Featured Font Designer

AlefAlefAlef

April 2019

Avraham Cornfeld's father taught him the art of Hebrew calligraphy in his teens, and after 6 intense years of study at Hadassah College & Shenkar College, Avraham took a sabbatical and started up AlefAlefAlef which has grown to be a leading type-foundry in Israel today. We chat with Avraham about his project documenting unique typographic entrance signs; teaching font design at Shenkar, and finding your unique style as a student.

Tell us about how you grew up

I grew up as one of 8 children in an orthodox family in the old city of Jerusalem. When I was in my teens, my father—who was a Hebrew calligrapher—taught me the art of writing the holy Hebrew letters.

At the age of 18, I left the Orthodox life and at once was exposed to a new world – a borderless & colourful world. It felt as if I was reborn. I started to observe this new borderless world around me.

This observation has led me to become a visual person.

Did you have a plan for graduation and what actually happened?

I studied photography for 2 years at Hadassah College Jerusalem and 4 years of graphic design at Shenkar College, Tel Aviv. After these 6 intense years, I was so sedated. So, inspired by Stefan Sagmeister, I then went on sabbatical. I needed to reconnect with myself and focus on some of my personal projects.

One project I started that year is “Shelet Knisa” (translated "entrance sign" in Hebrew) - In Israel, almost every city and village has a unique typographic entrance sign which I was very interested in documenting. So I began photographing these signs and adding them to a dedicated site I created: https://alefalefalef.co.il/sheletknisa/

After photographing hundreds of these signs and a few years later, other photographers joined me on the photography mission, and today we are 5 photographers committed to contributing to this project.

What else did you do on your sabbatical?

Actually, the biggest thing I did on that sabbatical was creating AlefAlefAlef – A group of ambitious, independent designers. At AlefAlefAlef we craft our typefaces with a great deal of diligence, punctiliousness and thought, and each typeface was developed and fostered over time. AlefAlefAlef Has grown to be a leading type-foundry in Israel today.

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The learning doesn’t stop at graduation, you must keep learning all the time.

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Whats the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

I really like this quote from Paul Rand: “Don't try to be original; just try to be good”. In truth, I believe you should try being both, but you should prioritize the “being good” part and let the original good stuff be a byproduct of the work. I believe that great design comes from the process of working through your gut feeling. Also, you should always trust your intuitions.

Are you involved in any mentoring/teaching/workshops and if so how it shapes your practice?

I teach font design at the Visual Communication department of The Shenkar College. This greatly contributes to my evolving process as a type designer. I love teaching, and through the mentoring process I learn so much about type and about myself.

What advice would you give students graduating in 2019?

My advice for students is that they should try to find their unique style that will make them stand out from the crowd. Also, the most important thing to know is that the learning doesn’t stop at graduation, and you must keep learning all the time.

Where do you think design is heading in the next five years and how will you adapt?

In five years there will still be a great need for designers but in ten years AI will do all the designing instead of us… So enjoy and celebrate this golden age of design while it lasts.

Website: avrahamcornfeld.com, alefalefalef.co.il

Instagram: @alefalefalef

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