UK professor talks typography in TEDtalk

Mia Cinelli is a Professor of Digital Media and Design in University of Kentucky’s School of Art and Visual Studies studios in Lexington, Ky. on Wednesday, September 13, 2017. Photo by Josh Mott | Staff.

Sarah Ladd

An antique handwriting in Fayette, Michigan, lives on because of a UK faculty member.

Assistant Professor of Art and Studio Design Mia Cinelli is the artist and designer behind “Fayette,” an elegant typeface based on handwriting she saw in Fayette, Michigan, in 2012.

“I knew in my heart of hearts that I needed to make this into a typeface,” she said of what she considers the most attractive handwriting she had ever seen.

She spent the next month and a half developing the typeface that she named after the town she found it in.

In April 2016, Cinelli described how “Fayette” came to be in a TEDx talk called “A New Type of Superpower.”

She shares in her talk how her background in design and graphic communication changed her life.

“Most people are walking around the world thinking about what they want to eat for lunch or what they’re doing at work, but designers are walking around the world looking at everything,” she said.

The curiosity sparked from noticing the way things are designed and presented is a designer’s superpower.

Typography is the way letters are positioned next to each other and on a page.

“Type exists everywhere,” Cinelli said in her talk, explaining that the hardest part of her superpower is the inability to turn it off.

“I find that I get lost pretty easily,” she said. “People will ask, ‘Weren’t you looking at the signs?’ and I say, ‘Yes, of course I was looking at the signage, but I was so interested in the type that I might not have actually read it.’”

She said she can rarely read a book in peace.

“I do appreciate when publishers list the typefaces used,” she said.

Her TEDx experience at the University of Michigan, her alma mater, was full of surprises.

Her talk was not scripted; instead, she worked with two speech coaches for months. As a teacher, Cinelli said she was more accustomed to giving lectures that get content across to students. At her TEDx experience, however, her delivery had to be more about storytelling.

“You have to get the information across, but in a way that really makes sure the audience is with you. You don’t want your audience to fall asleep,” she said.

Her main focus was creating a narrative that was informative, humorous and personal, without sounding prewritten.

Cinelli offered advice for students who struggle with wanting their dreams to manifest immediately.

“It’s always important to trust yourself. It’s never too late to turn around if it doesn’t feel like it’s a worthwhile thing to do,” she said. “But if you know it’s something you want to do, just stick to it. Effort is more important than time.”

Cinelli is enjoying her first semester at UK. She previously taught at Defiance College, according to her website.

“Teaching is a great joy in my life,” she said. She said the UK School of Art and Visual Studies is a great school.

For now, she is personally distributing copies of Fayette and hopes to publish it someday. She began working on a new typeface called “Enrica” last year and will continue to develop it.

Cinelli is excited to be teaching a Special Topics in Typography class at UK in the spring of 2018. This class, AS 390 Section 1, will be open first to Digital Media and Design majors. The administration expects it to fill up quickly.

To follow Cinelli’s work, visit her website and watch her TEDx talk on YouTube.