Creative Conversations 03; Meet Jaamal Benjamin

NewsFeb 28, 2022
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Join us on our journey to unite elmwood talent and those we admire in one-to-one chats spanning everything and anything creative in our series, Creative Conversations.

Our NYC Senior Designer Elyanna Blaser-Gould sits down to chat all things typography-related with Designer and Artist Jaamal Benjamin.

Shifting lanes from Hip-Hop dance theatre, Jaamal’s interest in design lie mostly in crafting parallels between art, culture, mark-making, social change, movement, and music. Designer and founder at Studio Grand, Jaamal has recently completed the Extended Program for Type Design. As a Teaching Assistant at The Cooper Union in NYC, he has supported the type design education for design professionals and students.

What made you initially go into typography as opposed to any other design specificities?

As a boy, I had an affinity towards electronic devices and the printed word. Interest in the printed word began when I learned to read and write. The interest extended when I was introduced to the computer as a new form of reading and writing. My dad’s office had a computer and printer; with that I’d create and print all types of stuff like signs for family parties. Later, I found Hip-Hop culture and I gravitated towards streetwear, dance and grafitti. These interests eventually led me to study graphic design. In undergrad, I was somewhat fixed on the idea of understanding lettering and typography. That fixation still continues to this day.

Which type designers most inspire you?

There are many type designers that inspire me, especially those who took the time to share knowledge and become friends. However, I’ve had the recent opportunity to be a teaching assistant for several Type Design workshops at The Cooper Union in NYC. After a year of TA-ing, I found the experience of helping design students and professionals learn about Type Design to be extremely fulfilling. So, for me, I’m most inspired by those students, their work and their blossoming journey with Type Design.

Does dance serve as an influence in your typography work today?

In a sense, yes. Both dance and design are creative outlets of mine. And although I don’t dance professionally as much these days, both are creative expressions of music. I believe these creative expressions of dance and design share many of the same principles like rhythm, form and storytelling.

You’ve studied Type Design at Cooper Union’s Extended program – what was the most rewarding and challenging aspect in studying the medium which you’ve come across to date?

The Cooper Union’s Type Design Extended program was an incredibly intense yet equally rewarding experience. Although I’ve taken Type workshops prior to the Extended program, there was much more to learn. I wasn’t new to typography, but I was new to type design. It took me some time to grasp the language, the software and the design process. There were many rewarding aspects of the Extended program, the most rewarding has been the camaderie, relationships and friendships that were made during the program. Shout out to all my T@C Gadzooks 19/20 and 20/21 squad.

Being based in NYC, how does the city inspire you?

I love New York. With recent gentrification, there’s a juxtaposition which feels at times extremely heavy and tense. But despite all the changes and challenges of the pandemic, New Yorkers still find a way to keep it moving. Although it’s changed over the years, for me, it never gets old. There’s always something new and old to experience and explore. That constant pool of stimulation is definitely an inspiration for me.

Discover Jaamal’s Instagram’s here:

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