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A Summer at Letterform Archive

Jessie Carvalho reflects on her time as our summer intern.

Photo of Jessie in the stacks.
Photo by Florence Fu.

Jessie Carvalho is a graphic designer who interned with us from July to October 2019. She impressed us daily — contributing significantly to marketing projects and curating our social media channels. We deeply appreciate and will miss her generosity, sense of humor, and willingness to go above and beyond. If you’re looking for an experience like hers, stay tuned for our Fall/Winter internship opening. — Florence Fu

I first visited Letterform Archive in 2015 with my CCA class led by professor and renowned designer Bob Aufuldish (yes, his work is in the Archive). The tour was a reward for our class — we had just finished a semester’s worth of design work for CCA’s in-house design studio. And what a reward it was! I have always been interested in typography, but this was the first time I saw my passion for type translated through a historical lens. A light bulb lit in my head, and I immediately knew that I wanted to get involved with the Archive. I signed up for volunteer shifts, and became a senior volunteer and teaching assistant after visiting weekly from 2017 to 2018.

Selections from one of Jessie’s favorite Archive finds, Catálogo Geral de Tipos, Imprensa Nacional, Lisbon, Portugal, 1916.

I cherished my time volunteering at the Archive, which is why I jumped at the chance to join the team when I saw the call for a summer marketing intern. The majority of my projects involved collecting, editing, and scheduling images for the Archive’s social media accounts. I also participated in meetings about promotional strategies regarding special events, publication projects, fundraising campaigns, and more. I got to learn about all the facets that make up the Archive. It was a pleasure to work with a team dedicated to education, publishing, photography, and of course, librarianship.

Video of Irma Boom (book design), Kunst op Kamers 2008. 26 kunstenaars 21 locaties, Netherlands, 2008.

For more selfish reasons, my favorite part of this internship was independently exploring the Archive for inspiration. I would select material from the collection and discuss my concept for a post with staff members, who often had fascinating tidbits to add. It was so exciting to share what I found interesting because our followers on social media responded to my interests enthusiastically. For example, when I discovered the collection of Letraset sheets, I wanted to learn about our followers’ connection to rub-down lettering as a graphic design tool. The post generated a lot of reactions, and I loved reading our community’s stories. I noticed that posts where I chose to highlight silly things, interesting tools, or funky typefaces tended to get the most engagement. This was gratifying to me as a designer, and has made me feel more confident following my “off-the-wall” interests.

I am proud of the work that the Archive does and I feel #blessed to have contributed to this project. I will continue promoting the Archive as a cornerstone of culture in San Francisco. I worked closely with the Archive’s Editorial Associate Florence Fu; a brilliant writer, archivist, and designer. Florence’s care, professionalism, and attention to details extend throughout every facet of her work. Stephen “Stewf” Coles, Associate Curator & Editorial Director, oversaw my work in addition to Florence. His dedication, work ethic, and passion for the Archive and typography are truly inspirational. I would like to give a special thank you to Rob Saunders, Kate Long, Amelia Grounds, Paola Zanol, Elise Carlton, and the rest of the Archive team for cheering me on and welcoming me as part of the family. Additional salutations to Ralph Wilson for his volunteer work, helping me document type ephemera, and of course to Bob Aufuldish for introducing me to the Archive.

Whenever I brag about my internship, it usually involves a description about the Archive as a unique institution. Whoever I talk to, I have complete confidence that they will be intrigued and find a point of interest. There is something here for everyone: something to learn, someone to meet, and some kind of work to drool over. If you haven’t already, please make it a point to visit — intro tours are free, so you really have no excuse. Moving forward in my graphic design career I will gratefully use the marketing and design history knowledge gained during my internship to set myself apart.

— Jessie Carvalho, Summer 2019 Intern