Creative Technology  (January 1, 1996)

London's Creative Technology magazine does a feature on T26 and Segura Inc in the January 1996 issue.


creativetech1

Creative Technology magazine cover.

|T-26| is the latest funky font foundry to develop a cult following.
Biker, drummer and designer Carlos Segura is the face behind it. He talks to Francesca Cunnungham. Life isn't fair. Carlos Segura-the man behind design studio Segura Inc. and ground-breaking font foundary [T-26] never even wanted to be a designer. With no formal training, he fell into it by accident. "When I was growing up, I didn't even know what an art director or designer was," he explains. 'I wanted to be a drummer, or if that didn't work, a sound editor.'

And this is exaxtly what he became, wowing Travolta wannabes as a drummer in the US with Latin, jazz and disco band Clockwork. Aside from his drumming duties, Segura also drove the truck and sorted out the promotion. On leaving the band in the mid '70s, he had little to show save a portfolio of fliers. "I pumped gas and sold women's shoes. Then I got my big break and first job in the business: working as art director at Blackburn, a big advertising agency in New Orleans. Now most people start as a general office gopher but they just put me in a room and let me do what I wanted," says Segura. "That was the amazing thing, but then, I won more awards that year than I have in any other."

And the awards have followed thick and fast since. No mean feat for a refugee from the Cuban revolution, who grew up amid gang wars in Miami the '60s. "I am amazed and fortunate to have come out on the right side of the law. There were gang fights every day and every friend I had growing up is either dead or in jail. I don't know how I got out but I did.'" After a serendipitous start, Segura, now aged 38, finds himself a bit of a trendsetter in the world of design and type. Even more surprising given his claim: "I can't draw to save my life. I'm not a good wrist but use Photoshop, Illustrator and Quark on a Mac."

The new technologies, he says, are crucial. Segura Inc., set up in 1984, is the studio responsible for a stylish brochures for clothes designers Krizia and Lagerfield; a Black Box limited edition CD for Wax Trax! and TVT Records (shown in the Communication Arts Design Annual 1995); Lettuce Entertain You political campaign spoofs for newspaper; not to mention the Afterburn CD compilation for which Segura won a merit from the Art Director's Club of New York this year. It's even produced award-winning XXX Snowboards. [T-26], on the other hand, was started almost as a hobby on 1994. Just over a year later, it has mushroomed and the cognoscenti of the design scene now clamour for its funky font kits in their very own 'T-bag'. It's even diversifying into ties and CDs. Segura has always aimed to keep his namesake company small, turning out work of a consistently high creative standard.

"I don't want it to get big because I don't want to do work I don't like, just to cover overhead. I am very selective and probably turn down more than I take on. My wife kills me when I do, but it's difficult to get attached to something you don't feel good about and enthusiasm does bubble through into design." Yet, in the last six months, it's gotton so busy that he has taken on designer Laura Alberts. As he admits ruefully, "I don't want to compromise on what Segura is about simply to get bigger but it is difficult. We all like the good things in life and they are expensive." Besides, [T-26] gives him a creative outlet. "When I opened Segura, I had the desire to explore the fine art side of the business, not just the commercial. But a few of the same frustrations lingered [from his early days in Chicago ad agencies from 1980], which was why I started [T-26]."

The idea was to produce affordable fonts and to promote experimentation in typeface design and student work. "It was about changing things, contributing to the industry." What made the company different from other existing type foundries was its marketing and what the font desginer could get out of it. Users are offered 10 printer licenses instead of the usual two, for example; students get 40 percent discounts; 50 percent of the royalties go back to the designer; and the service bureau doesn't have to own fonts to output work. "One reason [T-26] was started was because other foundries seemed to be ignoring the younger, more computer-literate crowd, those with savvy about what's in and what's not. The ones who welcome experimenation."

The company already has over 150 fonts on its books from over 50 designers. Segura hopes to make potential font thieves think again, by making them aware that designers have to scrape a living from their fonts and by making the fonts cheap. But what of the designs themselves? Some, it is claimed, are little more than rip-offs. Segura takes a mellow view. "I don't think similarity equates to theft. Some fonts take reference form others but are redrawn. It's basically like typographic collage. Anyway, I think it is good thing because it offers more choice and expands people's understanding of what typography is about and what it can be." Segura looks to many influences for his own work but he greatly admires Japanese design. In 1991, he quit Bayer Bess Vanderwarker to work in the land of chrysanthemums at Tokyo agency Dentsu. "I even took Japanese class but then, at the last minute, Japan had too high a quota of art directors and Doug Schiff [Segura's writing partner] went without me." It was a major blow at the time, but Segura remains upbeat.

"Looking back, it was the best thing that ever happened as it forced me to open Segura Inc." He still follows the work of Japanese designers such as Katsu Nagaishi, Yasu Takakato and Yuki Masaokumura. "It fits my state of mind best and strikes a chord of creativity. The Japanese communicate not so much about the product but a state of mind, looking at it in the context of an overall design culture. It is as close to fine art as you can get." Closer to home, he is impressed by designers such as Modern Dog in Seattle but less keen on now popular retro themes. He regrets that in developing its broadcasting, the US has lost sight of printed media. But if the US has lost its feel for print, he is excited by the work in the UK. "The print coming out of London is superior to that in the US. London has never lost the value of print," he claims. And he's a bit of a fan of UK designers such as Nice, Me, Designers Republic and 8vo.

"I think London comes close to Japan in feeling but in a western-type situation. It has a combinaiton of traditonal and modern work I really like. Some of the stuff is so emotional, it sets your heart pumping to see it. It's just beautiful." Overall, Segura believes the music industry is the most innovative in design. No newcomer to this field, he has designed numerous CD covers. "Record labels were a logical step for me. I see record stores as the modern gallery. I believe it's the most current, breathtaking and cutting side to our field. You have to look at the special effects, photography and graphics.

I always look at the new technologies being tested on record lables." And it seems surprising that, until recently, he had never designed a vinyl album cover. Doing his first for Sound Patrol, he was phased by the space. "There was too much room, but I got it framed for my wall to prove that I could do it." As if that wasn't enough, he is now returning to his musical roots in more than one sense. In the last two months he has set up a record label, ThickFace, and hopes to release the first CD by a band named Deep before the close of 1995. Drawing on different styles of music including Brazilian and Spanish Flamenco, the CD will come in a special edition box designed by Segura himself and Jim Marcus of Deep. There seems to be no stopping him.

At a recent seminar, one girls asked how he could be a trendsetter when he was so old. Rather than being affronted by her words, Segura was touched. 'It was a good question because it touches on whether age equates to deterioration or just experience. I believe you are only as old as you feel and there are a lot of teenagers walking around with blinders.' Now Segura may be no spring chicken - he gets knackered at concerts by midnight and wasted on lite beer. But hanging out with the Harley-Davidson boys on his white Softail Heritage ('it looks like an angel going down the street,' he says, wistfully), his trendsetting days look far from numbered.

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