To celebrate our talented and diverse membership, the TDC is profiling one member each month. We’re asking members the same five questions that will hopefully let us – and you – get to know them better. For February we pass the baton over to Dawn Hancock, founder of a socially conscious boutique design studio, Firebelly, based in Chicago.

Tell us a little bit about yourself – what you do and where you work

I am the managing director and founder of Firebelly. I started the design studio 17 years ago with the intention of doing work that positively impacted our world. To that end, in collaboration with the Firebelly team, I have also created programs specifically to help students (Camp Firebelly) and aspiring entrepreneurs (Firebelly U) find their own path in the world of “design for good,” as well as curate a large community exhibition called Typeforce which showcases emerging type-based artists and designers.

In addition to the design-focused work, in 2007 I started Reason to Give, a nonprofit organization that empowers people living in poverty to transform their lives through education, guidance and resources.

Camp Firebelly class of 2014 with client, TransLife Center.
Reason to Give graduating class of 2015.

What is your favorite typeface? And why?

I’ve spent a lot of time with Grilli Type’s GT Pressura over the past few years because of the identity system we did for Divvy. Generally when I stare at a typeface for that long, I start to really dislike it, however with GT Pressura I found myself enjoying it more and more. It has a friendly utilitarian feel about it that makes me smile every time I look at it.

Where do you take your typographic/design inspiration from?

One of the reasons I love traveling so much is to experience the cultural nuances every country, city or town has to offer. Right behind their food is experiencing their design. That to me is everything from the color palette of the land and type on the signage, to the architecture and urban planning. I spend hours documenting it all so I can look back and be inspired all over again.

Chicago’s Divvy bicycle share program launch.
Brochure for TransWomen Informing Sister TransWomen on AIDS (TWISTA). Designed with Will Miller.

What is your all time favorite piece of design?

I don’t know that I have a specific piece of his that I could call a favorite, but I think Karel Martens work is some of the most beautiful and influential to me. I picked up his book Printed Matter on a trip to Amsterdam in the late 90’s and it absolutely blew my mind. His mastery of type, color, composition and pattern gave me the chills then, and still every time I open that book it has the exact same effect. I absolutely love it.

Where do you see the future in typographic design and typeface design?

Finally getting paid! I feel like for so long fonts were just traded among friends without the consideration of what went into creating them. Today there seems to be more respect for the incredible effort that goes into creating a typeface and thus, a greater chance someone will actually pay for it (or get their boss to).

TDC60 Certificate of Typographic Excellence Winner — Typeforce 4 catalog (designed by Will Miller, Ross Burwell + Nick Adam)

What is your favorite aspect of being a TDC member? / What drew you to become a member of the TDC?

The TDC is a wonderful organization with a uniquely specific focus unlike any other organization I have been part of. I love how international it is, yet still has a way of feeling like a small club. I originally became a member when entering one of the competitions many, many years ago, and have remained a member for the inspiration the regular emails, website and annuals provide. I don’t live in NY, so unfortunately I don’t get to attend all of the lectures and events, however somehow I still manage to feel part of group. That’s pretty incredible.