other sans like Circular, Calibre and so on. Living in the USA have giving me a love for condensed typefaces too.

“It’s just like different voices gets you in a certain mood, and makes you listen to messages in different ways. It’s magic.”

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

Lowercase a. I can tell if I’ll like a typeface, and what typeface it is by looking at the a. It’s a pretty little fella, and complex to construct with all its detail.

Who wins in a fight: serif or sans serif?

Sans kills the serifs.

The obvious difference between an illustrator and a letter 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.

I think an illustrator more so creates decoration, a typographer creates a tool of communication, depending on their personal style of course.

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

I am beginning to appreciate product design more and more. Yo me it’s the same as graphic design, just with added dimension and tactility.

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

In general I think (great) graffiti artists have evolved typography so much more than they get credit for. Ranging from Danish graffiti artists like Kegr, to the elongated typography you see in Brazil.

In more commercial context, Danish E-types have created so many sweet typefaces over the years and (also Danish) Kontrapunkt are experts in making a truly unique brand typeface. Internationally, Commercial Type has made some of my favorite typefaces, like Druk and Graphik.

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

I absolutely love letterforms, and what typography can do. It’s just like different voices gets you in a certain mood, and makes you listen to messages in different ways. It’s magic.