Lucille Tenazas — Insistent Typographer
Thursday, April 26, 2012 from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM (EDT)
Lucille Tenazas discovered her interest in lettering after being selected as the class calligrapher in her elementary school in Manila. Second to the colored pencils she hoarded, her favored writing tool was her trusty Speedball pen with various nibs for practicing the flourishes of her particular brand of script.Years and years later, she has taken her interest in penmanship and calligraphy, and graduated to typography, producing a body of design work for projects ranging from the San Francisco International Airport to Princeton Architectural Press. The early exercises in typographic form have been enriched by an interest in the semantic play of words, leading a fellow designer to call Lucille, “an insistent typographer.”
Lucille Tenazas is both an educator and graphic designer. Her studio, Tenazas Design was based in San Francisco for 20 years but relocated to New York in 2006, returning to the city where she originally began her design practice in 1982. Her personal journey from the the Philippines to San Francisco, then to Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan for graduate studies, combined with the collective experiences of living in the west and east coasts of the United States have had a profound effect on her work. This creative trajectory has resulted in a hybrid aesthetic and a lifelong interest in the complexity of language and the overlapping relationship of meaning, form and content. Among her clients have been Chronicle Books, Princeton Architectural Press, Rizzoli International, Neue Galerie Museum for German and Austrian Art as well as projects for non-profit organizations and institutions. A discrete body of work has been the numerous logos and identity systems she has designed for practitioners in other creative fields, namely architects, industrial designers and graphic designers like her. At the other end of the spectrum, she has also been involved in projects for city, state and federal agencies that include the Redevelopment Agency of San Francisco and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Lucille’s work has always questioned conventional forms and ideas, leading to an experimental approach that synthesizes critical concepts, formats and delivery systems. Her work has been featured in many publications and exhibitions both nationally and internationally, including a retrospective of her work from the permanent collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art as well participation in surveys at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and Cranbrook Academy of Art. From 1996 to 1998, she was the national president of the AIGA and has served on the boards of both the San Francisco and New York chapters. Her presidency of the AIGA culminated in a conference she helped organize with the theme of “The Design of Culture: The Culture of Design” held in New Orleans in 1997. In 2002, she received the National Design Award for Communication Design from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and has been honored as one of the ID Forty, ID Magazine’s selection of Americas leading design innovators.
She is currently the Henry Wolf Professor in the School of Art, Media and Technology at Parsons The New School for Design where she is developing a graduate program that will explore the intersection of Design, Craft and Technology. Previously, she was the Founding Chair of the MFA program in Design at California College of the Arts in San Francisco where she developed a graduate curriculum with an interdisciplinary approach and focus on form-giving, teaching and leadership. As a designer who seriously considers craft and materiality, she encourages her students to look at technology and explore ways to humanize it. Paralleling her own experiences, she engenders the point of view of the designer as a “cultural nomad.” “I see the design process as a continuous accumulation of experience so that one can adapt oneself to whatever context one is thrust into,” she says. “At the base level, we respond to other people’s problems. The nomad is able to move from one context to another, one discipline to another, one culture to another, and be seen not necessarily as a native, but as one of them—so that trust is engendered, and that allows the designer to speak in her client’s voice without sacrificing their own.”