This story originally appeared on LX.com
Tré Seals is a designer. But the fabric in which he works is not silk, wool or denim. Seals is the owner of Studio Seals and Vocal Type Co., the last black-owned font foundry in the country. And the inspiration for his work comes from the very struggle of black Americans from the earliest days of civil rights marches to the calls for racial justice that occur today. Seals joined NBCLX to discuss his business and how he’s impacting one character at a time.
For its thoughtful and creative work in honor of historic social justice movements, Tré Seals is the latest topic featured by NBCLX as part of the NBCUniversal News Group Inspiring America series.
Watch more uplifting profiles on “Inspiring America: The 2021 Inspiration List” Saturday, May 1 at 8 p.m. ET / PT on NBC and Telemundo (Inspirando a América).
What makes your business unique?
Seals: We specialize in creating fonts inspired by the history of minority cultures, in particular focusing on progressive movements. So each font essentially highlights a piece of history from different minority cultures.
What was your first professional job?
Seals: The first font I created with Vocal was called “Martin”. I call it nonviolent policing. It was inspired by the signs of protest worn during the Memphis sanitation strike in 1968. It was Dr King’s last cause before his death that year in April. The font itself is based on signs that say “I am a man”, the famous quote, as well as “Honor King: End Racism”.
How do you compose your fonts today?
Seals: The first thing I do is try to figure out who I want to highlight. be it a specific race, movement or program. Then I try to find a specific activist or community leader to name this police after. Then I try to find signs of protest that most people relate to. I want to focus on the protest signs that maybe a hundred people were wearing.
What was the response to your work?
Seals: People actually designed protest sign generators using my fonts. People made stencils and murals that read Black Lives Matter from my fonts. And since the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Auhmad Aubrey, I’ve been asked to design a poster with a manifesto from Patrisse Cullors of the Black Lives Matter movement to transfer us. The list is lengthened increasingly.
How did you get there?
Seals: My journey started at the age of 4. It started with a headache, then the headaches became crippling. I had a brain tumor. And as he grew up he grew with me until he was about the size of a golf ball. But through this ordeal, drawing and writing became my only real means of overcoming the pain.
“Inspiring America: The 2021 Inspiration List” airs Saturday, May 1 at 8 p.m. ET / PT on NBC and Telemundo (Inspirando a América). The stills will premiere the next day, Sunday, May 2 on CNBC at 3 p.m. ET (12 p.m. PT) and MSNBC at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT). The special will also air on NBC News NOW on May 2 at 9 p.m. ET (6 p.m. PT) and will be available on Peacock on demand.